Rolling Home

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Up early this morning, drinking coffee in the Aussie sunshine with a kookaburra cackling in the background and listening to Dwight Yoakum and Buck Owens sing a duet version of Buck’s old classic song “The Streets of Bakersfield” …

Hey, you don’t know me, but you don’t like me

You say you care less how I feel

But how many of you that sit and judge me

Ever walked the streets of Bakersfield?

Can’t beat a day that starts like that …

… later that evening …

So here’s how the day went. I thought we were going to ride the big bikes, but nooo … after seeing how much fun I’d had riding in the Shelby Cobra 450 hp concept car, Mike wangled the loan of a car he drives sometimes from the Audi guys. It’s an Audi R8 quattro, with a ten cylinder 550 horsepower engine, naturally aspirated. Looks like a sports car but check out the back window …

audi 1Have you ever ridden in a five hundred fifty horsepower car? Because I never had. And compared to the 450 horsepower Shelby Cobra, it was in another league. Part of this is due to the fact that the Audi has brains, and the Cobra doesn’t. In the Audi, it has a computer-controlled double-clutch gearbox that guesses which gear you’ll need next and brings it up to speed for instant shifting. It automatically matches the engine speed to the load at all times, skipping gears as necessary.

Then there’s the computer control of all four wheels. When any one of them starts to slip, the computer senses the slip and adjusts the distribution of the power.

I don’t know what all else it has going on, it has sensors and alarms and bells and whistles. It’s one of the few 200-mph production cars on the market … and I hear that they retail for four hundred thousand US$ or so. All I know is it looks like it’s going the speed limit even when it is parked …

audi 2And it has disc brakes about the size of the wheels, which I can assure you work really, really well …

audi 3As you might imagine,  it goes like the proverbial bat fleeing the inferno … and when Mike stomped on the gas, it went from peaceful cruising, to holy-moly take a deep breath and feel my eyeballs getting squished back in my head, in about zero point zero seconds … “Do it again, Dad, do it again!”

It was another gorgeous day, only with lots of cumulus clouds. We’re at about 25° South here, so not far out of the tropics. The hills are bursting with life, the fields verdant and lush, it’s a stunning time of year.

audi 4After taking corners at speeds I would have sworn would be impossible in any car, and acceleration I’ve never experienced, we sadly returned the car to the Audi folks. ShaZAM, that was exciting. Then we had to hurry to get to the soccer field where Mike’s ten-year-old grandson was about to start his game. Sport in Australia is very organized, with a single soccer club fielding half-a-dozen teams split according to age and sex. The tradition is quite old, lots of the fathers of the kids playing today spent their junior years playing for the same club.

Afterwards we all ate an early dinner. And since Mike and I both had consumed an adult beverage, we decided to leave the big bikes for another visit. We didn’t get here by being foolish …

Instead, after dark, we decided to take his dog Kuma for a walk. Kuma is a big Akita, about fifty kilos (110 pounds). Mike walks him on a rope, which Kuma tries to wind around a) my feet; b) any tree, hydrant, or post; and c) Mikes feet. It’s a constant obstacle course, where Mike has to physically drag the dog away from each enticing smell..

The night was well lit by a half moon, all of the daytime cumulus had gone away. Jupiter and the Moon were dueling overhead, with Mars just risen in the east. We walked through the suburb, which is well laid out with paths between houses. Kuma wanted to stop at every watering post, and Mike had to pull hard to drag him away each time, an arduous task. After a half-hour of walking, Mike said “Tell you what. You take this path on the left, and we’ll meet you where it comes out.” I could vaguely see an unlit path, I had no idea where it went.

Since curious travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God, I said “Works for me” and set off down the mystery path. Soon, through the moonlight, I realized that the path wound round the edge of a large pond that had been invisible from the road. I came to a section of the path clear of overhanging trees, and the moonlight off of the pond was glimmering, luminescent. Then there was an overgrown section, where I could only unfocus my eyes and feel for the path with my feet. I was transported out of the suburb and into a wonderland of shade and shadow, with water on my right, who knows what on my left, and very little in front … magical.

And when I came back out on the road, Mike and Kuma were waiting. We walked on following a path bordering another section of the pond, with Mike grunting and struggling to pull Kuma away from every fascinating scent.

Then, somehow, Mike let the lead slip, and Kuma started to trot away. Not very fast at first. Mike called to him and started to run after him, trying to step on the rope trailing behind. But as Mike sped up, Kuma sped up, and I sped up, and soon all three of us were racing madly along in the moonlight. Mike kept trying to step on the rope which was dancing along behind Kuma. Making wild stabs for the rope made him look like he was being struck with sudden epileptic fits. He started laughing, and he looked so silly, like some marionette whose strings were pulled by a drunk man, that I lost the plot entirely. I had a flash of how it would look to the dispassionate observer, three maniacs running in the moonlight, one of them obviously struggling with delirium tremens, and the damn dog looking back and slobbering and staying just out of reach … I dropped by the wayside because I was laughing too hard to run, and Mike and Kuma got smaller and more indistinct in the dappled moonligh. As they disappeared into the shadows ahead I shouted “Write if you find work!”, and sat down and howled at the moon until they showed up again, Mike laughing so hard he could barely walk, and Kuma trying his best to look innocent … I could not imagine a better possible end to such an improbable expedition.

Anyhow, that was my day. Tomorrow it’s up at dawn, on the plane to the US, and back to my beloved hills and the gorgeous ex-fiancée. And what do I remember of my trip?

I remember night-time at sea, with the Eta Carinid meteor shower going on overhead. I recall that even with no moon the starlight lit up the whole scene. And the night-time horizon was a perfect horizontal line, nothing in the way. You can see the stars take fire right at the horizon when they rise in the east, and quench themselves in the ocean in the west. I recall Mars rising, and its reflection glimmering in a red wash on the sea underneath it from the horizon right up to the boat..

I recall the easy camaraderie of a crew of experienced sailors. I see the cumulus boiling up into the sky in the afternoon, darkening and starting to rain. I remember standing on deck and having eleven different islands in view. I recall the excitement of coming in through the reef and seeing the island spread out before us.

And of course I remember Mike, and his dear Solomon Islands wife Grace who is as supportive of Mike’s madness as my ex-fiancée is of mine, and their granddaughter Dawn … here they are at dusk with Kuma in the background.

audi 5My great thanks to them. We’ve been friends for thirty years now, I’m Uncle Willis to all their kids, I have nothing but respect and admiration for them. Live long and prosper!

And mostly, I remember the ocean in all its moods. So let me leave you with one of the most curious poems I know, about how we love different things in the same way. It really should be read out loud to get the full effect, I’ll leave that to you:

The Sea and the Hills 

Who hath desired the Sea? — the sight of salt water unbounded —

The heave and the halt and the hurl, and the crash of the comber wind-hounded?

The sleek-barrelled swell before storm, grey, foamless, enormous, and growing —

Stark calm on the lap of the Line or the crazy-eyed hurricane blowing —

His Sea in no showing the same, his Sea and the same ‘neath each showing:

His Sea as she slackens or thrills?

So and no otherwise — so and no otherwise — hillmen desire their Hills!

Who hath desired the Sea? — the immense and contemptuous surges?

The shudder, the stumble, the swerve, as the star-stabbing bow-sprit emerges?

The orderly clouds of the Trades, the ridged, roaring sapphire thereunder —

Unheralded cliff-haunting flaws and the headsail’s low-volleying thunder —

His Sea in no wonder the same, his Sea and the same through each wonder:

His Sea as she rages or stills?

So and no otherwise — so and no otherwise — hillmen desire their Hills.

Who hath desired the Sea? Her menaces swift as her mercies?

The in-rolling walls of the fog and the silver-winged breeze that disperses?

The unstable mined berg going South and the calvings and groans that declare it —

White water half-guessed overside and the moon breaking timely to bare it —

His Sea as his fathers have dared — his Sea as his children shall dare it:

His Sea as she serves him or kills?

So and no otherwise — so and no otherwise — hillmen desire their Hills.

Who hath desired the Sea? Her excellent loneliness rather

Than forecourts of kings, and her outermost pits than the streets where men gather

Inland, among dust, under trees — inland where the slayer may slay him —

Inland, out of reach of her arms, and the bosom whereon he must lay him

His Sea from the first that betrayed — at the last that shall never betray him:

His Sea that his being fulfils?

So and no otherwise — so and no otherwise — hillmen desire their Hills.

Rudyard Kipling

Finally, before I return to my own hills, so and no otherwise, let me thank you all for accompanying me on this madcap voyage. I claimed going in that South Pacific adventures were of the finest kind, and I rather think that events have borne me out. I said that we were embarking on a voyage designed by Tom O’Bedlam and impelled by a rat who lives on adrenaline … and I do believe that both Tom and the rat are well satisfied with the outcome.

And for all of you, I wish that you go out and feast your eyes on this miraculous world of ours, and come back and tell your friends of the people you have met and the marvels that you have been witness to … it’s all for the sake of the song.

Best to everyone,


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May 14, 2016 6:07 am

Appears that many pages on here contain old data e.g sea temperature anomaly, same sunspot on the sun, sea ice etc. Not much point going on here when its like this.

Reply to  Paul
May 14, 2016 6:29 am


Mickey Reno
Reply to  Paul
May 14, 2016 4:09 pm

Ha ha ha, maybe you can use your time to practice bowling with your mother.

Mickey Reno
Reply to  Mickey Reno
May 14, 2016 4:12 pm

The time offset of 3:03 didn’t survive in my browser. It’s sort of important, at least in the context of this pointless branch.

Reply to  Paul
May 14, 2016 9:20 pm

Try hitting refresh on your browser, they are all fine.

May 14, 2016 6:17 am

Have a good flight Willis 🙂

Bill Sticker
May 14, 2016 6:31 am

Good luck on the flight home, Willis. I spent the day in Yellowstone National park, and having viewed all the visitor centre presentations and volcanic vents pumping sulphur fumes and co2 into the air, found myself idly wondering what the areas ‘carbon footprint’ was.

Reply to  Bill Sticker
May 17, 2016 1:54 pm

You are running around in my neck of the woods kind of a cool wet May we are having but good for running through Yellowstone and a bit of fishing..

Dudley Horscroft
May 14, 2016 6:32 am

And come back again to God’s own country.

Tom in Florida
May 14, 2016 7:04 am

Thanks for letting us in on your experience.

May 14, 2016 7:15 am

Did you se any bears?

Reply to  PiperPaul
May 14, 2016 7:36 am

Lot’s of drop bears around Bundaberg

Craig Moore
Reply to  PiperPaul
May 14, 2016 8:29 am

If you see a bear, distract him with an eagle.

Reply to  PiperPaul
May 14, 2016 9:18 am

When I first moved to Manhattan in ’84 I would go bouldering on the rocks at the south end of Central Park . I’d run into a Japanese guy with a big scar on his face ( from motocross ) who was wandering the world after dropping out of U of Tokyo . Knew hardly any English . Hell of a lot better climber than me .
He’d describe climbs as either “no problem” or “very difficult” . I asked him what the Japanese was for these two poles . So the first of the skosh nihongo I used to know was “mondai nai” and “muzukashi” .
The third word I learned was his name : Kuma = bear .

Evan Jones
May 14, 2016 7:26 am


May 14, 2016 8:32 am

I was on an overnight trip on a dive boat out of Port Douglas to Lizard Island which is to the north of PD. Since single guys always get the worst bunks (as they should) I chose to sleep on a cockpit bench rather than up forward. Towards midnight a splash woke me up and there was the Southern Cross and both Magellanic Clouds. Still remember that moment from 30 years ago.
Kookaburra’s have a great call. It’s what the old Tarzan movies used to make jungle sounds.
Drop Bears. Gotta watch out for Drop bears in Oz. Never know when one will get you.

South River Independent
May 14, 2016 8:44 am

Have a safe flight home and thanks for the shot of the clouds from the Audi. The sun is out and the roads are dry here so I will be riding my Roubaix later today.

Steve Fraser
May 14, 2016 9:34 am

I saw that same moon one night…

May 14, 2016 9:39 am

I got a chuckle when I noticed the hand holding the gas nozzle in the first picture .
I know they’ve done incredible things reducing the thirst of 400+ kw engines when driven softly , but I wonder what sort of mileage ( how do you say that in metric ? ) the Audi gets .
Living in the mountains where the 4WD of our ancient Isuzu Rodeo is a must but not usable on the highway , covet full time all wheel drive . I wonder tho , with these modern systems how much the friction cost is . How much poorer mileage do all wheel drives get compared to comparable 2 wheel drives ?

Reply to  Bob Armstrong
May 14, 2016 10:10 am

For the incoming 2017 x3 there is no difference between all wheel and two wheel drive. I suspect that the nature of electric clutch load control plays a huge role in this. There is no friction when the drive isn’t engaged, unlike viscous clutches. 8.4 to 11.2 lt per 100 km consumption (21 to 28 mpg).

May 14, 2016 10:57 am

Safe trip home to you. The big dogs that don’t quite mind will be glad to take you for a walk on this continent as well.

Edi Malinaric
May 14, 2016 11:23 am

Hi Bob – a couple of decades back I coined “kimage” for the metric equivalent of mileage. On permanent 4WD fuel consumption, my Subaru diesel runs between 11 – 13.5 l/100km. No complaints from me. Wonderful overtaking in the 130 – 155 kph window.
cheers all – edi

May 14, 2016 11:42 am

Safe flight home, Willis. Enjoyed your trip reports.
But what I’d like to know is what happened to ICE when you all flew off to Brisbane? Did Mike not go ahead with the purchase? Did he just leave her docked, ready to go back to when he returns to Fiji?

May 14, 2016 12:50 pm

Thanks for the diary and wow that car ride must have been a blast, many moons ago a friend (?) took me on a ride in a Jag on a 4 kilometer long straight stretch of road, (I threw my underwear out after). Also thanks for the pics of clouds these past few reports I never get enough watching them on flights!

James Bull
May 14, 2016 12:57 pm

Safe home and thanks for entertaining us with your stories.
James Bull

John M. Ware
May 14, 2016 1:30 pm

Thanks for the Kipling! That style is unmistakable, and he was a master–moreover, a man of wide knowledge and experience.
Thanks also for your posts! You have poetry of your own in your writing, and I enjoy it.

bit chilly
May 14, 2016 1:42 pm

a great tale of yet another willis adventure . thanks for telling it. my younger brother spent some time in a v10 r8 a couple of weeks back, he was impressed. i still prefer the two wheeled thrills of my last bike, a 2008 fireblade . 0-186 mph (indicated) in 20 something seconds, a lot of bang for your buck.

May 14, 2016 1:57 pm

Enjoyed hugely, again, not least as this is a corner of the oceans I haven’t visited much – Brisbane in 1976 . . . .
Poetry – Kipling is an old ‘friend’ of mine, and I would – possibly slightly off thread – like to share this, from another of his works.
From ‘Stalky & Co.’
“Let us now praise famous men”–
Men of little showing–
For their work continueth,
And their work continueth,
Greater than their knowing.
Western wind and open surge
Tore us from our mothers;
Flung us on a naked shore
(Twelve bleak houses by the shore!
Seven summers by the shore!)
‘Mid two hundred brothers.
There we met with famous men
Set in office o’er us.
And they beat on us with rods–
Faithfully with many rods–
Daily beat us on with rods–
For the love they bore us!
Out of Egypt unto Troy–
Over Himalaya–
Far and sure our bands have gone–
Hy-Brasil or Babylon,
Islands of the Southern Run,
And cities of Cathaia!
And we all praise famous men–
Ancients of the College;
For they taught us common sense—
Tried to teach us common sense–
Truth and God’s Own Common Sense
Which is more than knowledge!
Each degree of Latitude
Strung about Creation
Seeth one (or more) of us,
(Of one muster all of us–
Of one muster all of us–)
Keen in his vocation.
This we learned from famous men
Knowing not its uses
When they showed in daily work
Man must finish off his work–
Right or wrong, his daily work-
And without excuses.
Servants of the staff and chain,
Mine and fuse and grapnel–
Some before the face of Kings,
Stand before the face of Kings;
Bearing gifts to divers Kings–
Gifts of Case and Shrapnel.
This we learned from famous men
Teaching in our borders.
Who declare’d it was best,
Safest, easiest and best–
Expeditious, wise and best–
To obey your orders.
Some beneath the further stars
Bear the greater burden.
Set to serve the lands they rule,
(Save he serve no man may rule)
Serve and love the lands they rule;
Seeking praise nor guerdon.
This we learned from famous men
Knowing not we learned it.
Only, as the years went by–
Lonely, as the years went by–
Far from help as years went by
Plainer we discerned it.
Wherefore praise we famous men
Prom whose bays we borrow–
They that put aside Today–
All the joys of their Today–
And with toil of their Today
Bought for us Tomorrow!
Bless and praise we famous men
Men of little showing!
For their work continueth
And their work continueth
Broad and deep continueth
Great beyond their knowing!
Copyright, 1899. by Rudyard Kipling
Yes, It IS high Empire. With the corresponding attitude. Yes.
But –
‘ And we all praise famous men–
Ancients of the College;
For they taught us common sense—
Tried to teach us common sense–
Truth and God’s Own Common Sense
Which is more than knowledge!’
There is s o much there.
Common sense [W, I know, as a seaman, you have it! But it is the utmost prize of civilization, I think].
Have a safe return to the gorgeous ex-fiancée [I am with mine!].

Reply to  Auto
May 14, 2016 2:21 pm

That was a very nice series of tales, thank you. As your poem showed, Kipling was a complex writer. He lived for two years about a mile from my home in Devon. He seems to have been very disturbed by the ‘fungi shui’ of the house he acquired here and got out of his lease by pleading a faulty cistern..
Anyway, I was interested in the phrase in the poem ‘ The unstable mined berg going south’ the poem was written in 1902 and presumably references the arctic . Anyone know what it means?
Again, my thanks for a fine series of articles

Rodzki of Oz
May 14, 2016 2:27 pm

Nice story Willis. If you like Queensland in our Autumn (Fall), you should see our Spring.

May 14, 2016 3:08 pm

Walking the streets of Bakersfield is outside of my comfort zone.
I read here about the Audi R8 V10, and shortly after I read that Audi collaborates with Marvel and the new movie Captain America features an Audi R8 V10 plus Coupe, driven by Iron Man. It’s Audi all the way down: SQ7, prolog show car, A4, A7.
So now we know what feeds the rat, but I am curious what Willis’s preference is for driving pleasure… The big bikes?

May 14, 2016 8:59 pm

Where were you approximately on your little drive?
.. Somewhere up in the hills west of Brisbane?

May 14, 2016 9:57 pm

” a computer-controlled double-clutch gearbox that guesses which gear you’ll need next and brings it up to speed for instant shifting. It automatically matches the engine speed to the load at all times, skipping gears as necessary.”
My big green tractor does that.

David Charles
May 15, 2016 2:33 am

Hi, Willis
The first of your stories I read was your encounter with a huge pod (?) of dolphins while on a sailboat. Any chance of a repeat for those who missed out (and also for me)?

May 15, 2016 2:48 am

Cool looking car, but way to expensive for me.
However, I have a car with very good acceleration to a much lower price; it is my fully electric Nissan Leaf. As an extra bonus, it is without engine noise.
I use it in my daily commute and recommend the experience to all. Discover hearing the wind blows and the birds singing, or turn on the music and hear it without distortions.
I am so satisfied with my EV that I have already ordered a second one.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
May 15, 2016 9:37 am

If your car doesn’t smell like it is burning, then you should have pushed it harder in the corners.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
May 15, 2016 10:11 am

We have never had any coal-fired power plants where I live. Nevertheless, even if the power to the car had come from a coal fired power plant, the smog creating emissions (particulates, NOX, SO2 etc.), from producing the electricity would have been negligible compared to the tailpipe emissions from a petrol car.
I agree that charging take more time than filling a tank. That can be a problem for some. I usually only charges at home and use another car on long journeys. That suits my needs.
What is your problem with lithium?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
May 17, 2016 1:19 am

After twice reading ‘YMMV’ in your responses I decided I had better consult UrbanDictionary – where I was relieved to find that my homegrown interpretation (you make me vomit) was incorrect (this arrived at after first catching sight of the acronym in a tweet from Schmidt to Judy Curry). There are times when the ambiguity is appealing.
On the electric car thing – it does depend on where you live. NZ produces around 75% of electricity from renewables (hydro, geothermal, wind). In that context (and for the right applications) EV’s make sense.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
May 17, 2016 12:29 pm

As I see it, EV make sense in more circumstances than that. Of course, it depends on the objective for the move:
1. If the objective is to reduce local air pollution and noise, it make sense everywhere. No modern power plant emit more than a negligible fraction of the toxic air pollutant emitted from car exhaust.
2. If the objective is to reduce the consumption of oil, a product helping some of the least democratic governments in the world staying in power, it also make sense. Oil is too expensive to be used as a source for power plants.
3. If the objective is to emit less CO2, it make sense if the electricity is produced by renewables, nuclear, or high efficiency gas fired power plants.
4. If the objective is to have a pleasant and economic car, the “YMMV” argument is highly relevant. The calculation dependents a lot on your local taxes on automobiles, gasoline and electricity.

May 15, 2016 12:11 pm

At the end of the day positioning the cleanliness or quietness of an electric car is just dishonest IMHO as the pollution – be it noise, or emissions – is just displaced to the point of generation and therefore just a little smug

Reply to  mwh
May 15, 2016 12:25 pm

Hm, do you have a problem with noise from power stations?
As I said, the emissions of smog creating stuff from power plants are negligible compared to the exhaust from cars.

Reply to  Jan Kjetil Andersen
May 15, 2016 12:38 pm

if you are powered by the grid then you cannot pick and choose which type of ‘fuel’ you prefer – you have to take on board all generators plugged in to the grid – having spent the last 4 weeks working almost directly underneath a wind turbine, I can tell you the noise is very much an issue! And as for your second statement – again you are just displacing the problem – good for townies, bad for the countryside. The power requirement is much the same.

Reply to  Jan Kjetil Andersen
May 15, 2016 1:57 pm

Mwh, you have to compare the size of the problem. While noise from traffic is a serious problem for a large part of the population, very few are affected by noise from wind turbines. Furthermore, much have been done in blade design in recent years to reduce the noise.
I do not think we should need to accept any sizeable noise pollution anywhere close to where people live.
Concerning smog generation: particulates, NOX and SO2 are unwanted pollutants both in cities and on the countryside. More in cites of course, but nevertheless, we do want as clean air as possible in both places.
Exhaust from a petrol car causes far more air pollution than production of the same amount of electricity in a power plant to power an electric vehicle.

Reply to  mwh
May 15, 2016 12:32 pm

I guess that those few countries that are blessed with largely renewable energy sources (hydro mostly, and some wind) will proceed to adopt electric vehicles , especially for the short commutes.
NZ and Scandinavia come to mind.
The plug-in hybrid (Mitsi) works very well for me, as an SUV.

May 15, 2016 3:20 pm

Living life is about mastering the tools needed to survive it.
Extra bonus points if the tool puts a smile on your face while using it.

Brian H
May 16, 2016 3:15 am

Scents – fully half a dog’s brain is dedicated to experiencing and analysing them Sight is a poor second or third input.

May 17, 2016 12:50 am

If all the vehicles in the UK became electrically driven, then with our poor generating capacity further compromised with windmills, solar panels & myriad diesel generators, guess what would happen. More pollution from the diesels & still we’d have brown outs & black outs. Can politicians do sums? Niet!

May 20, 2016 6:35 am

Willis – thanks for your uplifting stories, your science brain and positive connections to nature. Here is one of my favourite poems which I hope you may also enjoy ………..
Christmas at Sea – Robert Louis Stevenson
The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seaman scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor’wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.
They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;
But ’twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops’l, and stood by to go about.
All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.
We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide race roared;
But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:
So’s we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.
The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every ‘long-shore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.
The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it’s just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessèd Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard’s was the house where I was born.
O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother’s silver spectacles, my father’s silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china plates that stand upon the shelves.
And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessèd Christmas Day.
They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
‘All hands to loose top gallant sails,’ I heard the captain call.
‘By the Lord, she’ll never stand it,’ our first mate, Jackson, cried.
… ‘It’s the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson,’ he replied.
She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.
As the winter’s day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.
And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.

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