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  • I like stories.

    And the web is an amazing place for storytelling. Stuff goes up, and stays there, floating about waiting to be discovered by someone and run with. Maybe to inspire something else, or something similar.

    But sometimes what goes up is only partly finished. The web, you see, is fertile ground too, it lets stories grow and evolve, morphing, coalescing and shape-shifting along the way. The latent beauty of the unfinished tale.

    I like that idea.

    But the ‘beauty’ lies in the fact that you may not know the tale is unfinished. You only know what you know, and no more. And then to your surprise another voice speaks and an unknown detail spins your tale off to somewhere else. A place you could not have predicted.

    Cowbird lets this happen very elegantly.

    Someone once said to me “If time travel really was possible, someone from the future would have come back to tell us.”

    But they had not considered stories. Stories don’t just have forwards growth. Stories can grow backwards too. The web allows that magic. A newly discovered ‘fact’, grown from some carefully tended memory, written down and then suddenly noticed by someone, may fill in a gap in their previous experience, draw a line between two dots in time to form a clearer picture. If thats not a kind of time travel, I don’t know what is.

    So here is a tale that I have a hunch is only half a story. It’s self-contained in its own way, and it’s my clear memory, but it has more to it, the memories of others that I don’t know, but which one of you might. Perhaps one of you may be able to find another dot to draw a line towards?

    The Queen came to Fort William in 1958 on a royal visit. The Royal Yacht Britannia sailed up our loch and moored. We lived close to the pier where she stepped ashore, and we had a small boat, which was stored a mile out of town in the garage of my dad’s old schoolmistress.

    Dad thought we should all go out in the boat that evening to see the Royal Yacht so off we went, our little Seagull engine and me singing along together. We did a circuit of the yacht. I remember it was huge. Dad took a photo of us. You can see mum looks….well….somewhat perplexed. She was. I remember it vividly, and much to mum’s dismay, but to my utter delight, dad retold the story to me countless times in the years afterwards as he showed us the glass slides………………..

    As we rounded the hull dad suddenly steered in underneath the stern, and stopped the engine. We hung there, his hand steadying us close in against the cold dark steel, concealed from any onlooker above.

    “What are you doing Donnie?” said mum, curious, as dad reached into his pocket.

    “I’m getting my penknife” he said cryptically.

    “What!” said mum, anxiously. “What for?”

    “To carve my initials in the paint” said dad smiling.

    My sister’s jaw dropped. So did mums. But the knife didn’t. It rose. Up. Up into the paint.

    ‘DMcP Fort W 1958′ he scrawled with its sharp point.

    “Donnie, Donnie for goodness sake what are you doing” said mum angry now.

    “I’m leaving a wee something for the shipyard painter to puzzle over when the Britannia gets a repaint” he said “This’ll give them a smile, and make them wonder!”

    And then he pushed off, started the Seagull and steered away far enough to be able to turn and take a picture of mum, my sister and me sat in the bow, with the Royal Yacht Britannia behind…….

    …..signed by my dad.

    What dad had gifted the painter and me with wasn’t just his initials on a boat, it was a story and a puzzle.

    Someone must have seen those initials subsequently and pondered. I’d like to think they shared their observation. Perhaps somewhere out there is the son or daughter of a shipyard painter who one evening got told a little tale by their dad of how, when painting the royal yacht, he found initials carved in the paint, but how they got there, and who created them, he didn’t know.

    Are you the son of a puzzled shipyard painter?

    Do you know the daughter of a shipyard painter, who might be curious about a story she once heard? Yes? Well maybe you should ask her a few questions, tell her a few facts, and maybe, just maybe nourish this story and let it grow…………..

    Something from the future that informs the past. That’s the gift of stories.
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