When Are You Going Back?

Home on leave and wandering the Saturday shopping streets of British West Hartlepool in the 50s I would spy a fellow I knew. He’d often come out with: ‘Oh! Hello Harry, home from sea again? When are you going back?’

‘When Are You Going Back’ is the title of my third book of seagoing memoir. It appeared on Amazon this week, and follows ‘The Best of Days’ and ‘You’ll See Wonders’. At its close, I’m still at sea – so, with a following breeze, perhaps there’ll be another – who knows?

The cover is from a watercolour by a dear friend. Bill Wedgwood was a fine old seaman from Robin Hood’s Bay. His painting is of Liverpool docks around the late 1950s

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Free again:

To celebrate the turning of the year, my little eBook anthology, ‘Green Linnet’, is free from today until 3rd January. Humorous and sober short stories of the sea and of Yorkshire, interleaved with verse.

and on other Amazon sites.

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The eBook of my anthology ‘Wandering About’ is free to download on Amazon, 15th to 20th November. Please help yourself. 

This from a review of last year:

Here is a poet with working-class origins who writes of his native North-East England as well as further-flung places with love and deeply-felt knowledge. Vignettes of ship riveters, soldiers, fishermen’s wives and ‘handy-women’ vie with tales of saints, Saxons, Celts and ancient man. There are terrifying and poignant sea stories. Many of the poems are clearly rooted in the poet’s own family history and personal memories. Flora and fauna inhabit the book in living detail, and several poems travel through layer on layer of geological time, with ecology a clear concern. These are themes of the hands as well as the brain, with an invigorating effect.

By Dafydd – from his review of Harry Nicholson’s ‘Wandering About’ in the arts magazine, ‘Urthona’.

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Geese Again

Between showers I slip into the garden.

Calls fall from the blue dome,

Another thin skein of geese, 

Moves south on the northern air mass,

Bleating across our village in watery sun.

They flash golden, keeping formation

Behind the matriarch at the point.

Eighty-four turns of the Earth.

When will come the last Autumn?

HN 2022

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Here we go again:

After a digital struggle, I’ve managed to upload the proper version of ‘Green Linnet’. The ebook anthology is free to download until Thursday. A chance to glimpse the curious stories that I write.


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I’ve deleted that post about the free ‘Green Linnet”. Amazon appear to have an uncorrected version. I’ll need to re-upload. My apologies if you find you have a poor copy. This publishing lark can be a tedious business. So easy to make a mis-step.

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Gone to Sea

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‘The Best of Days’ and ‘You’ll See Wonders’.

Seagoing Memoir part three.

Since I published ‘Best of Days’ and ‘You’ll See Wonders’, I’ve been attempting to take the story forward. It’s a steady, but slow job. I’ve reached 60,000 words and 24 chapters. Perhaps it will be done by Xmas.

Some visitors to this blog have written about how much they look forward to the next volume. I’m delighted to read such reassurance – it spurs me on. It will take a few months longer, but meanwhile here is the current opening of the new book: (comments most welcome)

Still waiting for a title to emerge:

Chapter 1

The Bus to Port Clarence

Monday, 23 February 1959.
Mist has risen from the salt marsh — mist too shallow to hide a standing goose. It will soon burn off. Concrete posts poke through every ten yards or so. Twice as tall as a Coldstream Guard, the sentinels stand ready to mangle and smash off the wings of any of Hitler’s gliders should he try an airborne invasion. Other crude structures, blunt and slitted, rise from the white vapour. In case they came by landing-craft, the War Office studded these flat-lands with pill boxes and tank obstacles. The slab-sided, concrete machine-gun posts and anti-aircraft gun positions are abandoned these past fourteen years. They squat here and there — mute, blind, lonely places now, except when whooped through by urchins who play at commandos, or when sneaked into by courting couples, or investigated by bare-kneed entomologists on the lookout for hibernating moths. My insect collection holds a specimen with lilac-grey scalloped wings and orange blotches, the Herald moth, Scoliopteryx libatrix, gathered from just such a place.
The sun has been up for an hour and brightens the steely North Sea. Twenty miles to the south-east, the tremendous sea-cliffs of North Yorkshire stand in blue relief: Hunt Cliff, Boulby and Hummersea, the tallest cliffs in England. Directly south, the anvil shape of Roseberry Topping, North Riding’s little Matterhorn, juts out of the hazed plateau of the Cleveland Hills. There is a lawn of sheep-cropped grass on the summit of Roseberry where Beryl and I sunbathed. Roseberry . . . It’s curious how names drift over time, the Danes who settled at its foot called it Odinsbjarg, the hill of their god Odin. The Danes also gave the name to this district, their new conquest: Cleveland, the Land of Cliffs. The village of Great Ayton nestles in the dale beneath Odin’s Hill. Captain James Cook, the great navigator, went to school there as a boy. The Cook family cottage is now in Australia, rebuilt in Melbourne and clad with its original Yorkshire ivy.
I’m on my way to sign articles for another deep sea voyage with Thos. and Jno. Brocklebank Steam Navigation Co. This time I need not journey from Old Hartlepool on the Durham coast, to cross England by train to Birkenhead; the ship is in Middlesbrough for three days loading, so this trip is a mere ten miles by bus.  After helping with the handover from the relief coasting crew, my boss from Lancashire will say, ‘See you tomorrow, Harry. Get yourself off home to the bosoms of loved ones while you can.’ At least, I hope so.
The clippie works her way along the aisle. ‘Any more fares please?’ It’s Maggie, six foot tall and smart in her United Bus Company conductor’s navy-blue uniform edged in red piping. She’s grown into a handsome woman. I’m impressed how she carries her height proudly now; during our few weeks of awkward courting she would stoop a little so as not to look two inches taller than me. I’ve since seen her walking out with a fellow who matches her height. She’s good at baking: once I was invited to her little terraced home when her parents were out. She’d been making cakes. We sat before a blazing coal fire and ate a few. They had currants in them. She kept her pinafore on all evening.
‘Hello, Harry. Still at sea? I hear you’re getting married. And you’re only twenty. When’s the big day?’

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Lindisfarne is Just Across

His spirit is there,

And I’d like a few words 

But his bones are adored now

Under an ornate pile of masonry

On a bend high above the Wear.

His spirit is not far. Just over there

Across a couple of miles of mudflat,

Over the singing seals.

There’s nowt between Cuthbert and me

Save the gathering tide of disbelief

That smothers the footprints of Cuddy’s duck

And man, as though they never did exist.

Families of geese bell in

From Spitzbergen, and are pleased

To find a few bits of seagrass, 

But it’s pizza for me.

I’d better switch the oven on,

And give up gazing at stranded sea dragons

And frosted kelp, and seamarks stood about

Like totems of pagan priests.

A tide of change sweeps in and smothers

The tiny twitterings and haunted tickings of black ooze

And the stillborn burrowings of billions.

Now in the dying light across the flood –

The flight of birds, the cries, the beat of wings:

Eider, Sheldrake, Greenshank, Wigeon, Whooper,

Piper of the Sands, the Peewit, and the Smew,

And at the end of it all – calling the night down –

The Whaup.

Harry Nicholson 17/8/22

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Howrah Bridge

Indian flagged coal-burner, SS Rayandaman at Calcutta 1957, just below Howrah Bridge. I took this with a cheap box camera bought at Boots the chemist. I was on the deck of Brocklebanks, SS Mahanada, where I was 2nd radio officer.
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