Monday, October 20, 2008
Wind of the Spirit
WE have just missed the ferry to Cumbrae, but there will be another in half an hour - or so the timetable says. But a fierce south-westerly wind is whipping the grey sea into nasty-looking lumps and gales are forecast. We scurry for the warm steaminess of Nardini's and order coffee. Two espressos later we see the boat round the old pier. Marilyn hasn't finished her Americano but a paper cup is provided and she takes it with her as we bend into the wind. It is raining, horizontally. We are the only passengers apart from a young woman in hiking gear, but we hope many more will follow later in the day.
Why do we want people to visit Cumbrae on such a foul day? Because this weekend has been the first time a Cursillo weekend has been held in the College and Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, and we hope many will come to the final service. ( We also hope some of them might help with the clearing-up, but that is another story)
As it turns out, several people do indeed come, as the photo of the interior of the Cathedral shows. But many more do not - having reached Largs in good time they are put off primarily by the doom-laden prophecies of the Cal Mac crew: "If you want to be sure of getting home tonight, don't cross"; "We can't guarantee that you'll get off the island"; "It's almost high tide".
We who live with the reality of ferries know that Cal Mac crew have two ways of dealing with enquiries. If the person asking for assurance looks anxious or liable to sue, they will give the worst possible scenario with relish. If, however, you ask a question which in Latin would begin with the word "nonne" - as in "You'll keep sailing, won't you?" - they tend to answer cheerily: "Oh, probably" or "You'll be fine." It's all in the psychology of the traveller - the seamen simply don't want to be held to something as unreliable as the weather.
And as it turns out, the closing service is wonderful. Everyone there feels triumphant, special - and by the end of it, no-one really seems to care what the boats are doing. People have ceased to listen to the noise of the slates rippling on the Cathedral roof - or are singing too loudly to hear it. As they gradually drift off and the car-park empties, we notice that no-one is returning: they have caught the ferry and been deposited safely on the mainland again. The Cathedral of The Isles has worked its magic, the Bishop of Argyll has worked his, and the Holy Spirit seems to be everywhere.
We finally leave the island on the 7pm ferry. All the detritus from the weekend is in storage, all the furniture returned to its rightful place. The sea is still racing up the firth, but the tide is again receding - as it does, day in, day out. A lower tide means that there is no problem boarding the ferry. We think sadly of all those who didn't make it, and think of running lessons in dealing with Cal Mac. The rain comes on again as we head for Dunoon, and the Western Ferries travel backwards as is their wont in a gale.
Normal life resumes, but some more people will never be the same again.