The Ambitious Drifter

Words, Images and The Occasional Noise

The Man Who Listens To The Sea


It’s a Sunday, so time for a bit more fiction. Written yesterday. Naseby’s diaries are full of the stuff.

On Inishmore beyond the Black Fort I followed the coast, walking as close to the cliff edge as I dared. Today the sky seemed more fierce than the sea, it was an unrelenting blue. That water was an unexpected mirror, only moving gently as you looked closer at it. I passed a couple making love, lost in themselves on a ledge down below me. I’d seen these kids in Kilronan. Only the young could be so obliviously comfortable in that precarious space, Diarmuid and Gráinne on their flinty bed. They did not not see me and I did not stare.

Presently I heard a repetitive thud, it seemed to come through my feet. It was a muffled single drum or a far off cannon. I felt, but did not see, the cave of the blown spray. Poll an tSeideain, I found its name later and copied it down in my notebook. I knew it was there but dare not go closer. It is a great square hole chopped right through the cliff to the sea. Even on this quiet day, the water kept kicking away, a bored boy booting at the wall.

I met a man who sat at the edge of the cliff. He was not so close as to ever slip, but there was still a grand view. I sat with him for a while. He was not a man you’d notice much, old but not ancient, dressed plainly like many around here. You might have passed him in the street, not thinking to stop and talk. Out here though, almost alone, it seemed the thing to do. We both had our pipes so it seemed companionable to smoke. He told me he was listening to the ocean. It was,  more or less.  his life’s work.

He told me he could hear the long music of the waves, the slow measure as it crossed the sea. It was a myth, that seventh wave, the pattern was more complex. It was woven like a shawl and then draped around the rocks. ‘How long have you been here?’ I asked him. ‘Very long’ he said, ‘I saw them build the tower there, heard them heaving the stones for that great circle of walls.’

He said he had to ignore the voices of the birds, shallow and grasping things that rarely stopped to sing. I thought of the inland blackbirds, who seemed to broadcast joy. He told me he was hearing a storm off Newfoundland, the angle of waves hitting the coast told him where it was from.

There are great storms beneath the sea, behind this clean mirror a storm might rage. You’d never see it. Your boat could be taken with barely a ripple. He said he heard the old ships scrape as they were shoved and dragged by the deep tides. He could hear them slide inexorably down the slopes of the mountain that no man would ever climb. He’d heard the bell, St Gregory’s bell.

We parted with a wave and I set off overland, back across the fields to Cill Einne. I promised him a pint if our paths should cross in town. That night in the bar, I knew better than to ask if anyone knew of him, or indeed what his name was. I had not caught that. It was neither asked nor proffered. The tower that he pointed to is just a name in a field.

Later, as I came down the hill to my B&B I could see the sea, still peaceful in the evening light. Every now and then it shrugged, like a man might in a dream. I felt I knew a little more about it now, at least I could hear it breathe.


Near the cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland. 

More fiction….

Mr Faraday’s Cage & Other Tales of Obscure Science. 

Mostly Frank

 Copyright notice.

8 thoughts on “The Man Who Listens To The Sea

  1. Beautifully written piece!


  2. wow now thats a p[lace i could soar back an forth all day on a good day ,,how so very kewl a spot to fly my hangliders an paraglidrs yes indeed! wowza 🙂


  3. Looking over the water from West Wales – love County Clare. The coastline is as glorious as ours – beautiful photo


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