The ding-a-ling of a bell gave warning that the bar of the Jura Hotel was about to close and also brought the triumvirate’s evening of serious drinking and even more serious ‘blethering’ to an end. As usual, the intensity of opinion, on the most inconsequential of matters, had increased in proportion to the amount of alcohol they had put away. Now it was time to get back to the boat.
All evening Grunt, not a seasoned drinker, had been matching his messmates, measure for measure and quaff for quaff, so by the time they left the hotel, he was by far the least sober of the trio and thus the least capable of either coordinated action or sensible thought.
The trio emerged from the hotel, their trivial problems left behind in the bar, and they turned left, heading for the jetty where their dinghy was tied up.
After staggering a few yards Grunt, full of himself – as well as alcohol – took a ‘daft turn.’ Drunk and frisky, he was seized by the silly notion that he wanted to sprint back to Emerald, blissfully unaware that in his present state, running was one of the many things he was no longer capable of doing. He issued a challenge.
“I’ll race you to the dinghy and seeing that you two are useless, I’ll give you a start.”
Without a word and like toddlers taking their first steps, Zander and Gilbert jumped the start and took off. They had stolen several yards on him before the challenger’s fuddled brain deciphered the message that he had been cheated.
Grunt – ever a stickler for fair play – was incensed by his shipmates’ underhand action; but by the time, he got his legs moving, they had moved even further ahead.
Shouting, “Cheats,” he lurched forward into what he thought was a ground-eating stride. Although it was not exactly that, it was enough to eat into the ‘cheat’s’ lead.
They had got half way to the dinghy when Grunt lurched past both of them. Determined to win by as big a margin as possible..
Had the lumbering Grunt been blessed with the presence of mind to turn and look round, he would have seen that both of his opponents had stopped running. One was sitting on the road, head on knees, the other standing, bent over hands on thighs and both desperately trying to catch their breath.
Grunt, in a dream world, was reliving the past, but an evening of over-indulgence was showing in his lack of control over his legs. Through half shut eyes, his addled brain registered that he was now close to the jetty and, up ahead, he saw the dinghy; and that was what he was aiming for.
Over years of competing, his right leg that he used for jumping and throwing things had become a bit stronger than his left. This marginal difference in leg strength normally meant nothing, but in his befuddled mental state, his right leg was running more strongly than his left. Grunt, totally unaware of this disparity, was like a rower with one oar. On the slimy, slippery surface of the sloping jetty, he began to crab to his left; inching towards the jetty’s edge – and the sea.
By the time he realised where he was going and – if he did not do something about it – what was about to happen, it was already too late. He dug in his heels as he tried to stop, but the wet and slimy conditions underfoot, made this a no-hoper. Panic now sharpened his reasoning and he knew he was destined to go for a swim. His tight-rope act on the edge of the jetty had reached its final few steps before gravity took over. Just as he began to topple over a bright chink of light shone through his tunnel of despair.Directly below him, bobbing at the end of the painter, he saw the dinghy. It was a long way but reaching it was his only option. His final despairing action on dry land was intuitive; a good long jumper in the past and supremely confident that he could reach the dinghy easily; he jumped.
His take-off had been timed to perfection and while he was soaring through the air, he knew that his judgement had been spot on. All he had to do now was, on landing, fall face down into the bottom of the dinghy and all would be well. They’ll think it was planned move.
That was until his flying front foot hit the rubber wall of the dinghy. At that moment, Sod came off the bench to play his part in the game. Grunt, all set to perform a paratrooper’s roll and end up in the well of this lovely little inflatable craft that was going to keep him from getting wet, made minimal contact with the dinghy. All he did was push it sideways and away from under him, leaving him to belly flop – with all the finesse of a sack of potatoes – into the cold, dark waters of the west coast.
Even in this embarrassing predicament – floating head down, backside up, in freezing cold water, Grunt hatched a plot to get at least one of his messmates to share his misery. He lay very still and held his breath.
Surely, one of them would jump in to rescue him? This would be great, as long as no one went to the extent of giving him the kiss of life!
He waited and waited and waited. There was no splash of anyone coming to rescue him. Nothing was happening at all. His lungs at bursting point, he rolled over, shook his head to clear his waterlogged ears and heard indistinct words that eventually crystallised into,
“Stand up, you idiot! It’s low tide, there’s only a few of feet of water under you!”
Chapter 48 – Lost Youth in Jura
A Storm in Any Port – Book 1 of the Zander Trilogy
Jura is an island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, adjacent to and northeast of Islay. With an area of 36,692 hectares, or 142 square miles, and only 196 inhabitants recorded in the 2011 census, Jura is much more sparsely populated than Islay, and is one of the least densely populated islands of Scotland: in a list of the islands of Scotland ranked by size, Jura comes eighth, whereas by population it comes 31st. Jura is part of the council area of Argyll and Bute. The island is mountainous, bare and infertile, covered largely by extensive areas of blanket bog.
The main settlement is the east coast village of Craighouse, which is its capital. Craighouse is home to the Jura distillery, producing Isle of Jura single malt whisky. The village is also home to the island’s only hotel, shop and church. North of Craighouse there are a number of other settlements, all quite small and on or near the east coast: Keils, Knockrome, Ardfernal, Lagg, Tarbert, and Inverlussa.
Between Jura’s northern tip and the island of Scarba lies the Gulf of Corryvreckan, where a whirlpool makes passage dangerous at certain states of the tide. The southern part of the island, from Loch Tarbert southwards, is designated a national scenic area (NSA), one of 40 such areas in Scotland, which are defined so as to identify areas of exceptional scenery and ensure their protection from inappropriate development. The Jura NSA covers 30,317 hectares (117.05 sq mi): 21,072 of land and 9245 of adjacent sea.