Among the books in Godfrey’s battered suitcase, was a mud stained, slightly mildewed copy of Eric Linklater’s “Sealskin Trousers”. Tucked inside the warped cover were a bundle of letters from his friend Sarah, whom we know had joined the vigil at the Women’s Peace Camp,we do not know what became of Sarah, only that they never met again..or when she gave him back the book.
Dear Godfrey, do excuse the stationary, it contained a cream-bun some women sneaked us as a treat from Newbury Town, I write on a bakery bag, so much to tell you I would need a feed- sack to get it all down. Oh the smoke of the campfire, wet, stormy days, the bean stew.. When I’m cold I remember the warm Southern Ocean, and the water sprite that is you.
Snug in my tent at night when all about me is still, before sleeping with dreams of the Common Free, by candle light I read “Sealskin Trousers”, that last parting gift that you gave me. Inside the front cover you wrote- My Ma read this book to Alice and me, read of dragons and giants and the Seal Folk who dwell in our dark Celtic Sea.
I was an odd little chap who spoke in rhyme, on Ma’s ample lap, all was peaceful at story time. You have that compelling, seal aura of mystery, you my beautiful Silkie.
Dear Sarah; Saw a photo in a London paper, it blew across my path on a dusty street in Christchurch. I fished it , faded in the weeds and grass, the rubbish strewn chain-link fence along the rail tracks..There you were, pictured in profile, I recognize your face, and wearing as a scarf that torn up bit of kilt of mine. Singing in a line of women, under the arc-lights of the Missile Base, snow on the ground, it is night time. I’m hitching north from Manapouri, summers ending. I miss you fair Silkie, remember Manapouri, water so clean, clear and cold? I called you my compelling, sleek Harbor Seal, you called me your Water Sprite bold.
When our life’s work and wandering is done, will you shuck off your sealskin trousers and coat? And bide we will together on a damp little house-boat. I will cook fish and rice, bake a sweet every night for you and me. I will be your faithful water sprite, you my fearless and beautiful Silkie.
..Dear Godfrey, oh Godfrey how lovely you write, I see you dive deep in a rainbow of spray. In the kelp beds we shall play, my dear water sprite. I will run to you laughing over slippery stone, shed my sealskin trousers, toss my furry old coat in the foam. And bide in peace where ever our home will be, You my water sprite, I your good faithful Silkie…