He is one of my earliest memories, a constant presence through numerous childhood house moves. The slight yellowing of the liquid surrounding him making me wonder if he had peed, if he was somehow alive within his prison of glass and formaldehyde.
As I explored beaches and rockpools, delighting in the lives I found, mum often told me his story. Of childhood fishing trips in Orkney, where on account of being a woman, her older relatives thought her presence at sea was unlucky. She shared stories of joy filled days when she, the Jonah, was allowed to join the day’s fishing. Days filled with the excitement of discovery, with birds overhead and fish below and how one day she watched as this baby dogfish was born on the boat. She told me that I understood, that I knew the beach and the sea, and one day the pickled fish would be mine. Sadly, this day has come too soon, as rapidly progressing dementia means mum is no longer able to live at home. So now, pishie fishie is with me in Shetland.
I think my younger self was right, he is alive. With him I tell my children the story of their granny on the boat, sharing worlds of memories that are now closer for her than anything in the present. His presence helping us find our way on this difficult journey.