Transcript #1: Ring of Bright Water
A charming, funny story of a naturalist's life in Scotland
Ring of Bright Water; El círculo resplandeciente; L'anello di acque lucenti, A Lontra Travessa; Mein Freund, der Otter; Renkaita vedessä; Kruhy na vodě; Csillogó vízgyűrűk; Круг чистой воды
This classic film is based on the book Ring of Bright Water. The author was the Scottish adventurer, naturalist and author Gavin Maxwell. The film was written and directed by Jack Couffer and Bill Travers in 1969, and stars Bill Travers (as Graham Merrill), Virginia McKenna (as Dr Mary Mackenzie) and Peter Jeffrey (as Colin Wilcox).
Levels: Intermediate to Mastery (B1 to C2)
Welcome to the transcript!
GRAHAM'S LIFE IN LONDON
SCENE - GRAHAM MERRILL IS WALKING TO WORK, PAST LONDON BUSES AND TAXIS TO THE OFFICE WHERE HE WORKS. HE LOOKS AT A COMPUTER PRINTOUT OF NAMES AND DATA, THEN MAKES A TELEPHONE CALL TO A COLLEAGUE IN THE SAME INSURANCE OFFICE.
COLIN. Wilcox here. [HE IS STRESSED, AND HE HAS A CIGARETTE IN ONE HAND]
COLIN. Oh, hello, Graham.
GRAHAM. Want to know something?
COLIN. Not particularly. What?
GRAHAM. We're in the files. At least, I am. Here. Under “MER”.
COLIN. Yes, well that's right, isn’t it, “MER”?
GRAHAM. You don't realise. I've just seen it. I'm a code number that gets a pension. I have an “expectancy of life” calculated in years and days.
COLIN. Years? You’ve got to be joking where I'm concerned. I have got the mother and father of all hangovers. I've already lost half the pensionable female population of London somewhere.
GRAHAM. We've been computerised, by our own computers.
COLIN. Well what’s wrong with that? Everybody has.
GRAHAM. Yes, but it makes you think, when you see it for the first time in black and white. Pension. X years. Finish.
SCENE - A BUSY LONDON PUB AT LUNCHTIME.
GRAHAM. Who wants to know about one's future anyway?
COLIN. Well, 15 years is nothing. Anyway, that wasn't life expectancy. That was before pension. You'd only be...
GRAHAM. I've already worked it out, thanks. Then what?
COLIN. There's all sorts of things you could do. Retire. Buy a nice little place in the country. Get married... again. Write your book about the Marsh Arabs, or something.
GRAHAM. That's what I should be doing now. [HE SEES AN UNDERTAKER IN THE PUB, EATING A SANDWICH, WEARING CLOTHES FOR A FUNERAL. THE BARMAID GIVES COLIN A BEER]
COLIN. Oh, you saved my life, Flo. I'll never drink again.
FLO. Here, if I saved your life, love, how about buying one of these for the raffle. There's a lovely first prize in the fridge there.
COLIN. You were saying, Graham?
GRAHAM. Oh, yes. I was saying, um... oh, I don't know. Doesn't matter.
(FLO GIVES THEM TWO TICKETS FOR THE RAFFLE, NUMBER 99 AND 100, AND THEY WALK TOWARDS THE DOOR TO GO BACK TO WORK)
FLO. The winner is 1-0-0. One hundred.
COLIN. Blast, 99. Hey, Graham! 100, that's yours! Just a minute, Flo!
FLO. Here you are, my love. First prize. [SHE GIVES HIM A LARGE SALMON]
SCENE - GRAHAM LEAVES THE OFFICE AT 5PM, CARRYING THE SALMON WRAPPED IN NEWSPAPER. HE DROPS IT, AND IT SLIDES ALONG THE PAVEMENT. GRAHAM CHASES AFTER IT AND PICKS IT UP. AS HE STANDS UP, HE SEES AN OTTER LOOKING AT HIM THROUGH THE WINDOW OF A PET SHOP.
From that first day, I imagined that the otter had somehow singled me out from all the thousands of people who passed the pet shop window every day. Yet I found it intriguing. It was uncanny. Every time I passed, he seemed to be watching me, and me alone. At first, I thought it was only my imagination. But whatever I did, he seemed to sense that I was there... and fixed me with his beady eyes. Clearly, I was "the chosen one". I found it curiously flattering. I refused to believe the otter was only watching me because he'd seen me carrying off the most beautiful fish of his life. No, it had to be something special, and this otter had the good sense to see it. I didn't really take it seriously, and yet I had to admit that I was feeling rather pleased with myself. Years ago, when I'd travelled in Arabia, I'd watched wild otters playing in the marshes. There, they had more sense of fun. They seemed very different from this one. For, like myself, it was now a prisoner in London.
SCENE - GRAHAM IS STANDING OUTSIDE THE PET SHOP WATCHING THE OTTER WHEN HE HEARS TWO MEN TALKING ABOUT IT.
1ST MAN. Yeah, it's OK. Nice size, good condition. I think it'll fit into the act very nice.
2ND MAN. Well, as you know, Herman, I'm willing to try anything, but... otters? No-one does the flaming barrel-diving act with an otter.
1ST MAN. Exactly. To see humans do it is nothing now. This is something different.
2ND MAN. Yeah, I know it’s funny but how are you going to make him do it?
1ST MAN. When I have finished with him, oh, yes, oh yes. You see, Frank, otters love water. [HE TAPS ON THE WINDOW WITH A COIN. GRAHAM WALKS PAST HIM INTO THE SHOP]
GRAHAM'S APARTMENT IN LONDON
SCENE - GRAHAM OPENS A TRAVELLING BOX IN THE FLAT, AND THE OTTER COMES OUT AND STARTS TO EXPLORE.
GRAHAM. Hello, old chap!
I called my otter Mijbil, after an Arab sheik I'd known long ago, and whose name intrigued me, with an imagined picture of a platypus-like creature.
SCENE - LATER IN THE FLAT. GRAHAM IS READING A BOOK ABOUT ANIMALS. MIJBIL IS ROLLING AROUND ON THE FLOOR, LOOKING CUTE.
GRAHAM. “Physical description : head ill-shaped, ears placed low, eyes small and homely, a lurid aspect, awkward motions... The otter is naturally of a cruel and savage disposition, and has been known to sever human fingers with its bite, without pause for bone or the pain thus inflicted. The flesh of the otter is extremely fishy and disagreeable to taste. However, the Romish Church permits its consumption on Fridays.” [GRAHAM SHUTS THE BOOK AND LIES ON THE FLOOR]. Tell you what, Mij... you don't bite me, and I won't eat you on Friday.
[THE TELEPHONE RINGS]
GRAHAM. Hello? Colin? He's arrived, yes. Just nosing around. Right now, he's having a cup of tea. He's very... quiet and peace-loving. He's just rummaging around the wastepaper-basket, and inspecting the furniture. Having a look at my desk... and the table-lamp!! [MIJ KNOCKS THE LAMP OFF THE TABLE] Did you hear something? I think it was the people upstairs. [MIJ TRIES TO CLIMB THE CURTAIN AND PULLS IT OFF THE WALL. WHILE GRAHAM IS TRYING TO PUT THE CURTAIN BACK UP, MIJ PULLS THE TELEPHONE OFF THE CUPBOARD]. Hang on a moment, I think there’s somebody at the window, I mean the door. MIJ!! Hello? Hello, Colin? Yes, I’m afraid we were cut off for a moment. Well, as a matter of fact, I'm just tidying my shirt drawer. Yes. Um... Look, Colin, I think I'd better go now. He's asking for...a drink. Yes. Mij. Steady, Mij!
[MIJ KNOCKS OVER A LITTLE AQUARIUM. GRAHAM PICKS UP THE FISH, BUT WHILE HE IS REFILLING THE AQUARIUM, MIJ EATS THE FISH.]
GRAHAM. Mij, how could you? They were friends of mine
That first night, I learned something I would never be allowed to forget. Water to an otter is as vital as air to a bird. But water must be kept on the move and made to do things. It must be extended and spread about the place. A bowl must be at once overturned or if it will not overturn, it must be sat in and sploshed until it overflows.
[GRAHAM. GETS INTO BED. MIJ FOLLOWS HIM]
GRAHAM. Oh, Mij! You're wet. Get off! Come here. Lie down. It's not funny, Mij. My toe!
SCENE - NEXT DAY. COLIN ARRIVES AT GRAHAM’S FLAT AND RINGS THE DOOR BELL, TO ASK GRAHAM TO THROW DOWN THE DOOR KEY]
COLIN. What ho!
GRAHAM. Oh, come in, Colin. [THERE IS A LOT OF WATER ON THE FLOOR. GRAHAM IS CLEANING IT UP WITH A MOP AND BUCKET]
GRAHAM. Bit of drama.
COLIN. Yes, so I see. I'd give you a hand, but I’m afraid I'm useless at this sort of thing.
GRAHAM. Yes, I know. Mind the bucket.
COLIN. [HE SEES THAT THE APARTMENT LOOKS A ZOO CAGE, WITH BARS AND WIRE]. Ah. Well, you've made one or two changes, I see. Is it to keep otters in and humans out, or the other way round?
GRAHAM. It depends. Come in.
COLIN. Any charge for admission? Where is he, by the way?
GRAHAM. Mij? In the bedroom, having a rest.
COLIN. From the decor? I think it’s quite fascinating. Oh, I love your mobiles! Do they work? [THE WHISKY AND BRANDY BOTTLES ARE SUSPENDED FROM STRINGS]
GRAHAM. Oh, help yourself.
COLIN. Thanks very much. What's Mij doing in the bedroom, anyway?
GRAHAM. He's in disgrace. He taught himself to turn the bath taps on.
COLIN. Aaah, how sweet. How very touching. What about the landlady?
GRAHAM. She insists I find alternative accommodation.
COLIN. Yes, but that’s not so easy, I mean, where would you go?
GRAHAM. She suggested I move into the local police station. She said their caging was free.
GRAHAM. Thanks. Sit down.
COLIN. Um... how?
GRAHAM. Oh. [HE OPENS A GATE IN THE CAGE]
COLIN. Thank you. Well, cheers.
COLIN. It seems a shame, when you've made so many, um... improvements, but surely he'll have to go, won't he? I mean, you can't keep an otter in London, it’s too cruel - to the humans, I mean. You'll simply have to find him a home.
GRAHAM. I suppose you're right. Well, I've got to do something. Pretty rapidly. Won't I, Mij, old chap?
SCENE - LONDON ZOO. GRAHAM IS HOLDING MIJ ON A LEASH AND THEY ARE BOTH WALKING AROUND. THE ZOO ANIMALS LOOK STRESSED AND DEPRESSED. MIJ LOOKS INTERESTED AND AFFECTIONATE.
In that moment, I realised for the first time how deeply I was involved. I hadn't just bought myself an otter, I'd taken a step that was to change the course of my life. This otter had become a part of me. Here I was, bound, it seemed forever, to this engaging pest.
SCENE - GRAHAM’S FLAT. HIS IS READING THE NEWSPAPER
GRAHAM. Listen to this, Mij. "Escape the rat race. Exclusive old-world cottage. West coast of Scotland. Ideal retreat for author. Long lease. A few minor repairs. Quick sale to right person." No, come off the lamp, Mij. "Box 4881. Escape the rat” , ha ha, "Escape the rat race," Mij. "Ideal for writer"
KING'S CROSS RAILWAY STATION IN LONDON
It's not the easiest thing in the world, to travel by train... with an otter. The regulations say he's a wild animal, and must travel in a box, but the regulations don't know the first thing about otters and boxes. I felt Mij trusted me completely, and I wasn't going to betray his trust by putting him in anything. I thought I’d try to bend the law instead.
GRAHAM. Single. Inverness. First-class sleeper and a dog ticket.
TICKET CLERK. That’ll be £12 exactly. Breed?
GRAHAM. Hmm? What was that?
TICKET CLERK. What kind of dog is it?
GRAHAM. Yes, what kind, um, a diving terrier.
TICKET CLERK. Diving?
GRAHAM. D-i-v-i-n-g t-e-r-r-i-e-r. Come on, Mij.
PASSENGER. Did he say diving terrier?
TICKET CLERK. D-i-v-i-n-g t-e-r-r-i-e-r.
SCENE - ON THE NIGHT TRAIN TO SCOTLAND. MIJ IS PLAYING WITH THE WATER IN THE BASIN OF GRAHAM’S COMPARTMENT. THERE IS A KNOCK AT THE DOOR.
GRAHAM. Um, just a minute. Sorry about this, old chap. Just stay there. Um, come in.
STEWARD. Good evening, sir. Can I check your ticket, sir?
GRAHAM. Oh, yes.
STEWARD. I see you're travelling alone, sir? In that case, I'd better lock off... Um, tea in the morning, sir?
GRAHAM. Yes, thank you.
STEWARD. 7 o'clock?
STEWARD. Shall I put your luggage up?
GRAHAM. No. No, thanks. Is that ventilator working?
STEWARD. It is if you turn it on, sir. First seating for dinner, 7.30, sir.
GRAHAM. OK, Mij. You can come out now. Mij? Mij!
MIJ IS NOT IN THE COMPARTMENT. GRAHAM RUNS OUT INTO THE CORRIDOR AND STARTS TO LOOK FOR HIM ALONG A ROW OF SEATS, SOME OF WHICH ARE OCCUPIED BY OTHER PASSENGERS. HE THINKS HE SEES HIM, AND CATCHES HIM, BUT IT’S A FUR COAT
GRAHAM. Sorry. Thought it was my otter.
A WOMAN SEES MIJ AND STARTS SCREAMING
WOMAN A rat, eugh!
MIJ CLIMBS ONTO A PASSENGER’S SEAT, THEN ONTO HIS SHOULDER. GRAHAM PICKS HIM UP AND TAKES HIM AWAY BUT THE PASSENGER PULLS THE EMERGENCY SIGNAL. THE TRAIN DOES AN EMERGENCY STOP. BAGS FALL ONTO THE FLOOR, GRAHAM DROPS MIJ, A WOMAN SCREAMS AGAIN
GRAHAM. Shhh, don’t make a noise, you’ll frighten him.
GUARD. All right. Who's responsible for this?
ON THE WEST COAST OF SCOTLAND
SCENE - NIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SCOTTISH MOUNTAINS. GRAHAM AND MIJ ARE ON FOOT. THE TRAIN HAS GONE. THEY WALK TO THE ROAD.
GRAHAM. Don't worry, Mij. I never did like travelling by train. Come on. Look, Mij! Travel by bus. And there's one due in... six hours. Come on, Mij. Come on.
SCENE - A WILD AND BEAUTIFUL LANDSCAPE NEAR THE SEA. A BUS APPROACHES. GRAHAM AND MIJ ARE ON THE BUS. IT STOPS BECAUSE SOME HIGHLAND COWS ARE STANDING IN THE ROAD. MIJ WRIGGLES IN GRAHAM’S ARMS.
GRAHAM. Ah, steady, Mij. [THE BUS STOPS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE COUNTRYSIDE. GRAHAM AND MIJ GET OFF]
GRAHAM. Um, which way to the village?
DRIVER Oh, you just follow the road, over that hill. Oh, I wouldn't go there.
GRAHAM. Oh? Why not?
DRIVER Well, the cottage you want is a few miles in the other direction. Just a wee walk from here.
GRAHAM. But how will I know when I'm there?
DRIVER Och, you can't make a mistake. You understand, there's this cottage, and after that, there's the sea.
THEY WALK PAST A BEAUTIFUL VIEW OF ISLANDS
GRAHAM. Don't worry, Mij. "It's just a wee walk". Come on. Why couldn't I pick a horse for a friend? Sorry, Mij. Listen. You go and let off steam. I don't need to.
GRAHAM. This way, Mij.
THE VIEW IS WONDERFUL BUT THE COTTAGE IS NOT IN GOOD CONDITION.
“Exclusive old-world cottage. Ideal retreat for writer. A few minor repairs... Quick sale to right buyer.” Hmm. But to me, at that moment in my life, it was the most beautiful place in the world. The place I knew I wanted to be.
GRAHAM. Go to sleep, Mij. It's only the hunting bats. Go to sleep.
SCENE - AT THE COTTAGE THE NEXT MORNING. MIJ IS SWIMMING IN THE SMALL RIVER OUTSIDE THE COTTAGE.
There's nothing like an early morning cold bathe in the burn [=VERY SMALL RIVER]. For an otter! I realised it was that burn and the sea that gave Camusfeàrna its essential character. A silvery reflecting circle that rings the green fields and makes Camusfeàrna almost an island.
GRAHAM. Come on, Mij. I'm daydreaming. Got to get ourselves organised.
GRAHAM SHUTS MIJ INSIDE THE COTTAGE AND LISTENS TO MIJ SQUEAKING INSIDE.
GRAHAM. Mij! Come on. Sorry, Mij. I'm only going to the village. You can come next time. You're making it very difficult, Mij.
GRAHAM MEETS MARY
SCENE - THE VILLAGE. AS GRAHAM ARRIVES HE SEES A YOUNG WOMAN WALK INTO THE SEA TO HELP A CYGNET (A BABY SWAN) THAT IS CAUGHT IN SOME WIRE. THE MOTHER SWAN DOES NOT LOOK HAPPY. THE SHOP IS SHUT. GRAHAM WAITS OUTSIDE.
VILLAGER. You're wasting your time.
GRAHAM. Does he not open today?
VILLAGER. That depends.
GRAHAM. Depends on what?
VILLAGER. On how the fish are biting in the burn.
GRAHAM. I see.
VILLAGER. What was it you were wanting?
GRAHAM. Methylated spirits.[=ALCOHOL FOR BURNING]
VILLAGER. Och, just you try the doctor's.
GRAHAM. The doctor's?
VILLAGER. Aye. The first house round the corner. They'll maybe have a drop to spare.
SCENE - AT THE VILLAGE DOCTOR’S
RECEPTIONIST Through that door. The doctor's in.
SWAN WOMAN Sit down, please.
GRAHAM. I was told the doctor was in.
SWAN WOMAN Yes?
GRAHAM. You? I see. I thought, um...
SWAN WOMAN Yes?
GRAHAM. I thought perhaps you were the doctor's daughter.
DOCTOR. I am. My father died eight years ago now, and when I qualified I decided to continue his practice. Did you know him?
GRAHAM. No. Well, I won't take up your time with quite a trifling...
DOCTOR. Look, please sit down and tell me what the trouble is. Name?
DOCTOR. Double 'l'?
GRAHAM. Mm, double 'l'.
DOCTOR. Where do you live?
GRAHAM. London. Um, that is, till two days ago.
GRAHAM. Not exactly. I'm here for, um, personal reasons.
DOCTOR. Where does it hurt?
GRAHAM. Well, I... [HE REACHES INTO HIS BACK POCKET FOR THE EMPTY BOTTLE OF METHS]
DOCTOR. Pain. Lumbar region.
GRAHAM. Yes, um, that's it. I think I must have wrenched my back.
DOCTOR. Have you ever done this before?
GRAHAM. No, never.
DOCTOR. Take off your coat. Can you touch your toes, please?
GRAHAM. Yes, easily.
DOCTOR. Straight knees. Is it difficult?
GRAHAM. Well, it's always difficult.
DOCTOR. Will you lie down, please? I'm afraid my hands are rather cold. Painful?
GRAHAM. Um...yes. Very.
DOCTOR. Hmm. Put your coat on. I'm afraid you've pulled a muscle.
DOCTOR. The best thing is rest, on a firm bed. Boards are best.
GRAHAM. Well, I think that’s not too difficult to arrange.
DOCTOR. Take two of these every four hours to ease the pain. Come and see me in a few days time.
GRAHAM. Thanks, I'd like to do that.
DOCTOR. [SHE GIVES HIM A PRESCRIPTION] There.
GRAHAM. Oh, there's just one thing before I go. I wonder if you could let me have some methylated spirits. For my stove.
DOCTOR. Janet! You're, er, sure it's for your stove?
GRAHAM. Yes, of course it is.
DOCTOR. Oh Janet, on his way out, would you give Mr Merrill a little methylated spirit? ... For his stove. Goodbye, Mr Merrill. Nothing strenuous, mind.
GRAHAM. Of course not. Those WERE tame swans on the loch, this morning?
DOCTOR. No. Why?
GRAHAM. They could've broken your arm.
DOCTOR. I know, but... the cygnet was caught in the wire, you see.
GRAHAM. I see.
SCENE - THE BEACH NEAR THE COTTAGE. MIJ IS RUNNING AROUND AND GRAHAM IS COLLECTING OLD WOODEN FISH BOXES.
GRAHAM. You're supposed to be helping, Mij. Now, stop messing about!
I'd always had the highest regard for beachcombing as a way of life. Now I found myself considering every piece of flotsam and jetsam, wondering how I could use it. I soon discovered that something to sit on would present no problems.
SCENE - GRAHAM IS PAINTING THE COTTAGE WITH WHITEWASH. THE POT OF WHITEWASH IS UNDER A FISH BOX, TO KEEP IT SAFE FROM MIJ.
GRAHAM. What, what, what, what? This, Mij, is what is known as otter-proof whitewashing.
GRAHAM. No, you don't. Mij!
[MIJ MOVES THE BOX AND PUTS HIS NOSE IN THE PAINT. ]
SCENE - GRAHAM IS REPAIRING THE ROOF OF THE COTTAGE. HE HAS A LADDER WITH A HORIZONTAL BOARD, TO PREVENT MIJ CLIMBING THE LADDER.
GRAHAM. What, what, what, what? That, Mij, is what is known as otter-safe roof repairing. Mij!
[MIJ KNOCKS OVER THE LADDER, LEAVING GRAHAM ON THE ROOF. ]
GRAHAM. What, what, what, what? What an idiot I am!
SCENE - THE BEACH NEAR THE COTTAGE
If we didn't always agree on the whats and the wherefores, we made up for it afterwards on the beach, which lay over the hill, on the north side.
DOCTOR. In heaven's name, what have you there?
GRAHAM. Sea monster, washed up by the tide.
DOCTOR. Sea monster! So that's what the tracks were. What on Earth were you doing?
GRAHAM. Playing noses and toeses. It's an old otter game.
DOCTOR. I see.
GRAHAM. It's a tame otter.
DOCTOR. Well, I gathered that!
GRAHAM. Mm, who lives here with me.
DOCTOR. Here? In this beautiful cove?
GRAHAM. You sound disappointed.
DOCTOR. I am. I don't mind the otter, but...
DOCTOR. I'm sorry, I don't mean to be rude. It's just that I... I never thought of anyone living here. It’s always been so perfect the way it was.
GRAHAM. I'll try not to change anything. Doctor?
GRAHAM. Graham. Of course, you know that. Mij! Come and meet Mary.
MARY. Does he bite?
GRAHAM. Sometimes, but somehow I don't think he'll bite you.
GRAHAM. Mij. After an Arab sheik.
MARY. Well, he's very beautiful, in spite of his name. It's just as well I didn't bring Johnnie.
GRAHAM. Who's Johnnie?
MARY. My dog. I've always heard that dogs and otters are deadly enemies.
GRAHAM. Yes, but Mij doesn't know he's an otter.
MARY. How funny. Johnnie doesn't know he's a dog. Well, I'll not keep you from your game. In any case, I must get back to the surgery.
GRAHAM. You'll come again?
GRAHAM. And bring Johnnie.
MARY. I'll see. By the way, how's your back?
GRAHAM. How do you mean? ... Oh, my back!
GRAHAM. The meths cured it.
MARY. Goodbye, Mij.
GRAHAM. Don't worry, Mij. She's not my type.
SCENE - INSIDE GRAHAM’S COTTAGE. HE HEARS TWO GUNSHOTS, AND SEES A GOOSE FALLING FROM THE SKY AND TWO MEN CROSSING THE BURN (= STREAM) BELOW THE COTTAGE.
I don't mind wild goose for dinner at all. But not in summertime, when the water-birds raise their young.
SCENE - NEAR THE COTTAGE. GRAHAM PUTS UP A SIGN TO SAY “NO SHOOTING”. THEN HE SEES FOUR BABY GEESE NEAR MIJ.
They were greylag geese, the wild variety of the Scottish seashore. It was their mother that had been killed by the poacher's shot. Hungry and afraid, they were driven by instinct to follow anything that faintly resembled a grown goose. Even an otter! It was very clear, whatever our feelings were, like it or not, our family had just grown by four.
SCENE - INSIDE THE COTTAGE
Those few "minor repairs" took more than a few weeks. When, at last, I had my house in order, I sat down to begin the job I'd set for myself: to write my book about the Marsh Arabs. But there was something wrong. Thinking about it was as far as I got.
SCENE - GRAHAM IS WITH MIJ
SCENE - GRAHAM IS WITH THE GEESE, WHICH ARE NOW ALMOST ADULT.
GRAHAM. Now, listen, chaps, if you want to learn to fly, you've got to show a little determination. Come on. Come on. Come on! Are you following? You'll never get airborne that way. You’ve got to flap your wings at the same time. Now, come on. Let's try again. Come on. Into position. Ready for take-off. Come on. Now, are you ready? You start with a slow, graceful, rhythmic movement. The way I do it. [GRAHAM FLAPS HIS ARMS LIKE WINGS]. Now, watch. Follow me. Slowly, and faster... and faster... And faster and faster... and faster and faster ... oh! [HE FALLS OVER AND ROLLS DOWN THE HILL. HE LANDS ON THE GROUND IN FRONT OF MARY]
MARY. We seem to be interrupting your ballet lesson!
GRAHAM. Not really, you see, I...
MARY. There’s no need to make excuses. I really came to introduce Johnnie to the sea monster.
GRAHAM. I was, um...teaching them to fly. [HE FLAPS HIS ARMS AGAIN]
MARY. You're frightening the dog.
GRAHAM. Oh. Sorry, Johnnie. Come and meet Mij.
MARY. Are you sure? Johnnie's very playful.
GRAHAM. I'll see if I can find Mij.
MARY. Johnnie. Johnnie, stay here. Sit! Sit. You're going to meet Mij, Johnnie.
[GRAHAM COMES BACK WITH MIJ, AND HE SITS NEXT TO MARY. THEY WATCH MIJ AND JOHNNIE PLAY, AND TALK TO EACH OTHER. AFTER A FEW MINUTES THEY WALK TOWARDS THE COTTAGE]
GRAHAM. ... partly to finish my book.
MARY. But why write a book about Marsh Arabs?
GRAHAM. Because I lived with them once. Before I was married.
MARY. I see.
GRAHAM. And divorced.
[MIJ RUNS PAST AND GOES INTO THE COTTAGE]
MARY. Come on, Johnnie! You must stay here.
GRAHAM. Don't worry about Johnnie. There are only a lot of old fish boxes.
MARY. He'd better stay because of Mij. Sit.
SCENE - INSIDE THE COTTAGE
MARY. Only fish boxes. It's just beautiful!
GRAHAM. Our first visitor, Mij, old chap. [MIJ SITS IN THE ONLY CHAIR]. Well, you might see the lady seated first. He's not very used to visitors, I’m afraid. Still, he's been very clever today. He caught us our supper.
GRAHAM. Yes. Look. [HE HOLDS UP A TROUT FOR HER TO SEE]
SCENE - INSIDE THE COTTAGE, LATER. MARY IS FRYING THE FISH
GRAHAM. I hope it's all right.
SCENE - THE NEXT DAY, OUTSIDE THE COTTAGE
When we first arrived at Camusfeàrna, the eels were migrating into the burn and there was no problem about food for Mij. I simply opened the door in the morning and he soon caught his own breakfast. But as the summer wore on, the eels stopped coming into the burn. Then, one day, they were gone. The run was over. They had come in from the sea, and now they had returned to the sea. There would be no more eels until the following spring.
SCENE - IN THE POST OFFICE. A CUSTOMER (FLORA) IS TALKING TO THE LADY BEHIND THE COUNTER (SARAH)
SARAH. That's nine and tuppence change.
FLORA. And a big, hefty man like that! Oh, you're right, Sarah. And a fourpenny stamp. I've nothing against folk fraternising with animals, but otters ... there's something very strange about that, if you ask me.
SARAH. [SARAH STROKES HER CAT, WHICH IS LYING ON THE COUNTER]. Oh, very strange indeed, yes, and anyway he should be doing a job.
FLORA. Maybe Mr Merrill has money.
SARAH. Well if he has, a body would never know.
FLORA. Ah no, you’re right Sarah, his clothes are no’ exactly...
SARAH. I know what you mean, Flora.
SCENE - OUTSIDE THE POST OFFICE. MARY ARRIVES ON FOOT AND SPEAKS TO TWO PEOPLE SITTING OUTSIDE.
MARY. Good morning, Jeannie.
JEANNIE. Morning, Mary.
MARY. How are you, Dougal?
SCENE - INSIDE THE POST OFFICE
SARAH. You'd never think that a lady doctor... Oh, it's yourself, Mary.
MARY. Good morning, Sarah. Hello, Flora.
SARAH. Well now, would that be all, Flora?
FLORA. I'll have a fourpenny stamp.
SARAH. Another fourpenny stamp?
FLORA. Oh, aye, just to be on the safe side.
SARAH. What can I be doing for you, Mary?
MARY. Graham asked me to send this telegram. It's rather urgent.
SARAH. Oh? Twenty. That's twenty words at... that's eight and fourpence, including the address, of course.
MARY. If you've any mail for the islands, Hughie's flying me out [INAUDIBLE] tomorrow morning.
FLORA. Nothing serious, I hope?
MARY. I hope not. Eight and fourpence.
SARAH. Thank you. Wait now till I read it over. "Clifford Wilcox, 22 Battersea Park Road, London SW15. Food situation desperate. Please send large container live... eels. Regards, Graham."
MARY. That's right, Sarah. Now don't forget the mail, mind.
SARAH. Oh, no. I'll not forget the mail. [MARY LEAVES]
SARAH. Live eels. Whatever next? My, these Londoners are awful odd.
FLORA. You mean "Graham"!
SCENE - LONDON. COLIN IS WAITING TO SPEAK TO A FISHMONGER.
FISHMONGER. Dover sole, dear? Here we are. One nice Dover sole. I can promise you, you'll enjoy that. Good morning, sir. Can I help you?
COLIN. Have you any live eels, please?
FISHMONGER. Live? No, sir, no, no. Not this time of year, sir.
COLIN. Oh, dear.
FISHMONGER. Tell you what, sir, they might be able to help you over there.
COLIN. Oh, thanks very much.
FISHMONGER. Not at all.
SCENE - IN A LONDON PET SHOP.
SHOP OWNER. Can I help you?
COLIN. Oh yes, please, I'd like some live eels.
SHOP OWNER. Eels? Oh. They're over here. Siamese Kuhia.
COLIN. From Siam! They're very small, aren't they? Let's see, now. One large container. I think I'll need about...four or five hundred. How much are they?
SHOP OWNER. They’re seven guineas a pair. Aren’t they fun!
COLIN. Mm. Well, thanks very much.
GRAHAM AND MARY CATCH A BASKING SHARK
SCENE - GRAHAM IS FISHING IN HIS SMALL BOAT.
Food for Mij became a real problem. I often spent several hours a day catching fish for him... or trying to. There were many basking sharks now migrating from northern waters. They were completely harmless, feeding on plankton, untoothed. Frightening only because of their great size. As I watched, I began to see them in a new light. There, in the fin, was a whole year's supply of shark steaks.
SCENE - THE VILLAGE SHOP IN SCOTLAND. GRAHAM LEAVES THE SHOP, THEN STOPS, LOOKS AT A SMALL HUT AND GOES BACK INTO THE SHOP.
SHOPKEEPER Did you forget something?
GRAHAM. Er... no. That isn't a deep-freeze out there, is it?
SHOPKEEPER. Aye, well, you could call it that, I suppose.
GRAHAM. Does it work?
SHOPKEEPER. It did once. Just after the war.
GRAHAM. Who does it belong to now, Mr Cameron?
SHOPKEEPER. Well, now, that's difficult to answer, but if you're interested you can have it for a few shillings. Just for the delivery, of course.
GRAHAM. Thanks. Any chance of getting it to start?
SHOPKEEPER Well, with a wee drop of meths and a lot of persuasion, I'd say you'd a chance in a million.
SCENE - THE DEEP FREEZE IS NOW BY THE SEA, NOT FAR FROM GRAHAM’S COTTAGE. HE IS TRYING TO START THE MOTOR. IT STARTS, IT STOPS. IT STARTS, IT STOPS. HE KICKS IT AND IT RESTARTS AND KEEPS GOING.
SCENE - GRAHAM’S SMALL BOAT, AT SEA. GRAHAM IS STANDING IN THE BOWS HOLDING A BIG HARPOON, MARY IS ROWING.
GRAHAM. Faster. Faster! Faster!! [HE HARPOONS THE BASKING SHARK]. Hold her steady! Use the oars! [THE SHARK TOWS THEM ALONG AT HIGH SPEED].
MARY. I thought you said he wasn't dangerous.
GRAHAM. No, I said he had no teeth. At least, that’s what is said in the book. [MARY TURNS ROUND AND LOOKS AT HIM. THE SHARK STRUGGLES, AND ITS TAIL ALMOST TURNS THE BOAT OVER. GRAHAM IS THROWN INTO THE SEA]
MARY. Graham? Graham! Come on. Oh! Let me help you.
SCENE - THE BEACH, WHERE THEY ARE CUTTING UP THE SHARK.
At last, the shark lay cut up in the freezer. I hadn't dared let Mij out at all during the preparations. I felt quite sure he'd gorge himself to death.
SCENE - GRAHAM CARRIES A BOWL OF SHARK MEAT TO THE COTTAGE.
GRAHAM. Mij! Mij! Food, Mij! [HE LETS MIJ OUT]
GRAHAM. Not yet, Mij. And don't disturb Mary. [MIJ RUNS TO MARY, WHO IS LYING DOWN BY THE DEEP FREEZE]
MARY. Oh, Mij. There you are. Did you think we were never coming back? I did.
GRAHAM. Here, Mij.
MARY. Poor Mij. He must be starving.
GRAHAM. A whole year's supply. You know, Mary, I'm almost sorry to have found such a permanent solution so easily.
MARY. So easily?
GRAHAM. I mean, no more fishing for Mij. I'm worried. I won't have any excuse now for not writing my book. Come on Mij! Here, Mij. [MIJ SNIFFS THE MEAT AND RUNS AWAY] Mij? Mij, come back! Mij! Mij!! Mij!
MARY. You were, um, saying, Graham?
GRAHAM. Oh, yes, but I didn't mean it.
MARY. Well, you don't need to worry now.
GRAHAM. There are nearly four hundred shark steaks in that freezer. Everyone likes shark steaks.
MARY. I hope you do!
SCENE - A FISHING PORT ON THE WEST COAST OF SCOTLAND
After two weeks of boiled shark, baked shark, grilled shark and curried shark, Mij and I were in complete agreement. Basking shark was not fit food for man nor beast. In desperation, I made a trip to the nearest fishing port. To be on the safe side, I bid for a mixed box.
AUCTIONEER Do I hear five bob? [INCOMPREHENSIBLE] Finish at twelve bob over there.
SCENE - GRAHAM IS TAKING FISH OUT OF THE BOX HE JUST BOUGHT, AND PUTTING THEM INTO HIS RUCKSACK.
FISHERMAN. Man, you've got a bit of everything there.
GRAHAM. Yes. Just playing safe. Quite a mixed bag. Everything except shark.
FISHERMAN. I could let you have a bit of that.
GRAHAM. No. No, thanks. Not really.
FISHERMAN. But there's nothing to beat a well-grilled shark steak. [GRAHAM LOOKS AT HIM WITH DISAPPROVAL AND WALKS OFF]
SCENE - MIJ IS MAKING A HOLE IN THE DOOR AT THE COTTAGE. HE ESCAPES AND GOES DOWN TO THE BEACH. HE MEETS A FEMALE OTTER AND THEY PLAY TOGETHER.
SCENE - GRAHAM IS ON THE BUS WITH A RUCKSACK FULL OF FISH. HE GETS OFF THE BUS NEAR HIS HOME.
DRIVER. All right, you can put up your windows now. [THE PASSENGERS CLOSE THE WINDOWS AS GRAHAM WALKS OFF WITH HIS BAG OF FISH, AND THE BUS DRIVES AWAY]
SCENE - THE BEACH. MIJ AND THE FEMALE OTTER GO INTO THE SEA AND SWIM OFF TOGETHER.
SCENE - THE COTTAGE. GRAHAM ARRIVES BACK HOME, FINDS THE HOLE IN THE DOOR, AND CALLS MIJ
GRAHAM. Mij! Mij! Mij!
SCENE - NEAR THE COTTAGE. GRAHAM IS WALKING AROUND WITH HIS HANDS IN HIS POCKETS, MARY ARRIVES FROM THE VILLAGE.
MARY. Sorry. The whole village seemed to be in the surgery. Any sign of Mij?
MARY. Coming past the point just now, Johnnie kept looking out towards the lighthouse and whining, as if he could sense something that I couldn't see.
GRAHAM. The island? I doubt it. It's a long way off. Too far for Mij to go. Perhaps we'd better take a look.
SCENE - GRAHAM AND MARY ARE IN A SMALL ROWING BOAT. THEY ARRIVE AT A SMALL ISLAND WITH A LIGHTHOUSE. THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER COMES OUT, PUTS HIS HAT ON AND STANDS NEAR THE BEACH.
MARY. Rob! Ciamar a tha thu? 'S mise a th' ann! Màiri NicChoinnich.
ROB. O! 'Se, 'se. Màiri NicChoinnich. Chan fhaca mi thu bho chionn fhada. [HE HELPS THEM TO PULL THE BOAT UP THE BEACH]. Tha am feasgar brèagha.
MARY. Tha e alainn. Seo Mr Merrill.
ROB. Tha e tioram.
MARY. Anabarrach tioram.
GRAHAM. What does he say?
MARY. He says it's a nice day.
GRAHAM. But what about Mij?
MARY. Tha sinn a'sireadh dorann a chaill sinn.
ROB. Tha a dha an seo. Air a'chreig sin thall.
MARY. O! There were otters here. Two.
ROB. Bha e àraid. Thainig fear suas dha mo chois.
MARY. It must've been Mij.
MARY. He said one almost touched his leg.
ROB. An-sin, shnamh iad air falbh, gu Eilean an Druin.
GRAHAM. What does he say?
MARY. They swam off, to the island of Druin. What do you want to do, Graham?
GRAHAM. How do you mean? Go there, of course.
SCENE - AN OTTER SWIMS PAST A FISHING NET WHICH IS HELD AT THE SURFACE BY BUOYS AND FLOATS. THEN ANOTHER OTTER SWIMS PAST BUT IS CAUGHT IN THE NET.
SCENE - GRAHAM AND MARY ARRIVE ON THE ISLAND OF DRUIN. IT IS EVENING. THEY WALK AROUND THE ISLAND. AT THE TOP OF A CLIFF, GRAHAM SITS DOWN AND MARY STANDS BESIDE HIM. SHE LOOKS DOWN AT THE BEACH
GRAHAM. Mij! Well, if he tried to get here, he didn't make it. After all, he's never been swimming anywhere before... except the burn or the bathtub.
MARY. Graham, is that just seaweed?
MARY. There. [THEY RUN DOWN TO THE BEACH]
MARY. It looks like...
GRAHAM. Mij. Mij!
SCENE - GRAHAM IS ROWING BACK HOME. MARY HOLDS MIJ IN HER ARMS. HE IS UNCONSCIOUS.
SCENE - THE COTTAGE. THERE ARE PICTURES OF OTTERS, DRAWN BY GRAHAM, PINNED TO THE WALL. HE IS DRAWING MIJ, WHO IS ON THE BED.
Mij took some time to recover. He seemed unwilling now to leave Camusfeàrna, even to stray out of my sight. Except for an occasional dip in his pool. I realised I had been drawing only one aspect of Mij, and not the best at that. An otter on land is as graceless as a grounded bird. I needed to sketch him underwater. A bit of beachcombing would produce, I hoped, what I now could use to further my small artistic ambition.
HOW TO DRAW MIJ SWIMMING
SCENE - GRAHAM IS IN A SHED NEAR THE COTTAGE, DOING SOME WOODWORK. MARY ARRIVES WITH JOHNNIE.
GRAHAM. Oh, um, Mary, stay there. I'll be right out.
MARY. What are you making?
GRAHAM. Oh... Nothing. Just a swimming pool.
MARY. I've brought you a telegram. It's been at the post office a few days now, but Sarah says it's not important.
GRAHAM. Oh, thanks. Is it worth reading?
MARY. I very much doubt it.
GRAHAM. Oh. Very bad news, indeed.
GRAHAM. I've got to go to London.
GRAHAM. Before spring.
MARY. No wonder they sent you a telegram.
GRAHAM. Come and see Mij. By the way, you're invited to a birthday party on the twenty-first.
GRAHAM. Mij's. It's a Sunday.
MARY. Well, I should be able to make it. How do you know it's on the 21st?
GRAHAM. First day of his birth sign. Aquarius.
SCENE - OUTSIDE THE COTTAGE.
GRAHAM. Come on, Mij! You'll miss your birthday party. [MARY IS SITTING DOWN, LOOKING AT A BIG CURTAIN.]
GRAHAM. Hope this thing works. [HE CUTS A ROPE WITH AN AXE, THE CURTAIN FALLS AND REVEALS AN AQUARIUM. MIJ CLIMBS IN AND SWIMS.]
MARY. Swimming pool. Come on, Johnnie. Come on. Get down. There's a good boy. [MIJ PLAYS IN THE AQUARIUM, MARY GIVES HIM A GOLF BALL TO PLAY WITH, GRAHAM DRAWS HIM]
SCENE - IT’S A COLD DAY. SWANS ARE FLYING ACROSS THE SKY. THERE IS SNOW ON THE HILL TOPS.
Autumn in the Highlands begins with the first day the water fowl start to gather. Swans were heading south, and my geese, who had finally learned to use their wings, joined the wild flocks from the Hebrides. The first snow fell at Camusfeàrna. It lay for weeks... to Mij's delight!
SCENE - MIJ IS RUNNING AND SLIDING IN THE SNOW.
SCENE - IN THE COTTAGE. GRAHAM IS TRYING TO PACK A TRAVELLING BAG ON THE BED, MIJ CLIMBS ONTO THE BAG.
GRAHAM. You don't understand. It's a business trip. Come out, Mij. Look, Mij, it takes a day to get there and a day to get back. Of hard travelling, by bus and by train. Yes, by train. I'll only be gone a week. [GRAHAM LOOKS OUT OF THE WINDOW]. Seven days! It's like a jail sentence. Look, Mij, it's not for ever. There'll be Mary and Johnnie.
SCENE - MARY AND GRAHAM ARE WATCHING MIJ AND JOHNNIE PLAY IN THE BURN. GRAHAM GIVES MIJ’S DOG LEAD AND HARNESS TO MARY.
GRAHAM. You'll need this to take him back to the village.
MARY. Graham, I hope you have a safe journey, and we'll... we'll all miss you.
GRAHAM. Thanks for looking after Mij. Oh, um... in case he tries to follow me. [HE GIVES HER A TABLE-TENNIS BALL]
GRAHAM. Well, I'll just slip away while he's... bye. Bye, Mij. [MARY SITS DOWN AND WATCHES GRAHAM WALK AWAY.]
SCENE - LONDON. GRAHAM GETS OFF A BUS.
SCENE - BESIDE A SMALL WATERFALL. MARY HAS BEEN SWIMMING AND IS WEARING ONLY A TOWEL, MIJ IS SWIMMING, JOHNNIE IS WATCHING.
MARY. Oh, come on, Johnnie. Don't be such a coward! Do something about it. It's lovely in there. Isn't it, Mij? Well, come on, you two. We'll be late for surgery. Come on.
SCENE - LONDON. GRAHAM SEES AN EXPENSIVE OTTER-SKIN COAT IN A SHOP.
SCENE - MARY IS HURRYING BACK TO WORK, FOLLOWED BY JOHNNIE AND MIJ. A ROAD WORKER IS USING A SPADE TO DIG OUT A DITCH.
ANGUS I'll bet the water's cold up there at the falls, Doctor.
MARY. It was, indeed, Angus.
ANGUS You'll get another wetting before you get back. There’s a spot of rain just starting. You’ll have to hurry.
MARY. I felt it myself. Johnnie! Mij! [ANGUS KILLS MIJ WITH HIS SPADE]
ANGUS I thought it was just an otter.
SCENE - GRAHAM IS RETURNING HOME ON THE LOCAL BUS. HE SEES MARY WAITING FOR HIM BESIDE THE ROAD. HE GETS OFF THE BUS. SHE LOOKS WORRIED.
GRAHAM. What a pleasant surprise! I didn't expect you here.
MARY. I just thought I'd come and meet the bus.
GRAHAM. How's the most beautiful doctor in Scotland?
GRAHAM. And Mij?
GRAHAM. I know you're going to tell me he wrecked the surgery and half frightened Janet to death.
MARY. He behaved perfectly.
GRAHAM. Good. I brought him a present. His favourite. “Slinky”. [HE SHOWS HER A RUBBER SNAKE]
GRAHAM. It... it's a joke.
MARY. Mij is dead.
SCENE - GRAHAM IS ON HIS OWN, LOOKING OUT TO SEA.
SCENE - OUTSIDE THE COTTAGE. GRAHAM IS SITTING AT A DESK MADE OF FISH BOXES, WITH BOOKS, PEN AND PAPER.
MARY. Don't move. Don't get up. I've never seen a writer at work before.
GRAHAM. Hello, stranger. [HE SMILES AT HER]
MARY. Hello. I didn't come before, Graham. Last week, when...
MARY. Yes. Yes, quite.
GRAHAM. Well, you'll see I finally started.
MARY. Oh, I'm so pleased. How's the book going?
GRAHAM. Very well. Very well, indeed. At least I've got the title down in black and white, but I think it's the wrong one. I should go back to Arabia to write about Arabs.
MARY. Leave Camusfeàrna?
MARY. Could you?
GRAHAM. No. But I can't spend the rest of my life being a beachcomber.
MARY. Why not, if it serves the purpose?
GRAHAM. Because it's only a way of escaping. I realise that now. Come on, I'll show you what I mean. If it's still there. [THEY WALK DOWN TO THE BEACH, WHERE THERE IS A PRIMITIVE RAFT WITH A SAIL]
MARY. That'll never get you to Arabia!
GRAHAM. It was washed up on the beach, about two days ago.
MARY. [SHE LOOKS AT THE FLAG ON THE RAFT] "RC." I wonder what the flag stands for.
GRAHAM. Antique. Early 15th century, I'd say.
MARY. Of course. Petrol-driven.
GRAHAM. Used for transporting pilgrims.
MARY. To Mecca?
GRAHAM. Certainly not. “RC”, Roman Catholics.
MARY. “RC” Robinson Crusoe's more likely!
GRAHAM. Here's a very delicate object.
MARY. Oh, also antique?
GRAHAM. A monocle for a near-sighted whale. This is a very interesting thing. Skin-diving suit for a miniature octopus. Who didn't quite make it.
MARY. Graham... [SHE SEES A MOTHER OTTER COMING UP THE BEACH WITH HER CUBS]
GRAHAM. It can't be.
MARY. We can watch them from the hill. [THE OTTERS RUN PAST THE RAFT AND UP THE BEACH]
GRAHAM. They're coming to Mij's pool.
MARY. Why should wild otters come here?
GRAHAM. Unless... Mary, you remember what the lighthouse-keeper said?
MARY. Rob. But here must be dozens of wild otters round here.
GRAHAM. But these are Mij's.
MARY. Well, isn't that the way it ought to be? Wild otters swimming in the burn.
SCENE - IT IS EVENING. GRAHAM WALKS DOWN FROM THE COTTAGE TO WATCH THE OTTERS. HE HAS A NOTEBOOK AND PEN. HE WRITES “RING OF BRIGHT WATER”.
Where sun and wind play
On a ring of bright water
That's where my heartland will be
The deer on the hill
In the first snow of winter
The gull in the sky winging free
I wandered away
From the dark, crowded city
Leaving my old life behind
And came to a place
Where a ring of bright water
Dazzled the care from my mind
So I live with the wonder
Of the sky and the sea
And I'll always remember
Who revealed them to me
But now you are gone
With your whirlpools of laughter
Racing me down to the sea
But I always smile
When a ring of bright water
Echoes your laughter to me.