The Secret Ocean of Doncaster
By Contributing Author/Artist Carl Franz
By Contributing Author/Artist Carl Franz
The ageing crane was designed to lift the stock yard's steel girders. They weighed two tonnes each. That was well within its limit, but the fine sand and grit that found its way into every nook and cranny was taking its toll. The clunky old fashioned electrical relays were gradually seizing up. I flicked on the power to the remote control box ready for the last test. The hook dangled with an upside down question mark for me. Will the new switches work?
When I thumbed the green push button a satisfying clank echoed around the deserted yard as the brake released. The motor began to whine its long weary song just the way it should, and the hook sank slowly down.
I released the button, cutting off the juice. Another satisfying clank rang out as the brake snapped shut again. The hook dangled half way down, swaying slightly in the clear summer sky, ready for work.
Alf, the yard manager, was leaning against the wall of the squat brick building he used as his site office. He had been watching me running the last of the tests. He turned, melding into the shadows, going inside to wait for me. I picked my way over the rough weed-strewn ground towards him. His office was all that was left of a larger building, now downsized to one single room for one single man. It stood out like a last crumbling tooth among the broken up concrete and bricks.
Alf was no doubt already drumming those stumpy work-toughened fingers on his desk. He didn't get much company these days and he loved telling me his long old-timer yarns. But he would have to be patient.
It paid to take your time and lift your feet in the stock yard. The ground was strewn with half buried coils of steel rope and stabbed through with sharp chunks of metal scrap. Tripping hazards everywhere, and no happy landings for the unwary.
Then there were the fish.
If I kept my mind on the job I hardly noticed them any more. I knew they were there, lazily gliding around through the air. But with practice I found I could exclude them from my thoughts. Playing around with industrial sized machinery in a desert of scrap metal didn't mix with going “all dreamy” as I called it.
I didn't know about the third eye or anything to do with that in those days. (There was nothing in the technical manuals about it.) But I did know that sometimes I felt and saw things no-one else seemed to be aware of. Instinctively I kept quiet about it.
The sight of strange fish swimming through the air as if they had invented their very own laws of physics was perplexing, however. And why here of all places? This was the middle of Doncaster, South Yorkshire.
What were they doing haunting an industrial estate a good fifty miles from the ocean?
And what kind of ocean had fish like that anyway?
Most of them were small to medium sized. They looked a bit strange but wouldn't have been too out of place on a plate with a serving of fries. Some of them were big though, really big. One or two were the size of orcas but not nearly as beautiful. Those hulking creatures looked somehow unfinished. As if mother nature had experimented with a couple of prototypes just to see how they worked out. No disrespect intended to mother nature, but I have to say; they were downright ugly. Their heavy, out of proportion jaws hung open, displaying rows of crooked spiky teeth. Others yawned cavernous but mercifully toothless mouths, sucking in the invisible water as they cruised around between the stacks of steel.
Their scales were a shiny slate colour with a blue or greenish shimmer. They looked uncomfortably cold to the touch, not that I was tempted; not with those eyes. Their eyes were expressionless. Just flat discs filled with matt black hollows. They always seemed to be searching in a calm but eerily hungry way over the flat sandstone ground.
That was a clue for me.
I knew that sandstone is made of sediment laid down under ancient ocean waters. I speculated on the way to Alf's office that perhaps this area was once a *prehistoric seabed.
I found Alf sitting in his favourite tatty but comfortable old leather arm chair at his desk.
A wide smile spread across his weathered face and he gestured towards a more modest chair for me to join him. After the usual shop talk he settled back, making a cushion of his hands behind his head.
“That reminds me of the time I drove a mobile crane through the middle of a snow storm all the way to … let me see...”
He rolled his eyes up towards the light fanning out from a small window set high in the wall behind him.
“Ah yes,” he began his story. It was a long one, and to be honest I had a little trouble not glazing over. But every now and again a fish swam past the window, which kept me alert.
One stayed quite some time. It was huge. Only a small part of its head and an eye were visible in the rectangular frame. It hung there motionless, apparently eavesdropping on Alf's adventures. Its giant flat eye intermittently tilted slightly with a sharp flicking motion this way and that, as if searching the room. I began to feel like a goldfish in a bowl or a pet human in some surreal, inverted aquatic dimension.
It must have flicked its enormous out of sight tail as Alf's story finally reached the punchline. The eye suddenly slid away. It was followed by an endless glistening train of scales the colour of ice under moonlight.
Just as the tail swept past, Alf uncoupled his fingers from behind his head and rocked forward. He slapped his hands down on the desk grinning.
“You know,” he said “nobody would believe the things I’ve seen”.
* Note from Messenger Spirit:
From a paper in the University of York archives:
'The Don Gorge runs through an area of Magnesian limestone near Conisbrough in
Doncaster. The limestone is part of the Magnesian Limestone Ridge, a geological feature that was formed at the edges of a shallow sea in the Permian era around 255 million years ago.'
About the Author:
I am a retired engineer living in the beautiful countryside of Yorkshire, England. Often to be found striding along the country paths alongside the rivers, or ambling through the local woods, lost in my thoughts and happy as a lark. I enjoy painting and writing. Through them, I try to describe the spiritual experiences encountered during my daily and nocturnal travels. These experiences have always heavily influenced my life and now I have time to explore them and perhaps share my deep interest in all peaceful spiritual practices which celebrate and respect nature.
Carl Franz can be contacted at: