In The Bayview, Susie runs an unofficial hostel for the local migrant fishermen in Macduff. I say hostel, but it is a home, Susie makes sure of that. That is her goal, to give these sailors a home away from home. You see her cooking Ghanaian dishes, trying to get the recipe just right, so they can have a home cooked meal like they would at their family table.
The Bayview is one of those documentaries that shines a light on the extraordinary kindness that goes unremarked as ordinary life. Susie is an American who took over a derelict hotel in Macduff on the north-east coast of Scotland. There with her family, Jim and Matt, she lets the local fishermen come and stay while ashore, giving them the opportunity to sleep in a proper bed.
I know nothing about fishing or sailing, so it hadn’t really occurred to me that sailors who work in the UK, but are from abroad, are limited in their time onshore. It’s mad to me that if you’re working in this country, contributing to this country, there should be any issue or restriction on you actually setting foot on it. Migrant fisherman account for almost a quarter of Scotland’s fisherman – that’s a huge number! – but many end up having to stay on their ships, even while at port, sleeping in bunks, eating in whatever passes for a cramped galley. Susie’s is one place they can go where none of that is an issue.
I loved Susie, she patters about this big house that has that really good cluttered feel of a well lived-in home, full of different people’s knick-knacks and stuff and personal decorating touches. It’s a place that is the opposite of a sterile showroom, or anonymous facility. It has that good mismatched jumble your gran’s has, where you’re welcome to add your own. She’s always making herself useful, cutting hair or cooking dinner, or sitting to chat with the guys.
Her son Matt is the most laid back dude ever. He is this really softly-spoken but hefty built Tongan-American guy. A gentle giant, he helps his mum deliver care packages to the sailors still on the ships and similarly keeps the place up for the ones who come to stay. But while she has a bit of bustle to her, he is super chill.
You can tell the appreciation the fisherman have for Susie, calling her Mama. It’s the simple things, like when they have difficulties with renewing visas, or figuring out how to comply with rules and regulations, it makes them feel less alone when someone says, come over, rest at mine, relax.
A lovely short documentary about the wee heroes who make life better for others in small, unobtrusive ways.