Monday, 27 January 2014

Night Sound

A windless night, closer to the longest night than we are now, a good hour after the milk lorry trembled the house in its nightly pound to the farm, I was in the bathroom, readying for bed. The bathroom in our cottage is behind the kitchen, towards the sea. In fact there at high tide, as it was, there's possibly only ten or twenty metres between the bathroom wall and the sea.

What I heard at first sounded like a car reversing, a long way off. Further than the car park, locked up now anyway. But there was no long way off for a car to reverse, only the sea. For reasons I can't now explain I was convinced there were lights attached to the sound. Regular, intermittent soundings. Big, deep, hovering and slightly thrumming, as if more vibration than sound, as if operating on another sound wave to the one I usually hear on.

I heard bats calling once. Without any batophone. It was, again, late at night, and two of them swooped over my head and knobbled - the closest I can come to describing their echolocation - to each other. Apparently my attunement to high frequency sound happened to coincide with the lower one they employ for calling to each other.

This was a far bigger sound. One that filled the air, the way thunder does. But intermittent and sharper. It really did sound like something parking. It sounded above the water, rather than in it, the sharpness gave it that sense. Although the vibrations did suggest water maybe being disturbed. As I leaned closer to the wall the stronger the sound, and its vibration, felt. Oddly regular. Insistant. I called F. Again I called. Urgently. Already the silences between the sounds were lengthening. I called out again. Quickly. But too late the sound had sunk away. The emptiness of the night seemed, at the moment F arrived in the bathroom, far far bigger than the five mile wide bay, black as it ever is.

Monday, 13 January 2014


The days are slowly lengthening, minute by minute, dusk by dusk, which is perhaps why when I went to lock up the car park the other evening there were two cars parked up, facing the sea. It wasn't raining. The wind was gusting in at about 40mph from the south, buffeting the side doors, but barely affecting the water. Its tide was low, distant. Mud gleamed faintly. Light fading. The sun had set, unspectacularly, and clouds were clustering at the horizon, without too much definition, grey filled the sky, with a strange flatness. The moon appeared and disappeared.

In one car a lone man had his flask out, propped behind the steering wheel, his gloved hands wrapped around a thermal mug. In the other a slightly older couple, wrapped up in scarves and hats, only their noses visible, didn't look as if they were making any move to get out. Both engines were running, headlights off, with less than another car's width between them. There was no apparent communication between the two sets of occupants.

I stood for a second, leaning into the wind to keep myself upright and motionless, and turned to look at the view they were both watching. Or were they studying it? Or not even seeing it really? In that light the sea spread as a loose canvas before us all, offering a sight that could be interpreted as anxious, dismissive, angry, romantic or something else entirely, depending on what we'd been doing earlier. What had they been doing then to bring them here now? Still they sat, staring at the disregarding sea as if they were infatuated teenagers again. And I stood there, getting colder as the wind ate my fingers and ears, giving them one last minute of whatever it was, before I'd ask them to leave.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

The Doll on the Beach

Another high tide - 10.1m yesterday, due again today - brought more wreck onto the shore road between us and the farm. Although the tide was higher than December's surge, the wind strength was less and, perhaps more crucially, had more south in it, so gusted parallel to the shore rather than bringing great hammering waves onto it.

What it also didn't bring was the plastic crap of before. The salt marsh and sand was piled with seaweed this morning, it was also strewn up the seawall and, further round the shallow bay, higher up on the road. Except, in the middle of all these greybrowns bladders, a bright mop of purple tangles attached to two yellow mounds caught my attention amongst the shale and weed. It was a doll, face down, undressed but for knickers and the yellow sock boots; arms and legs spread out and, obviously, quite motionless. The sight of her knickers and sprawled limbs was pitiful. A little more seaweed and she would have been invisible. But she wasn't. She was a point of day-glo cuteness, her purple curls still bouncing about her head. When I turned her over, as if to check a pulse, her overly large eyes were both still in place, although one cheek was torn, her mouth was there, small and straight. A foot was hanging off with a strange plastic spring coiling out from her leg, like some mangled bone.

I couldn't leave her there, and tucked her into a plastic box I'd freed from the fence and brought her back home. Back in the environment of cars, wellies, water butts and bins, she became a soggy discarded toy. One I didn't want either, so I threw her, without much more thought, into the wheelie bin.