Wednesday, 28 August 2013

A Glorious Day

I did some bits yesterday morning, arranged an MOT for the car pre-sale, made a list from the earlier blogpost about lists, re-listed the old fridge for sale blah blah blah, and then I went out, down to the beach.

I’d gone with the intention of taking some proper pictures with a camera, under the pier at low tide, however I’d left it just too long and the water was knee deep. Let me explain that: the tide drops by my eye around 10 feet at the foreshore, in total the tide drops between 5mtrs and 7mtrs depending on where the tide is in its cycle, but it also goes out a long way. This means that it has to come in a long way before it starts to rise. The water floods across the mud at a walking pace as mentioned in an earlier post, then it eventually hits the beach (which is held in place by the seawall and Groynes and does its vertical fill (Six hours and millions of tonnes of saline H20 pulled by the moon). The period at slack tide is relatively short, and I missed it; being one handed and in plaster I couldn’t risk the walk, so I walked the foreshore instead. I’m so glad I did.
First of all as per previous post I finally discovered how useful the phones voice recorder was, I discovered I hadn’t charged the cameras battery, and I discovered a little natural wonder I’ve never seen before.
Read on.
Mussel shells, they look like little asymmetrical boats with pearlescent innards. Floating in rings of algal bubbles they made a loose flotilla of pearly ships floating in on the millpond calm rising tide. It’s nice to still be filled with childish wonder. The heat of the day and the slop of water at the extreme edge of the tidal range foams the water gently, and then flows across the mud, and where bubbles meet loose upturned mussel shells they form these rings of bubbles and the shells float ... some float without bubbles but they are few and far between, the merest disturbance in the water sinks the little boats all heading for the shore. Forty six years I’ve been on the Earth and I’ve never seen this before.
Three days ago the weather was rough, three days ago the sea was the colour of tea, it lapped the sea wall aggressively, rolled up it like fluid fingers trying to reach the top, and then flowed down to meet the next band of waves, crashing into them creating rollers and peaks and foam and spray. But yesterday, the water beneath the little pearl boats was crystal clear aventurine green. Above, the clear blue sky was enormous and humbling. Far in land towards the city I could see the band of yellow that indicates the M25, and some smoggy looking clouds, but where I was, was all clarity and brightness.
The human made boats for some time sat on the green mirror surface of the sea completely motionless and reflected almost perfectly, their bright colours in stark but beautiful relief against the sky and water, beyond them two hundred yards away the beach huts formed a dotted coloured line curving in parallel with black line of dried Bladderwrack and other seaweeds that marks the tides various high points across the sand and shingle of the beach; the sand and shingle themselves formed dun, gold and speckled curves either side of the dry seaweed.

South across the water towards Kent the Isle of Sheppey was visible, but the mornings earlier fog hadn’t cleared and so the grey shapes of the land and industry that marked it on the horizon were just a blur. At sea level knee deep in the water any land further than three miles would be invisible anyway ( Later when I was sitting on a bench on the seawall the land maybe as far as Margate became visible due to the elevation relative to the horizon. I couldn’t see buildings or more properly `settlements’ but the grey line I’ve come to recognise as North Kent was there reassuringly lending the estuary its proper perspective end to end. From my vantage point around midway along Thorpe Esplanade sat on that bench I could see a length of land referencing around forty miles end to end Tilbury to my west and east, to at least east Herne Bay.
Before I came out the knee deep water up onto the promenade, an onshore breeze ( stirred the millpond water to a green tea green, off-clear mildly muddied, but nothing like the sea of Saturday. Saturdays sea had the colour of the water I remember as a child, when the Thames was biologically dead (and we swam in it in total ignorance). The algal foam that was once tainted by raw sewage formed at the edge of the water, in that off white to sickly brown froth. I had to tell myself that the foam no longer carried human waste in quantity ... though after the weekends rains, it would have carried more than I’d like.
I noted as I walked that the water that had been the for edge of the previous tide was still trying to escape back to the sea in runnels through the sand, only to be met again by an coming tide to be forced back through those grains of sand again, as the sea tries to wash away the land and cover it, as it seeks dominion over its missing third of the world.
I walked with some Turnstones and Ringed Plovers for a distance, the little birds playing chicken with me; I walk to within three paces, they fly forward ten paces, I catch them up, they fly off again and so on. Until one brave soul stood his ground to within two paces, issued an indignant chirp took off and led the entire flock back a hundred paces or more to where we started our game and settled to poking around on the beach again. This is the way with these tiny waders behave from recent observations; each group has a range of maybe a 100 metres, and if you push them to the end of the range, eventually they up sticks and circle back to the beginning. 
This section of beach we have named the Residents Beach sitting as it does between the main amusements drag of seafront Southend and Thorpe Bay is a bit wild as beach goes, grasses and salt hardy plants form scrubby clumps and drifts, the gravely nature allows the larger plants to put down proper roots and to thrive (I need to identify the plants, all I know them as now are, the yellow, blue or mauve flowering plants). There are people spaced evenly along the beach in one and twos and threes all by my eye at an oddly even 12.5 radius or 25metres apart. It’s like personal beach space on a grand scale, and yet 400 metres west people sit cheek by jowl overflowing onto the wall in the absence of space to sit on the beach.
I’d only walked a mile and a bit, once in a while stopping to make a fake phone call and speak to my voice recorder. I sat on the sand for a few minutes to make my observations and gather my wits ... there is a lot to assimilate under such a huge sky. I’d noted the odd geometry of the beach and the natural world already, when I looked back the way I’d come I suddenly saw the man made stuff, the jetty’s, and groynes, the pole poking out of the last post of each groyne, with its little green Sampan hat marking (I believe) the safe bathing depth (it was these Sampan topped poles bristling in an uneven line that brought humanities works into focus). The little seafront buildings on perched half on half off the seawall, some of them restaurants, others sailing club huts or hubs and dotted evenly along the promenade, north, east, south and west facing open beach shelters (that seem often to be day beds for drunks sleeping of the mornings white lightning). Around the bigger buildings slightly denser populations of people were gathered (lots of mums and grandparents dealing with children from zero upwards off school for another few days, before the holidays end).

The pier beyond them and between the legs of the pier under and over its deck the twin chimneys of Tilbury power station appear, that I know to be 90metres tall, visible twenty miles east (before the land rounds Shoeburyness and the hills at the edge of the flood plain finally block the line of sight). Appearing by Tilbury’s edifice of power, by dint of perspective those massive gantry cranes newly installed at Coryton appearing two dimensionally north (relative) of Tilbury, though they are separated by a good three miles in a straight line in two directions, and finally blunted a little by the pier, the spires of Shell Haven and the domes and blocks of Canvey.
What I thought was my last surprise of the day was the appearance of a three masted ship with a raised Poop deck chugging up the river on the incoming tide in a way that no sailing ship could muster without sail, unless it had a deck full of men at oars ... or diesel engine. But there was one more surprise, I got the call from Paul regarding the Motorhomes readiness. It’s done, certificated, built, finished, getting in the way of Pauls next project, awaiting collection, preferably on Thursday.
I had to turn back, I sat to dry my feet and rub the sand from between my toes, take a huge slug of water from my bottle; that suggested I was really thirsty but too absorbed to have noticed while on the moved. Not a long walk yesterday as I’d needed a bit of a rest from all the long walks of the last week or three, but full of events, and most of the events happened in my head, observations, realisations, extrapolations. There is much wonder to be found where land meets sea, Ecotones, they wake you up if you’ll let them.

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