Saturday, 23 June 2012

A year on the beach

Having been wrongly accused last week of never having been to Deptford, I've been steering clear of urban planning politics this week and heading for the beach. It is June, after all, even though this month is rapidly disappearing down a drain. I've been reading Strands: A Year of Discoveries on the Beach, a new book by Jean Sprackland, a poet who lives, or lived, not far from me, near Ainsdale Sands, between Southport and Formby Point. Over the course of a year, Sprackland simply walks on the beach near her home and tells us what she finds and sees.

There is some lovely stuff in it, with a particularly brilliant section about messages in bottles, sent to no one in particular across 'the mother of all dead letter boxes: the sea'. It is also salutary to learn that 'caffeine levels are so high in some coastal areas that it's used as a marker to determine general water quality'. And I learnt a lot about a science I had never even heard of: Flotsametrics. In his book Flotsametrics and the Floating world (2009), Curtis Ebbesmeyer explores the science behind the complex and unlikely journeys taken by ocean debris like driftwood, messages in bottles, corpses and derelict ships, as well as 'the Great Sneaker spill' - when thousands of lost-overboard Nike training shoes ended up on distant shores. Apparently, 'murderers often underestimate the strength and complexity of currents and tidal systems, a failure which has sabotaged many an otherwise "perfect" crime.'

Searching for some of Sprackland's poems, I found this suitably lyrical reworking of the everyday on her website:


Tipped down the embankment, they
sprawl like sloshed suburban wives,

buckled and split, slashed by rain,
moulded by bodies dead or disappeared
and reeking with secrets.

A lineside museum of sleep and sex,
an archive of thrills and emissions,
the histories of half-lives
spent hiding in the dark.

Arthritic iron frames might still be worth a bit,
but never that pink quilted headboard,
naked among thistles, relic
of some reckless beginning, testament

to the usual miracle: the need to be close,
however it stains and bruises.

from Tilt (Cape, 2007)


  1. I did a very middle class thing and had John Lewis collect my old mattress recently, and they told me that even the oldest of mattresses can be recycled: shredded and used as filling.

  2. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.