Seven writers gathered at the Beach House for a day of creative writing facilitated by award winning Cumbrian author Karen Lloyd, naturalist and activist for curlew conservation since this bird is now globally threatened. She brought along some inspiring passages of nature writing - contemporary and historic and location recordings. We took time to walk along the shore, writing individually in response to the bay, the tides, its micro marine creatures and the wading birds. Pieces of writing were shared within the group.
An inspiring day with perfect weather that we vow to repeat some time. Fran Riley, visual artist and writer, created an iPad image, collaging the wren that was keeping us company out on the deck and the Heron sculpture [created 10 years ago by Duncan Copley]. Kerry Darbishire sent in her Summer's Day poem a few days later once she had completed the editing.
Imagine the heat of Natal,
splitting balconies, wood
bleached with sun and salt.
Imagine ash leaves curled
away from midday
like tongues wrapped
around cigars, dry as egg-timer
sand, sapless as old bones.
Imagine valerian losing pink
from the ankles up, bees
sack-heavy with pollen.
Imagine ferns glad of shade,
a slight breeze, my grandmother
taking tea on a lawn two world wars
away from snowdrops, primulas,
seasons easing into each other
like sea mist in a garden
on the outskirts of Cork.
One huge wet rock begins a slow motion tumble, scraping, sliding for an age, for an ice age. Carried inside a glacier that is travelling south and now beginning to lose its grip.
Crunch, dump, and the rock is out, sculpted smooth by meltwater, dry for the first time in centuries. Over the next 10,000 years worn and weathered, rooted to this new spot out in The Bay and visible from the house.
Here’s four lumps of stone, collected last year and placed on an outside windowsill by the door. A collection, collected for their shapes and colours. Ochres, burnt umber, sienna, smoky purple. All-weather ornaments mantlepiecing in quiet elegance.
On the left, a sandstone pyramid with horizontal seams in parallel, showing slight erosion. Sitting on a good flat base, leaning back.
The mightiest is the wedge of Neolithic cake. Heavy, after centuries growing stale at the back of the cave, but still showing its hematite jam and pumice cream filling, with grit sprinkles on top. Cruel on the teeth though.
The smallest, which fits in the palm of the hand, is the remnants of a sourdough sandwich kept for later. Yesterday morning Mother Stone gave Daughter Pebble food for the journey as she set off into the world to see what she might see. Clutch it tight, keep it safe, you never know what might be round the corner ..... Daughter Pebble heard tell of pyramids. She might just go there and see what she could see.
Number four is a kingdom viewed from space. An island of turmeric, or is it saffron? Perfect contour lines triangle the rise to the summit in its centre. A pleasing symmetry.
Coming home and I’m bursting for a pee. I rush inside, slam the door behind me with a seismic shock. All four lumps crash to the deck. All night long they lie there in a jumbled heap, awaiting rescue. This could prove to be an uncomfortable night for us all. Sue Gill
AT THE WRITING CLASS
I am gearing up for writing.
Behind me the white lips of the sea
find quiet for once.
Inside the tutor steers a gentle edge.
From inside a recording machine
a red shank calls.
Squeaking, scratchily, the bird
chirtles, chuckles, chirtles.
Her long wading shanks
tendoned like sprung stilts.
Next in the machine,
a curlew moans sweetly, receding.
Professor Peter, the ecotoxicologist and I
were out on the sands one day
digging for lugworm......when a curlew took off.
I love that sound, said Peter,
and so does Christine.
She’s in surgery today.
In the colour of the sky pot, by the back door,
the Royal Fern has gone vinegar brown.
Finger tips clutched to avoid the sun.
On the kitchen table, rhubarb,
bendy like redshank legs
is wilting, looping wet to black.
Funny weather says the window cleaner.
Good for my job.
Yes I nod.
Even the sea is wilting.