Bleak beauty

January 15, 2019 by Ray Morgan

Hello, readers, and a Happy New Year to you! I hope you are rested, full of good intentions, and enjoying cocktails which I miss because I'm doing Dry Jan.

We're all full of the best promises to ourselves, this month, aren't we. I'm doing yoga and having small portions like all the cliches would predict. But I'm also eating a lot of Waitrose coconut chocolate and am still terrible at putting my clothes away. Don't put too much pressure on, we can't turn into a Marie Kondo juice-diet bullet-journalling athlete overnight (and we shouldn't, for we would be no fun).

Small things help mark the start of a new year. Jo and I didn't have much planned on Sunday and she said, as we pottered about the house, "Let's go for a long walk" and we decided on Two Tree Island. The BBC weather app said sunny intervals, but naturally it lied, and we were walking under thick grey clouds. 

Two Tree is so strange. It was the place I went as a child to ride my bike or birdwatch, soundtracked by the sound of model aircraft. It has a rather questionable reputation after dark. It's quiet, sometimes too quiet, and it was bordering on dark and creepy as the light was barely breaking through the clouds in the early afternoon. 

It's a bleak view when you get there - you're over the bridge and walking towards the sea and on Sunday in particular, with its sludge-coloured sky the sea looked brown itself. The mud and reeds and banks and marsh - all brown. Brown twigs against the sky. Brown clouds, brown puddles... you get the picture. 

It was windy as hell and even the black-headed gulls looked pissed off. Cold water lapped the muddy shore. The power station / industrial vibe of the view loomed ominously. We looked back the mile or so to the shore and saw Leigh looking like a little toy town or an Alfred Wallis painting. We stood there being pushed about by a belligerent strong wind, and actually, despite the brown-ness, despite the industrial view, despite the cold and little sharp pins of rain, it looked beautiful. 

It doesn't have to be white sand and turquoise sea to be beautiful. There is beauty in the texture of the estuary on dark, clouded days - when the seagulls get blown off course and you feel like it's not going to get light before it gets dark. There's a poetry in the curves of mud, smooth as whales, as you tramp back along the sea wall with the promise of a (non-alc) beer in the Old Town on your way home. 

We took photos of boats stuck in the mud, at the desolation and the gloam, and for a moment the sun peered through the clouds. The marshes stopped being brown all of a sudden - there were purples and greens. A tiny channel of water in the mud was, for thirty seconds, gold. We felt the sun on our backs momentarily. It went in, of course, clouds again, and we froze drinking outside the Billet with lightly mudded shoes. The tide was up, high, the gulls we'd seen wheeling on Two Tree Island now swooped in the wind right by us at the pub. 

Bleak beauty - it may not be glorious sunshine, or warmth on our skin, or an endless horizon - but there is something about our estuary that even on a drab day can really be quite something.

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