Category Archives: Surreal Seaside
A short story for Miranda Kate’s sixtieth Flash Challenge, which this time does me great honour by using one of my own photos.
Georgiana Harvey sat outside the Cove Cafe, sipping lukewarm, watery tea, and watching the sunlight flicker across the wide waves. The tide was going out, slowly revealing wet sand, shining pebbles, tiny scuttling crabs, and the giant metal shell that sat on the beach near the cafe: a spiral, steel sculpture large enough to climb into. Twice daily it was swamped by the tide, water spurting from a blow-hole as the water rose, before the shell became completely submerged. At low tide it became completely visible.
Georgie did not need to check her watch – it would not be long now before she could walk down to the beach and clamber into the structure, as she did every day. She would, as usual, listen to the sounds of the sea from outside, and read the words that the artist had etched into the metal. The time she spent in the shell was precious. In there, she could forget, for a beautiful moment, her life of drudgery, and instead imagine faraway worlds, and dream of escape to a life of adventure. It was as if the shell was imbued with an unusual, hidden, power. She believed that without her daily tryst with the steel shell on the beach, she might go insane.
Georgie’s reverie was interrupted by a woman sitting down heavily beside her. She was short, with a shock of pink hair, and wore a uniform of dark blue. Georgie did not recognise the insignia on her shoulder.
“You have to run,” the woman hissed. “She’s coming for you.”
“I beg your pardon?” Georgie snapped. She was not pleased to have her fanciful musings interrupted.
“Run, you fool!” The woman whipped her head to the left. “Shit! She’s here!” She jumped to her feet, knocking her chair backwards. “RUN!” she shouted, and took to her heels.
There was a sharp sound, PFIZZ, and Georgie’s teacup exploded, shattering in her hand. She jumped up, bewildered. Had that been a shot? She looked to the left, eyes wide, heart thumping. A dark figure in a wide-brimmed hat stood by the sea wall, pointing a glowing blue tube at her. The figure’s hand twitched and a thin line of sapphire light speared from the tube. PFIZZ. The teapot on the table shattered. A sharp shard of china flew across Georgie’s cheek, slicing open a deep cut.
In panic, she twisted and took to her heels. A blue line flew over her shoulder and hit the ballustrade in front of her, sending fragments of stone flying. She swerved towards the beach, taking the steps two at a time. The cut on her face hurt, and she felt warm blood mixing with salt tears of fear and running to her chin. She sobbed, and jumped the last few steps.
As her feet sank into the wet sand she turned left. PFIZZ. The mud and pebbles by her feet exploded. She squealed, and twisted the other way, towards the shell. That was it. She could hide there. Her shell would protect her.
Sand and small rocks flew from her feet as the sprinted towards the metal spiral. One of her sandals flew off, but she dare not stop to retrieve it. Her heart pounded, her breath tore at her burning lungs. She flung herself inside the wide mouth of the shell and collapsed. As she lay, panting, on the cold, wet metal, she looked back at the entrance, fearing the arrival of the figure in the hat. Instead, the pink-haired woman’s face appeared.
“Sorry about this,” she said, then spoke into her wrist. “Activate.”
The inside of the shell began to glow, then in a blinding, impossibly- white flash Georgie was gone. The shell was empty, wind whistling coldly through the metal. A person in a broad-brimmed hat walked up to the pink-haired woman.
“So,” she greeted the newcomer with a salute. “That’s how you got to the future, Commander?”
“Yes, Sergeant Lolo. Thank you for your help.” The Commander put down her plasma-rifle and ran her fingertip down the old scar on her cheek. “God, that young girl is so terrified right now.”
“Time Force wouldn’t exist without her, though.”
“I know. This day is sewn into the alpha timeline, but still, I hated doing that to myself.”
“Tempus fugit tardius,” Sergeant Lolo quoted the Time Force motto. “What’s next, Commander Harvey?”
My thanks to @mistressboom and @pariahsickkid for the use of their names. Cafe Cove exists, in Cleveleys, close to the Mary’s Shell sculpture on the beach. It’s by Stephen Broadbent, and is totally worth a visit, as is his Sea Ogre nearby.
OK, on to the Tuesday of our Scottish week. So there’s Ben on the left, making his careful, delicate way across the footbridge which crosses the Lossie as it reaches the sea at Lossiemouth. He doesn’t like bridges with gaps, not at all.
When we got across, though, he was in Ben heaven. The dunes you can see there separated the river, which we had just crossed, from the sea. As we left the bridge, he scampered off and around, scattering soft sand around, pelting into the water and bouncing delightedly. Mary threw sticks for him which, surprisingly, he actually retrieved for once. He disappeared up a dune, then minutes later as he crashed out of the scrub at the top and plummeted down, I swear he had a smile on his face.
I too wandered the dunes, and emerged with this pleasing photograph: After a steaming pastie from the local baker, we dragged a reluctant Ben back to the car and drove down to Spey Bay. The environment here is mind-boggling – almost alien to look at. Smooth pebbles and rocks, bleached driftwood, scudding stormclouds, crashing waves, dead trees. The big selling point up at Spey Bay is dolphin-spotting. We saw none, but that didn’t matter because the surroundings were so impressive.
I could fill this blog with photographs, but will limit myself to just an evocative few. Less is more, and so on.
For centuries, like Ulverston, Grange over Sands was only accessible by crossing the sands from Lancaster by coach or on foot. Virtually untouched by Britain’s industrial revolution, the local fishing community remained quietly alone until the railway came in 1857. Wealthy businessmen from Lancashire and Yorkshire settled here taking advantage of the bracing air and wonderful climate. These men built some fine houses, hotels and grand terraces.
The River Kent used to flow past the town’s mile-long Promenade. But subsequently the river’s course migrated south, away from Grange. The “sands” (mudflats, in truth, with dangerous quicksand at uncertain points) became a grass meadow now frequently grazed by small flocks of sheep. More recently due to sustained easterly winds in the early part of 2007, the river has begun to switch its course back across the bay, and it remains to see whether the ‘sheep-meadows’ survive.
Why the history lesson? Why, because Grange was the target of our latest Good Day Out, where we had arranged to meet my BFF from hundreds of years ago (left), and blogger extraordinaire, Liz. A fine day was called for, but bloody buggery arsehole, it was lashing down as we hoiked Ben, the big yellow dog, into the back of Monique the Meriva and heaved it up the steep hill out of the village.
Ninety minutes later we were easing along country roads into Grange-Over-Sands in bright sunshine. Hoo! And even Ray! Pootling along the main street through Grange, some sixth sense told me to point Monique down a steep, windy street as tight as a gnat’s chuff. At the bottom, we found a car park where the Pay and Display machine was out of action. Score!
Liz always was reliably unreliable, so she turned up the expected thirty minutes late with OH Phil. “Oh look! There’s a tunnel under the railway line! Let’s go and look at the beach, the famous ‘sands’ under Grange” we all cried in unison. You see, at this point my history lesson had not been learned, and naturally I assumed that any place with ‘Sands’ in its name and described as a Victorian resort was, well, sandy. It isn’t, as you can probably tell from the surreal photo at the head of this blog, and this photo of my beloved Lady Raby and Liz strolling along the prom prom prom. We had decided to circle the town, so we strode out along the promenade between the railway line and the grassy beach. There were no brass bands, but I hummed “”Tiddely-om-pom-pom!” nonetheless, cos that’s the way I roll. Between the railway and the promenade itself were pleasantly, imaginatively arranged and well-kept flower beds, and plenty of benches for the sitting down. The cast iron benches were interesting, featuring squirrels eating what appeared to be grapes. Or just possibly squirrel intestines, which would make the benches a tribute to Zombie Squirrels. There’s a movie just waiting for the green light.
We passed the ruins of the old pier, jutting out into the grassy beach, then at the West end of the promenade, we discovered a strange, curved tripod structure. “iPLAY” it announced, as if that made everything clear. Ben worked out that it was designed for weeing up, but we were canny, and read an instruction board. Aha! Twas a game! An activity, designed for “fun and exercise for children of all ages”. Mentally nine years old, the lot of us, so of course we had to try. Phil, Liz’s hubby, was first to try, and scampered about like an eejit, while the tripod legs shouted at him his next instructions, and the rest of us laughed nervously while trying to work out how we were going to do it while avoiding looking like middle-aged divvies. Notice, in the above photograph, how excited Ben isn’t.
Now Liz had a go, bounding about with great enthusiasm. “iPRESS!” yelled the machine gleefully, “iTURN!”, “iPULL!”, “ YOU HAVE LOST A LIFE!” Liz achieved much the same score as Phil, and now it was the turn of my Mary.
Mary was leaping and hopping and sprinting. The machine cried out –
“iPUSH!”, “iSTAMP!”, “iPUSH!”, “iTURN!”, “YOU HAVE REACHED LEVEL TWO!”. What??? There’s a level two?? Oh yes, matey, and Mary went on to show us there was a level three as well. She was most impressive. That’s my girl! Sadly, no-one photographed my own lithe athleticism, but suffice to say thet the machine cheated me. I did not reach the much-vaunted so-called level two.
We sauntered through the town, which was most delightful with some fine looking houses. We came upon a pretty bandstand. No band, sadly, but it did have a feature rarely seen on bandstands – a moat. By now, Ben was getting tired, and we were getting tireder, so we looked for a pub, eventually stumbling across The Lancastrian, right in the middle of town. Good pub – the beer was fine, the staff and landlady extremely friendly, and the dinner was GIGANTIC. Seven quid, yeah, but GIGANTIC. Also, they happily served the delicate ladies with “child’s portions”. Phil and me are tough men, so we imediately went for the GIGANTIC.
After no little time, we left the pub and walked off a little of the weight of the food, although Phil undermined the benefits by spotting The Chocolate Shop, and deciding that it simply must have his custom. The park, actually the NORMANDY VETERANS MEMORIAL GARDENS, was really pretty, and like everything else in this likeable town, was well-tended, tidy and clean. A large variety of amusing and exotic ducks inhabited the large pond. Also in the park we found Picklefoot Spring, which a plaque told us has never run dry. It also told us that the name Picklefoot came from the walnut pickers who frequented the spot in days gone by.
Along Windermere Road there was a plaque describing
the history of EGGERSLACK TERRACE, an old terrace of stone-built houses. As Mary was reading aloud the plaque to the more illiterate of us, an old dear emerged from the house next door and engaged us in what turned out to be a fascinating conversation. Her family had lived there for centuries, and she regaled us with delightful tales, including a scary description of how, before the coming of the railway, the tide occasionally would flood all the way up the street past her house, which was easily several hundred yards from the “front”.
And finally to the station – a pretty station, in fact, with an unusual addition. A second-hand bookshop was tucked into the end of one platform, the cosy interior heated by an aromatic, crackling coal fire. We purchased some aromatic, crackling books (including an Arthur Bryant about Pepys) while Ben sat prettily on the platform and waited patiently. Then finally we sauntered back along the promenade, and said our farewells.
Grange Over Sands – a wonderful, surreal place, Get there if you can.