Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The sand sculptor

Missed you today. Low tide on the Thames isn't quite right without seeing you in that strange temporary arena, on show in that wet corner of high sand where the wide beams of harbour wall sit next to concrete.

For the first time ever, I walked there along the shore, following a dirty ribbon of swaying beach litter, the furthest out from the banks I have ever been. The soft sand didn't make me welcome. It sank beneath every step and held my footprints as dark sloping gritty pools. I walked past rounded chunks of bright red brick, many lost and lonely shoes, and a stark scattering of washed out bones, including a thigh bone longer than my own, looking like a cartoon weapon.

Further up the beach, I saw your absence. In your place, a small boy was running, making a circular pattern of footsteps in the sand while he sang aloud in Spanish. His grandma, surrounded by shopping bags, sat on the first step of the wall with her shoes off.

I stopped to sit near the old mossy chains bolted to the river wall. They were swinging heavily in today's stroppy breeze. If you were here you would be well into your creation right now, knowing the tide only gives you a brief and precious time. Smoothing out the arms of the sofa and brushing away the excess crumbs, you would be on the lookout for just the right kind of skinny twig to make a TV aerial and shaping a low coffee table in your imagination.

Maybe you are on some warmer and sunnier beach today, pretending to be asleep with your arms behind your head on another sand sofa? I like to hope that your thank you flag is gathering coins from another little crowd of admirers.

As my feet crunch away, I realize that I am walking on bits of broken, ground down, lost and rejected bits of London. It is not a beautiful stage for your humour or your cheek.