I can’t recall the reason we chose Seaham –
only that the trip was ages in the planning stage. We rehearsed,
you learnt by rote, knowing how the weight of indecision hung on Eddy.
He, who we so carelessly dismissed, whose nightshift skin
carried on its dawn return a toxic stink, death stench lingering
years before health and safety stamped their rubber warnings.
We held our breath – would he really loan his pride and joy to us?
We’d damaged it before, stopping short for tiny chicks
in flightless fright, bright sulphur pops, stark against the tarmac slick
of Salford’s rainy highstreet. The unsuspecting car behind
not witness to our view piled in – stranger’s chromium combined.
I remember how the lights were taped for weeks so not to lose no-claims.
They saved for things back then. Cash was tight with us on grants
and those were days when all their cares revolved round us.
But you wove words, cast spells, bewitched him –
he didn’t have a chance, poor thing. When Eddie finally said yes
we felt like all our Easters, Christmases and birthdays had arrived at once,
jumped on jangling keys, unheeding of advice
on fuel consumption, warning lights and gears.
I can’t recall the beach, don’t know whether we found shingle, sand or dunes,
amusements, fairground rides, or wandered hand-in-hand, taking in the view.
I do remember clearly how we came across the pier, sauntered down
through skies of fearless blue to fishermen and talked of tall fish tales,
of bait, of weight, of length, of girth. I think you took their photograph.
But suddenly the wind spat briny spray. We licked our salt-caked lips
and noticed how the sea had grown quite grey and angry, whiting caps
peaking all about. Heading back to land along the concrete strand
its twelvefoot width felt relatively safe until we saw the gaping hole of Sheol.
The first wave knocked us off our feet. You grabbed me, running now.
We’d barely moved before another brought us to our knees.
Your camera flew sideways, drowned within the swirling mire
that dashed our cobbled way. Your hand slipped free. I lost my grip.
I lost my shoes. Turned to find them swept away. I lost my mind.
Staggered back to find them both. Met the seventh wave full on. I was gone.
Through salt-stung eyes I saw Him stare me in the face.
But you returned, grabbed my hand and dragged me back to grace.
I can’t remember how we hauled ourselves ashore. The pier had disappeared
beneath the hellish leagues so greedy to devour us. We fell on solid ground,
coughing up our guts alongside pints of sea, a silent crowd surrounding us.
They’d watched our struggle, open-mouthed, thought we’d not survive.
We lost the car keys, handbag, wallet, rendered witless by the fight.
I’d like to think the fishermen took us in, warmed us, fed us tea,
and in the fading light phoned Eddy, or the RAC. But I can’t recall.
I read this at Leicester’s Shindig on monday evening.
Read two excellent reviews of the event here…
And this is Seaham…