Some things are timeless – the ebb and flow of the
tide, the thunderous crash of wave upon rock. In a lost era the beach
would have been deserted. Now it’s littered with bank holiday crowds –
legions of basted torsos in the sun, lying sunnyside up on the sand.
Dead to the world, endless rows of tanned corpses, waiting for their
post-mortem. Picnic baskets full of sandy sandwiches, sausages, apples,
even the occasional rhubarb crumble.
I need to escape the crowds to my
special place, my mind palace. Call me callous, tell me I’m sad and
lonely, too retro, too vintage. But I would swap your sunkissed dreams
for the perfume of wet roses in the twilight every time – no excuses
So many picnic hampers, so many
surprises. I open the first lid and find a bible, lavender-scented,
smelling of summer gardens. Wrapped in lace from an old crinoline dress;
too large for even the most capacious of handbags.
A flower-pot lurks
under the lid of the next – shall I plant peaches or lavender? In time
we could let dewdrops sparkle, sweet and inviting.
I never knew I needed
a lathe – but here one is, fruity and fetid, tucked in another hamper
beside a dizzying and intense hammer, sweet and hedonistic like
pear-drops in a paper bag. A rickshaw driver hurtles by, struggling
with the sand and, with an unlikely smile, adds a beautiful brush. I’d
rather have had peas and saffron and white wine, but will have to settle
for cornflakes and coffee. (I’ve never been to Beattie’s café, but I’m
told you have to have a tattoo to work there. Would they accept the
smoky perfume of my coin, I wonder?)
I could claim my space on the sand
with an incense-soaked bedspread or tapestry – colourfully comfortable.
I shall lie down and expire – ready for my post-mortem.
Barely visible, glimpsed in a mirror, ‘Can you spin the cobweb into silk?’ she asked.
oak tree bowed his head. ‘No, but I can make you a banqueting table.
Will you pay me in diamonds?’
‘I will give you a companion,’ she said.
‘What predator would you like as a pet?’
‘My branches are already full
of raptors, my roots house a den of foxes. I have no need of more.’
swirled her white petticoat, caressing the pink ribbon trim with hands
found deep underground.
‘I will give you this – it’s Edwardian and
hand-embroidered. My uncle stole it from a market.’
‘How long was he in prison?’ enquired the oak.
‘I lied. I found it at the bottom of a bag: it’s smooth and reflective, made from plastic - it will last forever.’
oak tree considered the proffered exchange.
‘It’s a fair trade. I will
take your petticoat and carve you a table. We could eat together – an
embroidered tablecloth on an oaken surface.’
The copyright of these three pieces belongs to Clare Elstow