Off down to the beach to play in the rock-pools. Bright green net at the ready. I stand, wriggling my toes, watching. Staring into the clear water. The seaweed gently drifts to and fro in the current. Or perhaps it’s something else. Slowly, gently, I lower the net into the water. Quickly scoop upwards, raising the contents up to the surface. A tiny shrimp stares up at me, paddling from side to side. Body almost translucent. I give the net a swirl and off it swims. Another scoop. A net full of seaweed and sand. Another pool, and the third try collects a small flatfish, darting around frantically. I gently tip it out and watch it hurry away. A red armed crab stares belligerently at me from under a rock, claws clacking. Maybe I’ll leave him alone. The tide starts to swirl its way in, eddying in. I head for home, fishing net over my shoulder, dripping seawater. A smile on my face.
Clouds sulk overhead, glowering down bad-temperedly. The sky is brooding, considering what to hurl next. Air clammy, almost tangible as I walk. The Isle of Man disappears under the mist and haze. Fishing boats are moored up in the harbour. Their registration marks speak of retreat far from home – Campbeltown, Greennock, Ullapool, distant places. Boats driven into the bay by the rolling bank of fog. After yesterday’s glorious sunshine, the weather is having a tantrum.
Low tide and the sand stretches out in front of me, rippling out to the sea. The water in the rock pools has been warmed by the sun all afternoon. I take off my shoes and paddle in, gasping slightly at the cold. Not as warm as it appears! In the depths, the sea lettuce waves gently in the current. Gentle steps I take, staring into the water. Puffs of sand rise up as the tiny flatfish and blennies swim rapidly away. A young plaice – no bigger than my thumb nail – lies camouflaged on the bottom. Sensing my approaching toes it flees rapidly away. A crab stares at me from behind a curtain of seaweed, before burying himself in the sandy floor. Slowly I wade my way up to the head of the bay, stopping to stare now and then.
Shimmering seas merging into blue skies. A fishing boat seems to almost float in the air, the line between earth and heaven barely visible. The warm breath of wind brushes past, whispering a welcome. A curlew soars above, singing greetings. Content, I sit and watch as the sky slowly turns golden, turning my face to follow the light.
The wind stirs the boats in the harbour. A gentle clanging as ropes bang against mast, rocked by the waves. The fishing fleet is out in the bay. All seems serene. Yet blown on the wind comes a raucous sound. The other side of the sea wall, the tide runs straight up to the rocks. Where the river runs into the sea. There the gulls are gathering. Not floating serenely, but in a frenzy of excitement. Here, where bitter salt meets sweet water, life explodes into being.
Stepping out into the winter sun. The otter has left his calling card on the boat ramp in the night. No sign of him this morning. The curlew hunts for food among the tumbled seaweed, while the heron stands on watch, waiting for the incoming tide. The low light of the shortest day reflects off the rock-pools, and the seagulls creel their song.