27 July 2008

sea fever and the truant girl

Yesterday, I played truant from my scholarly pursuits. I was going to go into the office to work on the dissertation but we were forbidden entry because of some building work. Happy fate. The day dawned cloudless, so I bunked off of my Pilates class and loaded up the car with seaside paraphernalia and headed off for the North Kent Coast. The seaside, at last.

The day just got better and better. We bought gooseberries, strawberries and blackcurrants on the way, though no cherries (our favourite orchard was closed). There were new born foals in the fields and lazy sheep grazing on the marshes. When we arrived at the coast, the tide was out so we had time for a cup of tea and slice of cake on the slopes overlooking the sea. And as it was the last day of the Oyster Festival, there was all sorts going on. Giants walking down Harbour Street.

Lots of locally made and grown goodness to be had at the harbourside stalls – food, cider, plants. At the little local museum, we visited Drawing with Scissors a travelling exhibition of Matisse lithographs, late works from the 50s. The spiel says that he was advised by his doctor to wear dark glasses for the work as the colours he used were so strong – like being at the seaside.

We had time to buy some bargain books for the beach – Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook (important for courgette recipes), the Cloudspotter’s Guide (we’ll be experts in no time), a Life of Thomas Bewick (beautiful woodcuts), Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons (never read) . And this in a charity shop.

I'm sure you will remember similar books from your schooldays. In fact, I’m not sure that we did not have this at my school. Skimming through the verses, they all seemed so familiar, not exactly great art, but deeply evocative. They obviously made a deep impression on me because so much of the subject matter appears in this blog – daffodils, marigolds, the west wind, lobsters, berries, dabbling in the dew. And of course the sea. The book opened on John Masefield’s Sea Fever which I can clearly remember learning at school. I took all this as a sgn that I should be there, by the sea, not working.

By the time the tide came in, the sea was flat calm and surprisingly translucent. Perfect for paddling (John) with little silver fish glinting and young crabs nipping.

Perfect for eating sandwiches on the pebbles. Perfect for swimming and doing an impersonation of a Matisse cut out on the beach (please imagine). Perfect for drying off with swallows and amazons. And sewn up with a few bottles of the local beer when we arrived home, to help seal our memories of a perfect day.

The moral of the story, of course, is that there are prizes to be had from not being a goody- two-shoes all the time. Though if any scholars can spot the other poetic allusion in the title of this post, there might be a VG and gold star in it for you.


j said...

Really a lovely day!

I love the Ransome books.

And I don't get the gold star. You'll have to share the poem with us. Was it one of those cautionary nursery tales where the truant girl comes to no good end?

colleen said...

I fear my reference was too obscure, though there was a clue in the question. It was Matthew Arnold's "Scholar Gypsy" where he talks about him wandering "a truant boy". But it does sound like a cautionary tale - perhaps we should make one up.