The Neap Tide, for Hilary’s Birthday
For Hilary’s Birthday, the moon presented her with a neap tide: slow, sluggish, and awkward to get into even at high tide. Which is the only time the water can be got into at Clevedon. But what it lacked in quality, it made up for in immaculate timing, coinciding with a midday sun which put in a glorious appearance.
When the tide is this low it is too rocky to wade in from the beach, through water the colour and clarity of builder’s tea. (This is not a feature of the neap tide but of the Bristol Channel water generally: you get used to it). Instead, we all made our wobbly way down the pitted and decaying concrete slipway, feeling with invisible feet for the invisible potholes, and minding to walk in a straight line directly towards others moving further along the slipway. A splash and a squeal of laughter and somebody fell off the unseen edge. But most people managed to find the route in and out through water that was uncommonly calm.
Mary did not swim, having put in only a flying visit and a rushed ‘Happy Birthday’ to Hilary. But Mary feels, not unreasonably, that she should feature in all my drawings, having missed being in last year’s collection. So she is here in the distance near the end of the slipway, in tasselled bikini, greeting the sluggish sea.
After we swam there was the usual post-swim debrief: coffee, and discussions ranging from zombie ants to the very precise temperature of the water in Hilary’s hot water bottle. And Row wrote a commemorative birthday poem about the hot water bottle, though not about the zombie ants.