The shell and the voices that will not be drowned


We have been away to the east coast of Suffolk. We were staying in a ‘cabin’ with green credentials. There were tree plantations, with requests to separate recyclable rubbish and we were urged to switch lights off that we were not using. Just as we try to do at home. But isn’t it difficult to always do the right thing?

For a start all the newly planted trees had plastic tree guards. And the main room had no curtains or blinds. All one side was glass. That meant that there were fantastic views when you got up with the sun rise in the southeast, and beautiful unhindered sunsets in the southwest at the end of the day. There was maximum use of any heat from the sun, even in these winter months when the rise and set angle is smaller. But of course, there was massive heat loss in the dark evenings and all we could do was turn the heat up or light the log fire. Insulation might have been greener.

Getting away from energy saving, there was a big TV in the cabin and all we wanted when we arrived was a cup of tea and then sit and watch whatever was on. There was nothing on! It said, ‘What do you want to watch?’ I had to use my mobile, connected to their television, for live programmes. And of course, there were all the usual choices of streaming channels. This must be how everyone, apart from my age group, watches programmes these days. All good but it does not seem so cosy as thinking about what is on tonight.

Whilst we were on that east side of the country, I fulfilled an ambition of mine to visit Maggie Hamblin’s shell. It is at Aldeburgh on the shingle beach. It is a sculpture of a huge scallop shell, as a tribute to Benjamin Britten. I always thought that it was white, so it was a surprise when I first saw it on the horizon because it looked black, almost like a tree stump brought in by the waves. I soon discovered that it was made of stainless steel and when the sun shone it reflected the light and did indeed look white.

I know that there was controversy when it was put up, some people thought that it should not be on this beautiful coast. But you are never alone with the shell and no one passed it by. People touched it, took photos of it, stroked it, crawled under it and even left red roses near it.

The eternal rhythm of sea, shingle and shell, gave me comfort in these days of uncertainty.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)


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