When a groyne isn’t just a groyne…

This blog post really is about groynes, but don’t let that put you off.

They say things are rarely what they seem. This may well be true; wolves in sheep’s clothing and all that. But it is also true that, given the right conditions, things can seem to be entirely other than they actually are.

Whilst you struggle to work out if these two statements amount to the same thing (I can’t decide if they do or not), let me explain.

Writers tend not to leave their writer’s heads behind when they leave the confines of their writing space. They constantly observe, listen, smell, feel their way around the world, mindful of something, anything, which might turn out to be useful later; sometimes even years later.

A walk in the countryside is never just a walk: there are the myriad shades of green to try and describe; those ‘earthy’ smells to find the perfect words for. A visit to the supermarket is never quite as straightforward as fetching the groceries. It might be necessary to trail that couple to hear the end of their conversation; or you could end up furtively watching an old woman carefully choosing between two loaves of bread: can she afford the better quality loaf? Is she checking salt content like her doctor told her to? Or is she trying to remember which type of bread her house-bound husband demanded today?

On a trip down to Eastbourne last week on a gloriously sunny morning, I found myself transfixed by the groynes which segment the beach there for miles in each direction. I was unable to just walk along the promenade, taking in the view. I found myself scrabbling over the mounds of shingle, trying to find different angles from which to look at these wooden beach defenses. Up close they reminded me of soldiers standing to attention in perfect parade ground lines.2013-04-18 15.17.20


En masse they were Cnut’s army, repelling the force of the waves.2013-04-18 15.16.54

The long view reminded me of the picked-clean skeleton of a long-dead animal, broken vertebrae snaking along the beach into the distance. 2013-04-18 15.09.30

2013-04-18 15.10.06

I couldn’t tear myself away from the groynes; there was so much to see in them. Eventually, I remembered that I wasn’t there alone, and I returned to the walk in question, armed with a battery of photos and a head full of metaphors.

Groynes they might be; their practical purpose to prevent longshore drift from eroding the beach. But to me, in those moments, they could have been so many other things. They became those other things because it just seemed that they could. Through them beach came alive, organic; it told stories.

I’ve written a poem about the groynes, (proving, if nothing else, that you can write about absolutely anything), which I’m quite pleased with. Instead of sharing it with you just yet, I’ve decided to submit it to a competition. I’m new to poetry writing (only starting recently as a result of my creative writing course), but you never know; it might turn out that someone else thinks it’s half decent too.

That morning on Eastbourne beach turned out to be more creative than I was expecting. Those groynes seemed to be so many things at once, whilst always being exactly what they were. 2013-04-18 15.05.33

Can the world around us really appear to be any more interesting than it already is? If you take your writer’s head with you it can.    

© flyingscibbler 2013

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