Wind and Waves


We had arrived at the coast late though the drive from London was quite easy once we’d left behind a capital going into Olympic lock down, already under Games Lanes rules. Try as we might, the crunch of intruders’ sandals on shingle interrupted what tranquility might have completed the moment.

Maggie Hambling was commissioned to create the sculpture that became Scallop to honour Benjamin Britten, choosing a piece of work to occupy the stones between Thorpeness and Adleburgh (pronounced Awlbruhh, please people). After the sculpture’s amphibious assault on the beach, NIMBYs were quick to compare it to both Nissan hut and a kitsch mantelpiece ornament. In the first three months it was twice vandalised with poured paint but the local paper’s poll showed 2,163 to 738 in favour of keeping it.

Hambling chose to puncture lines from the Peter Grimes opera into the edges of her 12ft interlocking steel bivalve molluscs:

I hear those voices that will not be drowned,”

Adding, “ .. Where the sound of the waves and the winds are focused, a visitor may sit and contemplate the mysterious power of the sea.” I defy anyone to stand alone on a still morning, to read those words without feeling a lump rising in the throat such as when Our Jess was in the final bend of her 800m at 8.35pm on 4th Aug 2012 – suburban decibels rising.

In the Olympic Park a week later, I read a poem by Lemnn Sissay, commissioned to address The Games and in ‘Spark Catching’ he writes:

.. Beneath stars by the bending bridge of Bow
In the silver sheen of a phosphorous moon ..”

Along with Sissay was John Burnside’s Bicycling for Ladies (quoting HG Wells’ “Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia”) and then the political broadside ‘Translating the British, 2012′ by Carol Ann Duffy:

.. We’ve had our pockets picked,
the soft, white hands of bankers,
bold as brass, filching our gold, our silver; ..”

Ooof. Google the poem and read the hate mail! ‘Beyond excrescence!’ wrote the Rev Dr Peter Mullen (Tory) of Duffy’s (lesbian) Guardian-published work, reviewed (in the Telegraph), “We are not charmed by this but sickened. Go away, madam..”

Which is what I wanted to scream at the people in my pictures. But with the wind and waves, they wouldn’t have heard me.


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