Friday, 16 May 2008

Low tide

The Thames is different at low tide.

Far from the bloated monster that stalks the city, at low tide the river becomes a fragile ribbon, a thin sheet of water draped between the muddy banks.

As I walked back from the boathouse following a session on the ergs, I noticed an eight and accompanying coaching launch slicing into the flat, charcoal water, leaving in their wakes a rippled surface, shimmering with the reflection of the pale sky. I would have liked to have had my camera on me.

The waterfowl make good use of low tide. Cormorants perch along the water's edge drying their wings. Ducks waddle around the foreshore, seeking out tasty tidbits - a far cry from their behaviour at high water when they gather speculatively around anyone lingering by the river, waiting for the regular dispensation of half a loaf of thick-sliced white. Starlings scurry over the mud, hunting down the occasional worm. They're not sociable, the birds. They don't appear to seek out company. Neither are they fighting. It is peaceful enough.

There is a family of bicycles which appears at low tide. Four of them, upright, wedged firmly in the mud. Two of them look to be adult sizes, two are child-sized. A stool is similarly unveiled, but lies on its side, forlorn, half-covered in water. The waterfowl ignore the bikes and stool.

I'd hung over the railings for a few minutes, lingering in the moment, enjoying the cool air on my arms and legs, being refreshing after the recent warm weather.

"What are you drinking?"

What a strange question... I turned round. A small child wanted to know what the liquid in my bottle was, from which I'd been conscientiously swigging.

"This? Orange juice."

It was true. It had some added sugar and a little salt, nothing stronger than that. I omitted this information in my answer. It didn't seem important.

"Oh."

The child didn't seem to believe me. It occurred to me that this was terribly sad.

7 comments:

trousers said...

Lovely descriptions here (do I always say that?). I like the way such a moment of tranquil reflection was suddenly punctured, albeit in such an innocuous way. Now (using what I believe to be a fairly safe presumption here) the child in question hasn't seen you before at the same spot drinking something far stronger, I take it?

But Why? said...

Trousers,
Not I, though my assumption was the child had seen my relentless swigging from a bottle and my (post workout) short, staccato paces, and in putting them together figured I must have been a lycra-wearing brand of alcoholic, drinking something that didn't look like cider or beer.

Speaking of which, it has been far too long since last I had a pint.

Thursday. Perhaps I'll have one after training on Thursday...

DJ Kirkby said...

Such beautiful writing....really! Maybe the child was dissapointed that you weren't drinking some chemical laden florescent liquid like Sunny D or something instead of plain old OJ?

But Why? said...

DJ,
Thanks - I hadn't considered that possibility. I must have been a bit of an odd sight, leaning over the railings looking the worse for wear, dressed in rowing kit, and doing nothing very sporty.

I've probably left the child traumatised...

Speaking of which, I notice your wordless Wednesday also has a child-trauma quality about it this morning...

Rob Clack said...

A family of bicycles standing in the mud. Perfect!

But Why? said...

Rob,
They look so forlorn, just standing there without any hope of being ridden...

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