When the Thames is at it’s lowest ebb, you can see a beach. On a crisp December lunchtime, you can even step on it, (there are some steps just to the left of the Millennium bridge as you look at the Tate Modern) feel the sand shift beneath your feet and listen to the waves lapping at the shore.
The sun was very low by the time I got down there (about 2pm) so I had to squint as it was wickedly reflected off the river. Ooh it’s just like being on ‘oliday, I thought to myself.
It felt as if I was trespassing when I went down there. There was one other person crunching around on the pebbles but, other than that, the beach was deserted – like any other English beach in December.
Being so close to the Thames was intimidating. I’d always seen it from far away; a bridge or the embankment, or once from a boat. I’d never been close enough to touch it. It suddenly dawned on me that I’d never thought of it as a river. All my life, I’d only ever seen it as a thoroughfare, an obstacle or a landmark – not a real waterway at all. But you put your hand in and it’s cold and wet and it goes “shhh, shhhhh” when the little waves break on the pebbles and everything.
It was a revelation – like if you met someone really famous and they told you they ate findus crispy pancakes.
In celebration of the sunshine and my new discovery I built a crappy sandcastle and covered it in the oyster shells I found amongst the smooth-worn tiles and remnants of old clay pipes.
On the way back, I was walking through St. Paul’s churchyard, when I spotted this man, Justin.
Working in a stress-filled office in the city, he escapes for one hour every day to feed this squirrel. I told him about the idea behind LIYLH; about getting out and doing something, even if it’s just walking about. We chatted about how long he’d been visiting the churchyard, what he did, and I told him about my brush with nature. To which he replied, ” You spend your whole life in a man-made environment. It’s nice to go somewhere and put your foot in some mud, isn’t it?”