You fall out of love, sometimes, with life. Or at least I do. You need love to keep you going. Not romantic love or lustful love or hallmark love, but fierce love, primal, furious. Blood-bound love.
Maybe you don’t know or maybe you don’t believe me – fish rarely think about air, after all. But when that love drains away, when you forget how it feels… eventually you forget you were ever in love with the world at all.
So it’s been raining all day today, siling and dripping and spitting. Cooped up in the house, sitting, lying, sitting some more. Sitting will kill me one of these days, if boredom doesn’t get me first.
So it’s been raining all through today and eventually you just have to accept that it’s going to carry on raining. Not that I mind and not that I can complain, but even though I like the rain I’d rather not get wet. But I can’t stay in all day, that’s no good for my no good head, so eventually I set out. Out of the house and along the Thames, rain on river; water, water everywhere.
Rain. The sky grey and the Thames brown, churning. Glistening pavements and puddles, no petrichor – the day has washed it away. The Thames water rushing in, filling the banks up from low tide.
When I first moved to London, there was this story in the press. Two guys had been walking along the banks of the Thames, pissed after a post work drink. Now when mudlarkers used to walk the banks they knew to check the ground before them, stabbing down with a stick. Checking for quickmud.
These drunk guys didn’t know that; you don’t sink in quickmud, but you do get stuck. So they both got stuck, trapped at low tide.
They were rescued. The LFB fireboat pulled them out as the tide was coming in, saved them, saved them from drowning.
It’s been raining all today, and the Thames is rushing in. The smell of mud rises in the rain. And I remember.
I remember the seaside, with dad. Not sandcastles and ice creams and vinegar, but waves smashing; us clambering over boulders, us slipping. Seaweed. Cold bruised fingers and muddy clothes and a chisel and geological hammer.
I’ve not done it for years – for decades – but you get an eye for it: Fossil hunting. I might not be able to ride a bike but I bet you I can still pick the right rock, pick the right place to hit the rock. You never forget.
We found a belemnite, embedded in a boulder, perfect. Belemnites were basically ancient squid things, the way ammonites were ancient nautilus things. And this one – a slender, sleek cone. You don’t get them so close to perfect very often.
We started to chip. Or maybe dad started to chip and I watched, or maybe I started to chip and dad watched. But we started to chip. Careful, slow. Cold and wet and salty, waves smashing, mud and seaweed. Trying to lift the stone from the stone.
But stone is brittle and nothing wants to be perfect; the fossil broke, and broke, and broke again.
I want to say that I displayed a wisdom beyond my years and accepted it, but I remember being upset and dad having to comfort me and I remember being comforted. We carried on together. We could stick it back together once we got home, and broken things can still, in their way, be close to perfect.
Mum and dad still have it at home, among all the other fossils and shells and interesting rocks. I think it sits on the kitchen windowsill, next to an amazing nautilus fossil we found in Wales.
It’s been raining all through today, either pouring or drizzle. I’m not one to complain, really I like the rain. I just don’t want to get wet. But cooped up inside is no good for my no good head, and eventually you have to accept it’s going to keep on raining. I’ve got this waterproof jacket with a hood, hardly the height of fashion but who cares? I put it on, and do it up, and go for a walk by the Thames. Feel the rain. Smell the mud.
And I remember.