Sebald and Shingle Street

I am reading Sebald’s Rings of Saturn at the moment and I went to an evening celebrating Sebald at Bridport Arts Centre last Sunday.  I had to go because I had read in Roger Deakin’s Notes from Walnut Tree Farm, “Read Sebald and you can never look at the landscape in the same way again.” I ordered the book and within hours had an email from a friend telling me of the Sebald evening. No brainer really!

It was an interesting evening featuring a wonderfully frank and irreverent lecture on Max Sebald’s life and work from Uwe Schüte and a screening of  Grant Gee’s Patience – After Sebald introduced by Gareth Evans.

The evening was started off with a reading by Horatio Morpurgo of Part Vl Dark Night Sallies Forth from After Nature. It is the bit about Shingle Street, one of my chosen beaches, so I quote from it here:

Come, my daughter, come on,
give me your hand, we’re leaving
the town, I’ll show you …

Shingle Street, Suffolk – Photo by kind permission Ian Boyle © 2009

…the end
of the world, the five
cold houses of Shingle Street.
Inconsolable, a woman
stands at the window,
a children’s swing
rusts in the wind, a lonely
spy sits in his Dormobile
in the dunes, his headphones
pulled over his ears.
No, here we can write
no postcards, 
can’t even
get out of the car. Tell me, child,
is your heart as heavy as
mine is, year after year
a pebble bank raised
by the waves of the sea
all the way to the North,
every stone a dead soul
and this sky so grey?
So unremittingly grey

Shingle Street beach looking north

Shingle Street – Photo by kind permission Fran Crowe © 2007

and so low as no sky
I have seen before.
Along the horizon
freighters cross over
into another age
measured by the ticking
of Geigers in the power station
at Sizewell, where slowly
the core of the metal
is destroyed. Whispering
madness on the heathland
of Suffolk. Is this
the promis’d end? Oh,
you are men of stones.

What’s dead is gone
forever. What did’st
thou say?  What,
how, where, when?
Is this love
nothing now
or all?
Water? Fire? Good?
Evil? Life? Death?

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