At 7am this morning, with the streets still dark and empty, I loaded the bike pannier with six chunks of ice. Inside each was a splinter of pine from the cargo of the Ice Prince, which sank a year ago. And – a year ago today – Worthing, West Sussex woke to find thousands of tons of that pine on its pebble beaches.
I rode along the prom, and stopped at the Foreshore Office, by the Lido; locking my bike to an old fishing boat winch.
One by one, in the dark, I unpacked each chunk of ice, photographed them, and took them to the sea. In the dark, cold, wind and rain, I recited a traditional fisherman’s prayer before releasing each chunk of ice into the salty sea. Each release was one groyne to the east, leaving a trail from west to east.
By the time I released the sixth, by the pier, the sun was rising and the beach was light.
As I walked back along the beach, the chunks I had launched had been released by the sea again, thrown up the tide line and left stranded. Unusual, odd objects but somehow looking as if they belonged there, amongst the pebbles.
It felt raw, and rough, and primal, and ancient, and religious, this simple action. It marked a year. It marked an event.
Tomorrow, I will walk the beach and see if I can find the pine splinters.