Sunday, 10 January 2016

Between the Sea and the Sky

I used to live on an island on the Essex coast. I wrote all of the book cycles Blackwater Quartet and Relic Environments Trilogy while living there. I would walk along the beach and look out across the mud flats and dull landscape, considering poems or lines of poems (The cold winds and mist have a direct effect on a poetic mind.).

Just across the inlet stands, near Bradwell village, a Magnox power station. It's presence, even in its decommissioned phase, looms against the lowering sky. Built in the 1950s, it was one of a generation of its type salted along the shore around the British coast.

We islanders were pleased when it was announced a few years ago that the station was to be taken out of the National Grid. Although it would take years to decommission, returning the shore to its original condition sans reactor was seen as the way forward environmentally.

Last year, the British Government announced that it was devolving the construction of a new generation of reactors to the Chinese. The site near Bradwell was one of the areas marked for re-development.

Also near Bradwell is the ruin of an ancient Christian church - a chapel - dating from around the sixth century. It was probably built on the site of an earlier Roman shrine. The building is spare in dimension, with just the small stonework perimeter still to be seen, and roofless. It was founded by St Cedd, who came from another island far to the north, to convert the heathen here.

The presence of the ruin is as significant as that of the reactor, not in size certainly, or in measurable energy or data, but by the fact that it represents Time, Time folded and folded in on itself until it begins to pulse and to radiate along the dull shore and the dull clouds, through the air that hangs motionless between, like a name we once knew but now can't quite recall.

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