Bark Psychosis: Absent Friend
he iPod battery, source of such controversy, announced to me its emptiness as I left the house this afternoon, the thinnest line possible etched in liquid crystal promising a silent return journey at the least, and a silent outward stroll too if I was unlucky. Halfway through the first song, Lambchop’s “This Corrosion”, the line had vanished altogether, but the sound continued to run on seemingly nothing for fully an hour and a quarter as I circuited the town, through a forest, across a hill, along a stream, down the main street and out past the shops and cafes and amusement arcades and railway station, to the beach, a destination that takes five minutes to reach if you walk it directly, and a lifetime to reach if you walk it well.
The main breakwater reaches 50 yards out into the sea from the viaduct, the oldest thing in town, one of four in the three miles from western cliff to eastern rock, manmade but old enough to be so dressed in barnacles and worn by the sea that it appears natural, as if hewn from rock by the water and the fish rather than human hands. At the end stands an iron basket atop an iron pole, painted red. Stood. Wherefore? To warn boats of the presence of the ancient brickwork at high tide when the final fifteen or so yards of the breakwater is submerged, perhaps. Stood. The sea has torn the iron basket and iron pole, and a tonne of stone from beneath it, out of the breakwater. It lies beside the jutting walkway like an absent tooth, leaving a bloody, painful gap in the gum where it used to be. In forty minutes the gap and the places surrounding where the gap should not be will be below sea level, as the tide slips in surely as nightfall, but for now the absent tooth is exposed, its root, drenched in concrete and stone, rippling above the surface, its tip buried in the submerged sand some eight feet down. Tiny whorls of water breach the rough edges of the breakwater’s gap, a pile of stone which only a week ago were a foot or more higher than it is now, swirl through violently torn crevices of stone, finding exposed flesh which has none the touch of nothing but cold and silent stone for hundreds of years.
A dozen miles off Portland a cloud falls into the sea like a ghost, pulled down by gravity, pushed out of shape by a moderate easterly wheeze of wind, the weight of water at its heart and the low pressure band moving in becoming too much for it to maintain itself against. Half a dozen miles further west a rainbow vainly forms and fades against the low sky, sunlight refracted for a second through drops of rain painting the sky with unnaturally natural hues. This ageless movement of the world, of the sea, is accompanied by a slow, reverbed guitar, a hesitant thump of a bass drum, an almost accidental double-snare hit and the indistinct melancholy of a melodica. “It all just seems so differently…” What I hear most is space, silence, time. “You know it’s the biggest joke of all”, piercing bass that shifts down and points of light punctured by guitar, moving upwards and inwards within the same space, slowly finding a concentric route, threads of piano and guitar interwoven so the colours merge… And as the tide slowly rises, laps towards my feet, fifty yards into nothingness, water on all sides, rhythm falls away but ripples of melody remain, five minutes and thirty seconds, piano and keys and guitar circling each other as if in a dance, each occasionally stepping outside the pattern to open up a new area of possibility, an endless cycle… Vibes… A bell? Not endless… I know how long it lasts. Three minutes… Tears touch my eyes. The battery finally gives up. It’s the most beautiful afternoon.