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Between the Lines

High tide. The woman is taking photographs of the child flying a kite on the beach. The glare from the sun obscures the image. Maybe chance will catch the moment – blue skies, the kite tugging at the thread that binds it to the child, laughter filling the silence.

            I’m flying, the child shouts – oyster catcher, lapwing, curlew.

Turning tide. The woman scrambles through brambles, gorse, climbs over worn masonry blocks to the pier end. 

            Where’s the merry-go-round, the candy floss, the gold fish in a plastic bag, the slot machines, the tearoom? the child asks.

The woman ratches though rubble, broken bricks, picks up a – rivet? bolt? flange? She stands beside six cast iron stanchions, remnants of the viaduct that once linked north to south. In the shallow waters on the far side of the estuary, fishermen are haaf-netting. The child waves, but they don’t see her.

Low tide. The woman crosses the saltmarsh and walks towards the Irish Sea. The estuary, an expansive, strange landscape of tidal sands, mudflats, silence. She searches, picks up shells – pink tellins, cockles.

            If Scotland is over there and we live in England, where are we now? the child asks.

            No man’s land, she replies. Greyscale images of concrete walls, barbed wire, watch towers, news reports of deaths in that desolate space between east and west – another border.

            We can walk over, the child says. How far is it?

            A mile and a bit but its treacherous – quicksands, dangerous currents – the sea roars in so quickly. We would       drown.

            No, we would swim, the child says.

Later the woman will look at the photographs. Images of a woman, squinting, tight lipped, confused. No child flying a kite on the beach, no blue skies, no laughter.

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