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Shore Notes 1: Plymouth Hoe

This is an entry in what I hope will become a regular thing. We with ADHD can’t trust the regular thing - it is slippery and most likely to slide into a sporadic thing, or even a dead thing, without reason or desire. So I offer no promises, but an enthusiastic invitation to enjoy it while it is here, for each post might be the last.

I am captivated by the coast. I have already made quite a bit of work about the mutating borders between land and sea, and their intrinsic cyles. I may share that here, too. Recently, I have become interested by what this land/seascape tells us about ourselves. I want to consider relationships between liquid and life, colonialism and flotsam and jetsam, fluidity and permanence, tide and breath and menstruation, and Britishness and Cornishness and humanness and entanglement with all that is not. I am a retired boat-dweller still reconciling the still life of land with the endlessly hypnotic movement of sea. I am held between the two.

So my intention is to capture the odd encounter with the endlessly overlapping line we call the shore, and jot down impressions and ideas.

Tricia Salt Six Rock Electro-Etchings 2023

6 March 2024 | Plymouth Hoe

I pull my arms close, fists in pockets. The wind intrudes in shards. We wonder when winter will stop waxing and waining and finally relent.

Earlier, from the (Crème de la) Cremyll ferry, I caught a glimpse of a sailboat that had come a cropper on its mooring. Only its mast and bowsprit poked out of the water like chopsticks breaking a taboo. While many of us have been paled and battered by the short days and storms and endless rain, some have drowned.

We march our backpacks down the coast road alongside traffic, looking for a sheltered spot where I can sketch and Ralph, who I’m visiting, can meditate. In all this grey you could almost miss the sprigging signs of spring. We are in Plymouth, after all - the concrete jungle across the Tamar - and the sky today is a single sheet, creased and monotone. But the signs are there, unfurling from muddy corners and lawned banks. Ralph leads a detour to introduce me to a rigorously clipped elder whose first coiled yellow-green leaves are beginning to poke from twiggy nooks. We admire it with reverent fingers.

Eventually we settle at a spot beneath a large tree on the route down to the Lion’s Den, in the lee of descending footpaths. I plonk myself between a broken bottle and a knot of roots strewn with skeleton leaves, behind a signpost that has long ago lost its sign. As I draw, a group of human bodies enter the water near the lido far ahead and swim to a meeting point mid-bay. They chat as five bobbing ball-heads, joyful and animated. I am embarrassed, as I always am, by their tenacity - I daren’t go in the water until May. I throw crayon and pen over pencil, perhaps hoping that my worthiness compares to theirs since I practice my craft so nobly.

The dead shorefront buildings over there are stacked against the rock face in filthy whites, grey brick and faded blue paint. It’s claimed they’ll be refurbished one day as cafés and watersports facilities, to escape the fate of so many of their decaying city centre siblings. I wonder. It’s hard to imagine a city that could be, when you’ve spent so long wading in what it is - crumbling shells of pre-Blitz theatres and post-Blitz nightclubs, lines of boards and charity shops in what used to be a city centre, construction sites that look more bulldozed than built. Layers of haunting over haunting. This seaside space offers some breathing space from that, at least.

The gentle buzz of vehicle and wave and the distant croaks and shrieks of seagulls are suddenly overcome by loud approaching voices, and the clinking of bottles in plastic bags. To enjoy Plymouth properly you need to embrace its grubbiness. Our focuses broken, fingers too tight cold to draw any more, we make way for their arrival and head to the pub.

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