Cries from the curlews at the sea’s edge.
Seagulls eating chips held out by arthritic
hands. Fewer and fewer children playing on
the sands. Sad landladies used to happier
times but given a lifeline by us, students, glad to occupy faded seafront hotels. Ours, a tall white four storey, facing out on quicksands
that could suck down any unenlightened undergrad.
Sandylands. A name from another era. One my
parents knew. Although, for them, Morecambe, at least this part, was too well to do. A place myopic
old couples, bent double by the wind, from Manchester,
Blackburn, Leeds, blown in by nostalgia, like their chosen resort running out of time. Yet when
sunshine entered our flat, across the head of my love,
drying her golden hair by the window with endless views,
Sandylands became Lancashire’s premier resort again.
As the sign said next door Shangri-La. Our room, with
its swirling carpet, wallpaper with circles of damp, the room of wonders and me the Sun King.
- Sandylands by Paul Gerard
“Are you stoned, lass?”
Mel leapt to her feet, binoculars thudding against her sternum. Like her, the man who’d interrupted her wore a pair of binoculars around his neck, though his were surely at least three times more expensive. He looked to be in his early sixties, with a prominent chin and a neatly trimmed grey moustache. He squinted at her with watery blue eyes, not bothering to wait for her response.
“Just like you teenagers come to the most scenic spot in South Shields and waste it by getting high. You’ve been talking to yourself for at least a few minutes, lass, are you stoned or not?”
“It’s–it’s not even seven o’clock yet!” said Mel. “That doesn’t sound like a no to me.” “No, I’m not stoned,” Mel spluttered. “I’m birding.” She waved her binoculars, and the man’s wrinkled forehead creased even deeper. “Teenagers don’t go birding,” he said.
“I do.” “How old are you?” “Seventeen.”
The man frowned as though he had just been tasked with solving a difficult maths problem. A trio of birders wandered down to the shore, pausing to admire a cormorant drying its wings atop a partially submerged boulder.
“So you’re a teen birder, then?” the man asked. “Did you see the flock of sanderlings that came by earlier?”
Mel nodded. “Pretty birds. Did you know that they don’t have a hind toe?” “Aye, I believe I read that somewhere.” “And what were you looking at just now?” “Er, just those plovers,” Mel said, waving vaguely in the flock’s direction. Penelope was nowhere to be seen. “Aye, dreadful common bird. Cute, though. Charadrius hiaticula. Did you know that if their nest is threatened, they’ll fake a broken wing to lure the predator away from the nest? I saw killdeer doing the exact same thing on my trip to the U.S.”
“Aye, I believe I’ve heard that before,” said Mel. Why was this man trying to engage with her after insulting her? “My shift starts at 7:30, I have to be going.”
“Of course, of course. Good day to you, lass,” said the man. “And you as well.”
Mel crammed her things into her backpack and scurried down the beach, then doubled back when she realized she’d forgotten her shoes. The man had already wandered around the peninsula and was nowhere to be seen. Mel made a mental note to avoid running into him again. She could do without a judgemental mansplainer in her life.
An early morning beach. Photo by Sammy Brisdon. Watch out for an original illustration by artist Perri Wilkes (https://www.perriwilkesart.co.uk) coming soon!
About the author: Ella Shively is an undergraduate studying natural resources and writing at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, USA. You can find her online at
About today’s featured poet: Paul Gelderd started writing poetry in 2015. He taught literature to adults during his career and has always loved poetry. Paul says, "Like so many it took one or two–in my case–huge impacts on life to actually get me started. Illness then loss of my wife to cancer. Poetry writing, reflecting, talking to friends about what I have written helps enormously." This is his first publication.