by Dave Stevens.
In any season, and in all weather, a walk on the strand is never less than fascinating. Sometimes it’s simply the way the previous tide re-arranged the mix of pebbles, shingle, sand and shell according to weight and size. Sometimes it’s the occasional debris, left behind by retreating water, that makes you stop and think.
Amongst the unwelcome plastic packing, bottles and bags of various kinds there are often mysterious bits and pieces that make you wonder, “Where on earth that come from,” and “How long did it take to get here.”
Fish boxes bearing Scandinavian company names, lengths of useful rope, even the remains of an oak wardrobe have drifted ashore. I once found a suit of bright yellow overalls, took it home and hung it out to dry. Later that evening my son all-but died of fright when he walked into the yard and was met by a huge yellow figure, standing with its arms outstretched. He still believes it was a deliberate, and cruel, practical joke.
The wardrobe by the way, in case you are wondering, was of the smaller variety. What used to be called a single wardrobe. Half the size of the double wardrobes which were designed to accommodate the extensive collections of clothes owned by the ladies. The good quality oak-boards re-cycled nicely into various projects around the house.
Often the washed up objects have travelled long distances. I read, some time ago, of a classic example of this migration of objects around the planet. Usually being carried by the ocean currents. A ship arrived on the coast of Canada, having started its journey during the calamitous Sunami disaster in North East Japan. To my shame I forgot the precise details. But the fact that a well built, crewless, ship can drift North across the Pacific to arrive in Canada is, well, astonishing.
The Strand doesn’t receive many drifting Japanese ships but awhile ago I did find something that confused me. It was a cylindrical ivy-like Structure. A lattice work of branches or roots about four feet long by eight inches in diameter. It had all the appearances of an ivy, or similar parasite growth which had survived long after its host had died, decayed and disappeared. Except that, on closer inspection, it became pretty obvious that it was not the remnant of a tough old ivy. The overlapping lattice work was fused and the material much tougher, less brittle, than ivy with a grain that was more like wood.
This object was too mysterious and attractive to leave so I carried it home, cleaned it, and eventually it found its way into the home of a family member who shares my taste for found objects. It actually looks quite beautiful in its new role as a decorative sculpture and conversation piece. The families botanical and arboreal guru, most families have one, saw it and got very excited. He did some research and announced “What you have is the remains of a parasytic fig. Probable from the Amazon Basin.” Parasytic Figs, apparently, gain the height they need in a tropical forest by climbing a tall tree and enjoying the sunlight above the forest canopy. Where their fruits are much appreciated by a variety of tree dwelling species. Their tough, durable, structure outlasts the host tree when it dies and falls, sometimes into a nearby river.
My gurus plausible theory was that the fig drifted downstream to the sea and was eventually borne by the gulf stream to the strand. When it came ashore and waited patiently for me to find it and give it a good home. I hope he’s right. I’m quite happy to believe The theory and until someone proves otherwise its what I tell anyone who asks, “What on earth is that”.
If you are ever in a pub, or at a party, and during an awkward lull in The Conversation someone fills in by saying, “Did you know that parasytic fig-trees can cross oceans” You’ll know where they first learned this quite interesting fact. It might even be that someday it earns you the winning point in a quiz. If so, and there’s a cash prize, do the decent thing and forward my 10% consultancy fee.