Full moon over Humber

Words by:
Maxim Griffin
Featured in:
January 2023

December 2022 – bitter – the big coat days are here, the quest continues. By Maxim Griffin.

The Jaw of Humber opens wide to the North Sea – big ships and foghorns, a murk around the sand forts, Bully then Haile – a thousand starlings among the Cleethorpes wires – gulls circling over the steam vents of the swimming pool – a works Christmas do at the Chinese buffet – they have to do three because of the patterns of the rota – noodles, rice, chicken balls, fairy lights. Full moon still rising, silver mackerel clouds and cigarettes in the car park – ducks on the boating lake sail through reflection – another dish of prawn toast – Slade comes on – 32nd time today so it has lost all meaning and becomes mostly ambient – the voice of Noddy Holder fuses with the gulls as the path heads south.

Out on the sands, a figure with a headtorch calls on three dogs and flings a tennis ball high and hard – the lead dog misjudges the catch and tumbles confused and doubles back to see his comrade already returning the ball – it’s in the air again and out of sight – they follow, barking.

There’s a driftwood redoubt, out near the strandline – a fantastic debris shelter that has grown over the years – part den, part shrine – inscriptions in paint and charcoal to late pets and absent friends – a kind of cairn perhaps, the sort of community monument that will leave no trace to archaeology.

There are little gutted candles in jam jars, the remains of flowers, visitation stones, holed flints strung with blue rope, a faded and eyeless teddy bear – ribbons flicker and glitter in the hardening starlight.

Black and silver sea
Out there on the water, big ships wait on tugs and pilots – wait on the next tide at dawn, wait on the next space in dock – they come from all over – tankers from the promised land of Norfolk, Virginia, transporters out of the Baltic – from Scotland, Denmark, Flanders – engines turn over and pulse, the heartbeat of the river at night – beyond, far out and away, the wind farms of Doggerland illuminate the icy northern sky – there have been reports of aurora visible in the small hours of previous nights.

On, south still – Pleasure Island is still haunted and the Fitties look dormant – a fellow has a telescope set up and a gaggle of cubs take turns with astonishment at the moon – he’s listing lunar mountains and talking about Apollo – two giant flasks wait on the bench with a carrier bag of beakers and several sacks of marshmallows – good. The smallest child is lifted to the lens and squints – another boy, the outlier of the group, stamps an already frozen puddle to smithereens and holds a pane of ice to the night sky, to the extraordinary moon, and licks it – good work kiddo, consuming moonlight is undoubtedly a shamanic act and you will travel far.

The sea is black and silver – a Paul Nash painting – a car in Yorkshire turns a corner – Spurn Lighthouse hasn’t shone since 1985 – you won’t hear much about Ravenser Od, but it’s out there somewhere, lurking under the mouth of the estuary with the Heinkels and the galleons.

Hit the sands – a special kind of other, to be on a large beach in the moonshine – the bastions of Haile Sands fort seem so close, so attainable, but that is a fool’s way, especially at night – still, a little care brings it nearer, all ghost ship green and river grey, strange shadows and the voices of mystery birds – it’s as compelling as any of the great medieval ruins.

South still – between the sea and Tetney Marshes – deer tracks in the sand – they’ve been out to see what’s available – driftwood and bones by the looks of it – actual bones – seal ribs and spine – must have been dragged up from the colony at Donna Nook, an old bull maybe – no skull – there’s never a skull – must be rich pickings – there’s frost forming and a wind picking up – time for shelter.

Across the marshes
Inland – doubling back and into the marshes a way – a path that leads further into Lincolnshire, further along the coast, dog-legging around wetlands – a few geese, various waders – the light is so strong, even the blackbirds are still giving a little song. On – an exposed path with a flock of turbines to the right – slow hum and shadows cast west, the blades sparkle at the zenith of their revolutions – there’s a pillbox up ahead – that’ll do.

The bunker is clean enough – one of those three-bay jobs you only seem to get around here – one bay is sealed, but you could squeeze into the other if that was your pleasure – the stove takes a minute to ignite and by two there is enough water boiling to fashion coffee – it’s best to take the makings with you, to go through the act of finding a place and taking the time – this makes even a sachet of chalky instant brew in a dusty mug luxurious. The steam blows fast towards the shipping before a first scalding slurp – too hot but doing the job. A horn blows somewhere out there among the drone of tanker engines – geese on the wing, honking in a giant V, taking the Humber by the light of the full moon – Mars and Jupiter going strong, Orion on the up over the south.

Humberstone to Cleethorpes, back along the sand with shadows ahead – huh – no lights on at the Chinese buffet, no Slade booming out – the golden arches and Taco Bell shine lidless – cars parked up on the main drag, bass and lads – a very young couple with a very fresh child who is yet to sleep. Catching up to that works do – lurching to a nightclub in novelty jumpers – Wham! from an open door with bouncers – bit early for ‘Last Christmas’.

Near the station – a notice board – jumble sale imminent, Christmas cake sale coming soon, warm spaces for winter available Tuesday and Thursday with soup and a roll, carol service and bingo – before the train, a man with a small dog predicts snow in the coming days.

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