View from the Edge 2: Margate Grains of Sand

View from the Edge …

Life imitates art imitates life. Poetry meets politics in Margate

EDGE BULLETIN 2: Dateline 20 February 2024

Anna Chen View from the Edge Margate Grains of Sand writer

Previously in View from the Edge … When David Bowie died in 2016 he took all the cosmic glue with him. Some suspect that we’ve all been trapped in a science fiction writer’s coma dream ever since. Or was there an earlier rip in the multiverse?

Margate Grains of Sand

I nearly died in Margate when I was six. It was my own fault. I’d hitched a ride on another girl’s inflatable oval ring which she was paddling into the deep end of the holiday resort’s ancient open-air bathing pool. Set deep into the beach, the rectangle of seaweed-covered rocks filled with grey seawater with each high tide. It felt like it had been there forever: a seaside Stonehenge harnessing the elements.

Somewhere around the middle of the pool, I lost my balance and fell in. A non-swimmer who could barely doggy-paddle, I slipped into the murky water with hardly a splash. Each of the three times I surfaced to gulp air, all I glimpsed were a few shuttered snapshots. Strands of white cloud against the watery sky, the pool’s green-black walls, the girl’s rictus of laughter.

I know how many times it was because I counted. Even at that young age I knew you only had three goes and then you were gone.

Each time I rose, I threw my spindly arm over the ring long enough to take a quick, shallow breath. And each time I slipped from the wet plastic, my own meagre body weight dragging me down. 

The fourth time I was desperate. It was, after all, my first-ever race against death. Eye-level with the horizontal seam running along the outside of the inflatable, I noticed the half inch of material sticking out all round. Too small for a fist to grab (and I tried), it was, however, with lightning-fast fine-tuning of motor skills, wide enough for a child’s nimble little fingers to pinch and provide enough buoyancy for a proper breath, if not for a scream.

I managed short, slippery grips while the girl paddled her inflatable into the deep end towards some mysterious purpose from which nothing could distract her. My own objective was to reach the wall and safety before my fingers weakened.

Finally, a few feet away, I let go and lurched towards it, abandoning the sanctuary of the half-inch seam. I grabbed at it only to find a fistful of seaweed slipping through my fingers. Finding no purchase, I slid down a sheer wall of slime, enveloped in weedy fronds. Exhaustion eventually overcame buoyancy. I finally gave up the struggle and accepted my fate.

As I hung suspended in time, in a distantly familiar environment only six years passing, I watched the light playing through the water. I felt completely calm, even peaceful, my only anxiety being that my mother was going to be very angry when she found out. Especially as she’d told me explicitly not to go near the pool which she’d correctly numbered as an unguarded death-trap. I started to breathe in water. It didn’t hurt. I felt no fear. It was almost beautiful. I’d surrendered completely.

It seemed an age but must have only been a few moments before a hand roughly grasped the back of my neck and hauled me out.

I gagged and spluttered to my feet, head pounding, surrounded by a small crowd on Margate sands. Bedraggled and quite embarrassed, I was suddenly overcome by a wave of dread of my mum’s fury, a dread amplified by an outraged chorus of “where’s the mother?” If the pool hadn’t killed me, my mother might well finish the job. What a choice — my own Scylla and Charybdis.

I sometimes wonder if I did die that day and everything since then in this world has been the imaginings of a six-year-old in her last moments. An eternity in the grains of sand on which I stumbled back to our basement holiday rooms in the down-at-heel Royal Crescent.

Because what I’m watching in this “Now” is what a child might construct had she missed her expected life trajectory. If she’d found herself banished to an unrealised, other-worldly plane in which she was left extrapolating a path for humanity from the little experience she’d picked up in her short life, this might very well be it.

She might well be regaining consciousness in a shrieking nosedive into a multiverse gone wrong as capitalism crashes to its flaming end, her widening eyes pulling focus all the way.

Plunging into the snarling instant gratification of immediate primal needs in the most advanced system on the planet, explained by a figure she’d invented called Karl Marx, in a cycle of events to which only someone severely damaged would willingly submit, she might well ask what the hell happened and how do I get out of this.

Did everything change at the Mother Portal? Did I, grasping at seaweed and straws, rename it the Ma Gate in my final moments? Does it really have a revivification chamber called Dreamland?

To be continued ….

Edge Bulletin 2 – Logged 20 February 2024 by Anna Chen


Edge Bulletin 1: Dateline 18 July 2023 – Trapped in a Science Fiction Writer’s Coma Dream

Read about the shrieking nosedive in Shakedown Timeline to America’s 21st century war on China

Margate in Wikipedia

Margate’s Seaside Heritage

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