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Time and Tide - Chapter One


Almost imperceptible, that moment – the turning of the tide. It is as if the sea has exhaled and ceased its breathing, and beyond the exhalation, of course, one finds peace. That morning, after the night of the full moon, the sky was clear and cloudless. The sun rose quickly into the golden-green dawn, and the sea out far beyond the saltmarsh was suddenly a sea of rippling light. Somewhere the bubbling call of a curlew, somewhere the plaintive notes of a solitary redshank, and then the water began to edge its way back into the lonely creeks of the north-Norfolk marshes.


It flowed in first amongst the eel-grasses, the glassworts and samphire, and then it slowly climbed the creek-sides, covering the roots of marsh grasses, sea-purslane and sea-lavender. Here the sea-water is life and death – too little and the marsh-plants shrivel, too much and they drown. They thrive only on the in-between, the place that is neither land nor water but a mysterious hybrid child of them both – mysterious, strange and beautiful.


The man who had lain in the marsh all night, in a tiny nameless creek not far from the winding channel that leads into the harbour at Barnham Staithe, felt not the mystery or the strangeness of the place, and his eyes, though open, could see none of its beauty. Eventually the water took him by the hand, his fingers waving through the eel-grass as he continued his journey into the heart of the marsh, his head lolling to one side, or perhaps nodding, as if with death a little understanding had come at last.

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