In Flushing we sit with our legs dangling over the harbour wall. Beneath are rocks and seaweed. The rhythm of the sea and birds is calming; it attunes the mind to the vibrancy of shifting light and motion. The jetty has benches and photographers discussing shutter speeds. The waves are sparkling, glinting, dancing. “Sun stars,” says my friend.
Rowing boats drift, fastened to the wall by chains. Lichen covers stone – it’s green and yellow, like textured acrylic dabbed on with a sponge. A shaft of sunlight falls from beyond Falmouth, highlighting the houses lining the harbour. At low tide you can walk here from Penryn, along the pebbles.
It’s one of those afternoons where everything feels aligned. We take the route along the harbour and wonder what it would be like to breakfast in one of the apartments facing the bay. There’s an old barometer in a glass case on the wall for lifeboats, still set to Greenwich. “One of only a few left,” says a passing local. It’s a sowesterly wind.
A bay window filled with black and white photos and a torn, leather-bound Bible is in memoriam to someone’s husband whilst a stone archway dated 1822 hides a door housing a giant faucet: Behind this doorway is the tap which provided water for shipping in the days of the Post Office Packet Ships (1689-1850). A Celtic cross stands in silhouette against the skyline; the list of names from the Great War fills one side completely. Sailors. Sons and husbands. Even a ship: H.M.S. Black Prince.
On the main street, slate-roofed houses give way to Georgian architecture. White, pink and blue, they are fondant fancy homes. A sign warns of crossing swans. We find a snicket down to the beach, tripping over taut ropes in our haste to find rocks and trinkets. We collect shards of an old-fashioned green bottle; the glass is thick and smoky, dulled by seaweed and the action of the waves. Fragments of pottery and Willow pattern china mingle in the mulchy shingle. The flat slate is best for skimming. It bounces off the water, leaving widening and merging rings. Silk patterns.
We climb the steps back to the village. A Scottie dog greets us. He’s been rooting round in puddles and his muzzle is dirty. A glimpse of sea and sky comes through a gap between houses and we hurry back to the harbour. Here, the horizon is laid out, panoramic. The clouds are latticed, little specks of fluff; the incandescent glow of the sun behind. Translucent coils shimmer above Falmouth. The underbelly of a sheep…while I struggle to find the right words, my friend says, “it’s like fish scales”.
“That’s what they call a mackerel sky,” says the man with the mud-bearded dog. A mackerel sky. Perfect.