On Sizewell Beach

Blake Morrison

There are four beach huts, numbered 13 to 16,
Each with net curtains and a lock.
Who owns them, what happened to the first twelve,
Whether there are plans for further building:
There’s no one here today to help with such enquiries,
The café closed up for the winter,
No cars or buses in the PAY AND DISPLAY.
The offshore rig is like a titan’s diving-board.
I’ve heard the rumours that it’s warmer here
For bathing than at any other point along the coast.
Who started them? The same joker who bought
The village pub and named it The Vulcan,
‘God of fire and metalwork and hammers,
Deformed and buffoonish, a forger of rich thrones’?
Whoever he is, whatever he was up to,
He’d be doused today, like these men out back,
Shooting at clay pigeons, the rain bedraggling
Their chicken in the basket and Adnams beer.
And now a movement on the shingle
That’s more than the scissoring of terns:
A fishing boat’s landed, three men in yellow waders
Guiding it shorewards over metal-ribbed slats
Which they lay in front of it like offerings
While the winch in its hut, all tense and oily,
Hauls at the hook in the prow, the smack with its catch
Itself become a catch, though when I lift
The children up to see the lockjaws of sole and whiting
There’s nothing in there but oilskin and rope.

I love this place, its going on with life
In the shadow of the slab behind it,
Which you almost forget, or might take for a giant’s lego set,
So neat are the pipes and the stripy breeze blocks,
The dinky railway track running off to Leiston,
The pylons like a line of cross-country skiers,
The cooling ponds and turbine halls and reactor control-rooms
Where they prove with geigers on Open Days
(‘Adults and Children over 14 years only’)
That sealed plutonium is less radioactive than a watch.

One rain-glossed Saturday in April
A lad from Halesworth having passed his test
And wanting to impress his girlfriend
Came here in the Golf he’d borrowed from his father
And took the corner much too fast, too green to judge
The danger or simply not seeing the child
Left on the pavement by the father – no less reckless –
Who had crossed back to his Renault for the notebook
He’d stupidly forgotten, the one with jottings
For a poem about nuclear catastrophe,
A poem later abandoned, in place of which
He’d write of the shock of turning round
To find a car had come between him and his daughter,
An eternity of bodywork blotting out the view,
A cloud or an eclipse which hangs before the eyes
And darkens all behind them, clearing at last
To the joy of finding her still standing there,
The three of us spared that other life we dream of
Where the worst has already happened
And we are made to dwell forever on its shore.