I am writing this now even though all my bones and body so badly want to go to bed. I pulled off Tide Map more or less, but it was such an oddly underwhelming yet also utterly overwhelming experience.
I’d set my alarm for 2.40, as I was planning to leave at 3am. I got about 1.5 hours sleep between being woken up and walking up myself with anxiety and nervousness. I arrived at 3.50am or so- with Paul who was photographing the performance for me- tailing me for last 5 mins, or at least I reckoned it was him as the odds of other people coming to the beach at that hour was small..
He set up equipment etc and my first thoughts were of dismay as I realised how bloody cold and windy it was. My ability to bear cold is bad at the best of time, I am always freezing. I thought about whether I could leave on my coat but knew it would compromise how I wanted it to be documented. Id decided to wear my long red dress (and with some nod towards practicality, but not nearly enough, a red jumper I’d found), so as to be visible on the beach. So off I went, into the darkness to start.
ALl I will do for now is write notes and I will elaborate later.
The beach was covered, I mean covered in jelly fish. I took off my head cam (which I was very glad I’d bought along as could see very little at this time) to hold in my hand and shine downwards so I could try and pick my way through them, but soon got used to the soft slimy feeling of standing on one, again and again. The beach had large patches of small sharp stones which were very painful to walk on and trying to get across these was a large part of the experience. I was interested in how I was disorientated initially in the darkness and that was challenging as I couldn’t always see what I was standing on. Then as the time passed over the duration of the morning, I became unsteady, especially towards the end and stepping over the stones became harder again as I was trying not to fall and staggering etc.
I am trying to decide if i’d have been better off without my phone as I was trying to space out how often I’d check it- I’d tell myself ‘4 more trips up and down and then I will look’ etc. The time went excrutiatingly slow and I couldn’t settle into a flow state as I was so cold my body was in a state of fight or flight, my teeth were chattering non stop, my shoulders and back were aching and my left thigh began to hurt too.
I was thinking must this be whats its like to be old and have so many aches and pains
I kept reverting back to the old chestnut ‘what the fuck am i doing this for’ and because it was so physically uncomfortable my brain was telling me that perhaps this was an actually stupid and unsafe thing to do
Also I’d seen a picture on insta of a mum and her 3 kids eating their dinner off paper plates on O’ Connell street, Dublin the night before- and I felt so self-indulgent and head in the clouds traipsing along the beach indulging my ‘art’ while vulnerable people were hungry and homeless. This is what goes through your head.
Also i felt old and silly. I had to work hard to remind myself I had a right to be there doing what I was doing and to put the negative thoughts in my head back in perspective.
I kept going over all the things that had gone right so far- Id woken up at the right time, Id arrived ok and car was ok. I had no bladder issues, due to fasting the day and night before. I was getting it professionally documented the way I wanted to. Yes I was frozen but maybe it would warm up and at least it wasn’t raining. And I had legs and arms and a body to do this action, which I was grateful for. I’d started something I had wanted to make for ages and I would see it through.
I occasionally took out my phone and videoed and spoke into it, but as the time went on my hands were shaking so much the video was too trembly and towards the end I gave up.
My jaw was stiff and sore, so I did face exercises and shoulder rolls as I went up and down to try and keep them flexible.
on the ground was seaweed, endless glistening jellyfish, rocks and pebbles, shells, little dead crabs, and the distinct silvery beige sand of that beach.
It wasn’t till just before 8 that other people turned up, 2 swimmers. After them more followed and between approx 8.30 and 9 a bunch of 10 – 12 ladies arrived in different groups and all went into the sea. Much talking and lively discussion. One of them called down to me (when she was back up beside her car) and asked me what I was doing. So I had an exchange with one person the entire time. And not forgetting a nice dog who accompanied me a couple of times up and down the beach.
Towards the end I realised it was approaching 9am, when i’d anticipated finishing, and the tide not fully in as I’d thought it would be. Now I really wanted to keep going until the water reached the wall. But I was unsure of how long this might take, and more significantly, I knew I couldn’t keep going much longer. I was staggering up and down existing on sheer willpower at this point. I was thinking about WHY I needed to finish in this way.. did it matter? Then I was thinking of course that I was weak and was persuading myself it was ok to finish before the water hit the wall when it wasn’t. I knew I had to make a decision and I decided, ok I will keep going until the water hits that rock over there, which was in the sand 1/2 way in between the wall and the tide at that point.
So I kept going up and down until I did that, about 3 more times. I knew I would not have been able to keep going too much longer, but I felt so dissappointed and overwhelmed that I had managed 5.45 hours but not 6, and maybe if I had got to 6 I would have seen the water hit the wall. But at some points the water was lapping at the seaweed at the top of the beach, where the wall was, and I knew as I said id done as much as I could safely do at that point. Id started to stumble as I went up and down. I still had to keep enough energy to drive home (45 mins) and collect kids from school.
I headed up the stone steps and out. I was overwhelmed and so sleep deprived and so cold and stiff and tired, plus my feet were very sore from all the sharp pointy stones. Paul asked me how I was feeling and I knew I was going to cry- I felt so disappointed and kind of silly and futile and knackered. I also knew that I needed sleep and rest and food and that id be grand and logical again.
I wanted to get these thoughts down, plus a couple of photos of this experience: