I was wading through the water testing the jellyfish with my toes, quite confident that they were not going to sting me but not enough to be bold, still tentative and ready yelp like a girl if I was stung. But they were harmless, these jellyfish were the clear disk type that were to be marvelled over as they pulsated in shoals to the shore. I embraced the cold water of Crail Harbour in Scotland, revitalised by the chill as I dipped my head under the surface and by the perfume of seaweed at low tide. The sun was on my back as I swam, absorbing my good fortunes at having such opportunities like this whilst at work, and such good old and new friends keeping an eye on me from the shore. As I swam under the water our sand sculpture was standing half finished in the village centre of Crail. We had been asked by Svend Brown from the East Neuk Music Festival to make a train as a symbol of the history of the region where upon there was once a train line bringing droves of people to these shores. It was also a visual representation of the festival itself, bringing the festival out of the concert halls and into the streets.My head popped out of the water and I drew breath. Whilst under I had hit a rock and grazed my shoulder, swimming amongst the jagged rocks at low tide was not the best place to be for a land lover.
I walked on towards my brothers in arms eating their lunch on the rocks. As I approached, Dan Glover from America and Andy Moss who is now labelled the Mexican, were mocking me as I limped over the shells with the grace of a drunk, Dan then complaining that he couldn’t see on account of the glare coming from my white skin. But they were unable to mock me deeply as they looked so entirely ridiculous themselves, Andy with his Pink Sombrero and black mustachio, and Dan with his Chinese style peaked hat. I had a cowboy hat and together we were the Three Amigos. I put on my hat and laid on a rock in my underpants so that the sun could dry me. On sitting down I was fortunate enough to catch Dan on a rant: now that he had sampled Haggis he had to take the next step and buy a kilt in honour of his Glover ancestors that came from Scotland and then became plantation owners in America. Apparently the Glovers were ‘good slave owners’ which is why so many slaves took the name on emancipation; this comment which was meant in the best possible taste led to days worth of relentless mockery from me and Andy. And his pursuit of a kilt was yet another example of North Americans trying to claw back some culture that is more than 250 years old! It was so good to have Dan there, we are fortunate that he has such a good humour and was not too perturbed by the choice of t-shirts I had given him, one that was so big it made him look like he was wearing a nightly and the other being so tight that he looked like the hulk in miniature. But then Dan countered with the fact that the 4th July was coming up and that we could all jump.
It is one of the great pleasures with sand sculpture that there are occasionally moments when people meet from across the globe who would have otherwise not met, and I am pleased to say that I think Dan from America and Andy from Yorkshire are to be lifelong friends. Dan reminds me of the manic toad from Wind In The Willows, he is so funny and has undaunting enthusiasm, whereas Andy is like Badger ready to mock him down and in his words “Outdan Dan.” I’m not sure if they should meet too often as the resulting dark humour may get them into some trouble. On his return home Dan was hankered by his wife for his vulgar language. A real kinship was born in Crail.
As we ate our lunch Craig who is a steward for the festival came to eat with us and informed us that the BBC were waiting for us by the sculpture. Usually this would cause me to jump to attention, but this day was so bizarre that I was to enjoy finishing my lunch. Since 8am that morning we had had a frenzy of photographers and news crews streaming all over the sculpture and us one after the other. I was not to carve anything until four thirty that afternoon. I am certainly no model but enjoy posing in front of the camera like some Leonardo or chattering my Yorkshire on the telly. It is always a cringing moment though when the photographers ask the other sculptors to stand aside so that they can take a photo of just me working on a piece of the sculpture that I had not made. My credit to Dan and Andy for not breaking my legs whilst I was asleep.
But the press frenzy which was reflected in the papers and news the next day was not a reflection of the sculpture, but of the festival it represented and the hard work of Debra Boraston who is the media dynamo for the festival. It reflected the toil of the whole team who work the festival, many in their holiday time from normal jobs in the pursuit of quality in the arts and the joy of music; a vision I feel of the director Svend and his associates.
One thing that I did not anticipate was the hospitality of the people of the village Crail, who embraced us with open arms, Graham who let us dump 20 tonnes of dirt outside his cafe the Honey pot and complained not, only giving us coffee and the best carrot cake in Britain made by Edna; try it if you go there. And a special thank you to Dorothy, a lady who on our first evening when I enquired “Do you have gravy with Haggis?” replied “Ach no, but you may sprinkle a dram of whiskey over it.” At this she got up from off her stool and paced over to her house only to return with one of Scotlands finest single malts. “Enjoy it on your Haggis, there’s enough there for a wee tipple afterwards as well!” And indeed there was.