Spring arriving, back on the creek and walking through the town past stilted women in black who run and shriek at children by the hot-dog stand. Homemade vegetarian pasties, bottled local beers, middle-aged men doing bad cover versions at a tiny bandstand. First heat of the year, singing birds, different smells when we reach the creek at low tide. Temporarily grounded boats on dark mud. The boatyard is still deserted. To her, this flatness, this mix of rural and rusted machinery, industry and the cries of turnstones, is unsettling and cause for consternation. We walk a short way on to the beginning of the marshes, passing groups of Eastern Europeans on errands I cannot fathom. I have a few stories now of the raves, illegal I presume, out on these salt marshes, of mashed walks home along the hollow shore to either Faversham, Seasalter or Whitstable. What a sight that could be, walking the Swale with a mind still half-afire and the heavy weight of excess beginning to burden. I feel if I could just dig this salty soil, wade into the reeds and nose about, I could uncover more stories, stories I perhaps don’t want. These blank spaces invite excess, drinking, powders, unapproved sex, fights even. I need to go beyond the information boards with their sanitised facts. The small facts I have been given are effectively unauthored; their teller does not want to be named and so the facts become folk memory. I’m only beginning to learn how to excavate.
We take a loop round the water treatment works to be caught in downwind in a shit smell and a cloud of clinging flies. Impossibly remote it feels, so close to town. A lone white van trundles up the road, realises its mistake, reverses and retreats. Like the relics of some failed soviet state stand the concrete edifices, cleaning the water, no humans present but us. We cut back to the creek across a farmer’s field, maize we think but we do not know. To our city brains this is horror movie stuff. Sharp farm implements and wooden doors hanging lopsided on reddening hinges. Back through the boatyard, we look at a converted wooden boat that functions as home, a cultivated garden blooming with colour in the small patch of land in front. Strange domesticity in such a place. Where are the humans? The few we see seem half-there and insubstantial compared to the solidity of their vessels. We head back to the pub, where I once saw a vicious fight between bored drunk young men, drink a local ale, plan the rest of our time here.