“Black Things from the Beach”: No 3: with added Indian.

As I open it, the carrier bag containing my “Black Things From The Beach” smells of the sea.

It’s pure nostalgia because I have lived away from the sea now for 4 years.
In the bag are black bits of wood, a dark pebble or two, a piece of seacoal, some dusky egg cases, more bits of black seaweed and, very un-black, a bright green, plastic  American Indian chief, complete with magnificent headdress.

He is poised on one knee, taking aim with a rifle. Taking a shot, no doubt, at a pesky cowboy or two… if only there were any. But this Indian was quite alone. Without friend or foe.  I found him tangled up in some seaweed.
An ignominious end for a brave warrior.
A tideline in September with a drizzling sea fret is not a place for the melancholic.
It is full of loss.  Lost, rejected, discarded things .. “washed up” broken down, worn out and weathered.

I am not immune to its cheerless aspect but, should I feel inclined to trudge on and on in a south easterly direction to meet a watery end, I would inevitably be stopped in my tracks by some curious thing with a wonderful story that I had yet to discover.

You know how it is .. the more you know, the more you realise you know almost nothing at all.

And of course the tide line, with its fascinating, if forlorn, array of mysterious things, is different every day. I can understand the addictive nature of beachcombing.

So Black Thing today is, I think, a spotted dogfish egg case, irresistible with its twining tendrils and its long slender shape.
The egg cases are normally empty but if you should find one with a little dogfish embryo or two, go to kind Jim Hall’s page here at Glaucus.org where he will tell you about his successes and failures in raising abandoned dogfish.

Its a tricky business. I found a bunch of the egg cases all tangled up together, a mermaid’s charm bracelet of pods,  but drew just one,  lying like some beautiful sleeping thing and I had to add the ever vigilant Indian with his gun.

They are on the windowsill again.  Behind the Indian is the net curtain. I thought this elegant thing deserved an artsy title.. Henry Moore would surely approve.

Recumbent Figure with Added Indian

black thing 3

I am wondering who lost the green Indian and thinking that “green” is a curious choice for a human of any kind.

“Black Things from the Beach” No 2. Mermaid’s Purse

Black thing number two was delayed as I had to travel north to see my father for a few days. I had optimistically taken a few with me, hoping for a moment to do some drawing, but they returned south with me yesterday undisturbed and undrawn.

They are the strangest things.The tide line here has many of them . Colloquially they are known as “Mermaid’s, or perhaps more aptly Devil’s, Purses”  Blackened twisted pods with broad wavy seams which I thought might even have been the inspiration for ravioli. They are of course the egg cases of skates, dogfish and rays.

CartoonWebThe Great Egg Case Hunt is a rather wonderful website by the Shark Trust which has very thorough and fascinating information about all these different egg cases.


They are looking for help in recording where egg cases are found (and where they are not found), in order to implement conservation measures. If you live by the coast go, look and record and let them know.  And if you don’t know your egg case from your elbow, there is a very good identification page here .. amazing!


A variety  of egg case sizes from the above website  The cases are hard and brittle when you find them on the tide line and often broken and  usually empty.  They are reminiscent of big black four legged  beetles.

This one has 3 legs on the ground and one waving.  I drew it scuttling across the windowsill towards a little piece of black charred wood with two holes in it. It’s a ray or skate case.  I also have some daintier dogfish egg cases which I will draw tomorrow if I have time.

Black Thing No 2 plus charred wood

black thing 2 blg

“Black Things from the Beach”, No 1… and a white butterfly

This is not my territory. A beach of unforgiving shingle where each step forward is sucked back half a pace by sliding pebbles.

But I am loving seeing the sea again and the weather has been glorious over the last two days. So on Tuesday I trudged along the shingle’s edge accompanied by a little white butterfly who danced so effortlessly next to me through the fading summer flowers.
I somehow don’t expect butterflies so very close to the sea. You would think your average plant would take one look at shingle and decide to go elsewhere but there is a surprising variety of plants here.

Red and white valerian, ragwort, mallow, brambles, yarrow, old mans beard and more and growing nearest to the sea, hardy clumps of grey green Sea Kale Crambe maritima whose long tap roots will twist 2 meters deep into the earth in search of fresh water.Even a bee, a pretty little Bombus pascuorum was busy in a patch of vipers bugloss.

On the tideline is the usual flotsam and jetsam, bits and pieces thrown up from the Channel plus a variety of “black” things.
I like them.
Here is one of them, a crispy bit of one of the “bladder” wracks left high and dry, contorted even more by the warmth of this sunny late summer day.

I think this is Ascophylum nodosum or the Knotted Wrack judging by its linear form and single bladders. The Bladderwracks, as I know them, are wonderful plants. I remember as a child squidging bare footed over seaweedy rocks in Wales, popping the slimy airfilled bladders.

Fucus vesiculosus, the real bladderwrack was the original source of iodine and they all seem to be edible and have medicinal benefits of one kind or another. I put it on a windowsill and drew it.

Not really much more than a silhouette but with a curling cast shadow which I liked as much as the thing itself. On the dusty windowsill was a small dead fly who I thought should be in on the act too.

It is a neglected house with many dead flies and, not to push the Dickensian analogy too far, there is more than a touch of Miss Haversham about it. A large grandfather clock has just been removed displacing longlegged spiders and revealing a wall festooned with dust laced cobwebs. More fascinating black things soon 🙂 ….

black thing plus fly bg

Dried Knotted Wrack.. plus immortalised fly..