Monday, September 4, 2017

Thalatta thalatta and Birmingham-on-Sea

A very kind soul has gone through his beach hut and gifted me with some of the natural wonders he has found. They are pictured here and I intend to expatiate a little on the subject of things from the beach, but of course you all know there's no way I'll stay on subject. In fact I did an incident report at work last week and our director commented that it was very clear and concise - I'm afraid I replied that I would be returning to my usual incoherence in the next one.
Anyway, when I was a child I loved the sea and I loved the beach. I'm sure I've commented here before that one of the things I love about the seagull infestation in Birmingham is that waking up to their sound in the morning is like waking up by the sea every day. Of course Weston-super-Mare is the seaside place most associated with Brummies, but the place my family used to go to was Newquay in Wales. I have a feeling my mother might have chosen it on purpose because when you told someone where you'd gone on holiday your listener would assume you'd gone to Cornwall and you'd have an opportunity to correct them. I lvoed those holidays - and what I loved best was the stuff I picked up on the beach, although I was sadly prevented from bringing a jellyfish home.
The sea, the sea. Of course James Joyce calls it the scrotumtightening sea. Thalatta, thalatta, and all that. The sea is one of the things which reminds us humans of our mortality, because it shows that the water element, far from being the gentle emotional thing we townies think it is, is a major source of destruction. The outline of this country is changing dramatically as the sea eats away at the coast. Just look what it has done to the stones pictured here! It may take a long time but the water element is a major destructive force. As a fire sign myself water is an element I always think I need to work with more.
In addition to the glass and the shells, what I originally asked my kind donor for were the holey stones. Holy stones? Not sure. Here we have some genuinely ancient folk magic. Lucky, they are. The donor made the point that he was giving me some holes with stones around them, which is the sort of thing a witch would say, if ever there was. In the modern witchcraft movement they have of course come to symbolise the Goddess, and I personally don't have a problem with that attribution. At least one of them will be going on my altar, and thus the giver has been invested with all the duties and privileges which are invoked by being on the Hound's altar. The other sea stuff will be going in my little tin of random stuff (cat whiskers, a tooth I had removed, and some horseshoe nails for example) which may one day prove magically useful and I'm very chuffed.
My donor has also managed to sole my little problem as to what is going to be my next pet. Since moving here I haven't had an animal to look after and frankly rather like it like that. However among the gifts were some belemnites which I had never heard of before, but have decided that they can be my new pets. So meet Evadne and Hilda!
There's something missing from this post and that is that Inexplicable likes a song to listen to while he is reading it. There is actually a folk song called Birmingham on Sea, and I append the words and the story behind it below. I will attempt to upload the mp3 but if it doesn't work you can listen to the song at my source for it, which is here.

I sing the song of Birmingham, of Birmingham-on-Sea
For that they say is what she is, in days to come to be
The times are bad, the riddle is, when better shall we see
Canal locks have been picked and so let’s hope we’ll get a quay

Chorus :
Rejoice, rejoice ye unemployed, there soon will be a glut
Of brand new trades for Birmingham, although ’twill be through cut

The shortest cut to seaboard is our old canal, of course
The stake is there, it only wants a little Worcester source
The question really is not more than one of willing banks
That must give rise to enterprise the age is one of cranks

And cranks and cogs must supercede the bargee’s horse and whip
And Birmingham in launching out of course must launch her ship
For months and months she suffered from depression she can’t hide
And hide with her means seek and so she wants a turn of tide


In Worcester Walk we’ll have a beach as good as that of Wales
They weave our beach in Temple Row, of course a beach with sails
A cliff we’ve got in Bennett’s Hill, a cave is there as well
And daily if you care to look you’ll see the New Street swell

The gas department breezes finds as fresh as those of Rhyll
And as for shingle put your hand into the borough till
Time will provide the sand and shells the guardians keep in stock
That folk may snug at anchor ride within the Witton dock


I sing the song of Birmingham, of Birmingham-on-Sea
For that they say is what she is, in days to come to be

Sleeve notes from 'Brummagem Ballads' :
During the late 19th century the prospects of making inland towns and cities 'canal seaports' was again being projected. This song almost certainly refers to the proposed Birmingham Ship Canal; in 1886 there was a 'Committee for the Improvement of Canal Communications between Birmingham and the Bristol Channel'.
Worcester source - link between Worcester and the Bristol Channel.
Source - Brummagem Ballads - No.6, The Town Crier, March 1886. Birmingham Reference Library. Tune, Four Drunken Maidens, selected by Jon Raven. Researched : A Dunsford, J Raven.


  1. Evadne and Hilda - Marvellous names! One a Doctor, and one a Dame.

    I rather enjoyed the "Birmingham on Sea" song. It may yet come true once global warming has risen the tides...

    1. I'm so glad you liked it - you must sing it to yourself as you wander round the groynes.


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