We are the Iron Men.
Cast in the image of our creator and set in the sand to watch the sea as the tide comes in and out without fail.
My ninety-nine brothers and I see a world passing us by every day.
We do not stand in a line; we are scattered along the beach and some of us spend much of our time under the sea, others are half-buried in the drift of the sand.
Dog visit us and their walkers watch as we are sniffed and anointed; it doesn’t matter because the salt sea water washes everything away. Dogs on leads and dogs running free; large dogs that bark and gambol, small dogs that yap and chase their own tails, dogs in collars and harnesses, dogs wearing pink tutus and sparkling jackets. We do not think that they choose their own outfits.
People come and go; old people arm in arm, or holding hands and walking sticks, families building sandcastles and collecting shells, fishermen in green waterproofs, young lovers, joggers and cyclists, photographers capturing us from every conceivable angle and those who are alone and choose to immerse themselves in the spirit of this place.
We see the changes; wind farms rise out of the sea, ferries and container ships pass us by, irritated young men on jet skis learn to avoid us, the coastguard makes regular passes on a quad bike to ensure that all is well.
We weren’t supposed to stay here.
There were who people wanted us to be taken away; they said that we were a hazard to small craft and to tourists who got stuck in the soft sand at our feet. Some conservationists were concerned about the bird population being affected by our presence but other conservationists were fascinated by the barnacles and other forms of life that grew on our bodies.
They moved some of my brothers in order to satisfy the critics; away from the bird breeding area and the small boats.
The people wanted us to stay – and the people won.
Because the people wanted us to become a permanent part of their landscape and their lives.
Students dressed us in outrageous garb, rescuing their adornments before the tide came in. Some of my brothers have been given sunglasses, another has had a bikini painted on him.
We stand and we watch.
The seasons pass over us and we are sentinels in the rain, the sun and as the wind whips the sand up into hillocks by our feet or causes the sea to lash against us and bury us under the waves.
This is Another Place.
We are the music-makers,
|And we are the dreamers of dreams,|
|Wandering by lone sea-breakers,|
|And sitting by desolate streams;|
|World-losers and world-forsakers,|
|On whom the pale moon gleams:|
|Yet we are the movers and shakers|
| Of the world for ever, it seems.
Ode – Arthur O’Shaughnessy – 1844–1881