The two men meet at the lighthouse, prepared to defend it at all costs. One carries a small step ladder, the other a fade and weather-resistant 5mm premium quality corrugated plastic sign. The men are steely but for their hair which is unkempt, lockdown-flyaway and thin: the breeze toys with it as if trying to delight a child holding a kite.
THIS LIGHTHOUSE IS FOR THE PEOPLE OF NORE.
OTHERS ARE NOT WELCOME HERE & SHOULD FIND
THEIR OWN LIGHTHOUSES (OR SIMILAR) TO ENJOY.
The bracketed text had been debated for some time; the committee could not decide if it was worth an additional £7.27. Eventually, it had been agreed. They didn’t want to come across as ignorant; not all towns and cities had lighthouses.
A brutalist hulk of a cargo ship glides down the channel, slow and ominous, whale-like. It is bringing its cargo to port, foreign goods loaded by dirty hands into colourful containers. The two men watch its progress while gently adjusting the stepladder against the metal frame of the lighthouse.
With doughy white hands, the taller of the two men grips the sides of the ladder and makes his way slowly up, ignoring the complaints from his arthritic knees. Although only a metre off the ground, he notices the sea glass on the beach below, twinkling like stars in a galaxy of pebbles. They were fortunate to have this on their doorsteps, waiting beyond starched net curtains for their pleasure.
The lighthouse was white – no rust, no slash of picture-postcard red. It had been there since 1892, a chess piece – the Bishop – never to be taken, immune to the spell of whale song and the briny call of mermaids.
The man on the ground reaches his hand defiantly up in the air, the sign is held aloft. The other bends precariously down and carefully takes it.
With purposeful twists of wire, tighter and tighter turns, the sign is affixed. The typography is authoritative and historically sensitive, but also easily legible for those in need of paying heed to its message.
Quietly pleased with their morning’s work, the two men sit together on the bench. A coastguard helicopter bisects the sky, off to rescue some outsiders from the mudflats. It didn’t matter how many drowned, there was always more – in cars, in dingies – always more. They tut in unison.
Another bit of flash? Try this – it’s about loss and birds and Christmas.