Took a walk on the left bank of the Thames today with Anna Falcini, an artist who wished to interview me for her PHD project. Unfortunately somewhere outside of Tilbury the battery on her tape recorder packed up and the rain set in. Still for me it is was great to revisit Essex a place I am still deeply fond of and loyal to.
As a young women I would hop on my bike and explore the Essex Coast. Drawn to the areas on the map that looked wild and unexplored. I would cycle past the bandit country of Ferry Lane, an industrial site where the words, ‘Health and Safety’ didn’t apply, past the mass traveller site on the river and through old army training grounds littered with unexploded ordnance. Anna points out that this was a slightly strange way for a 16 year old girl to spend her weekends. I guess it was.
As I discovered today, outside of Tilbury is still a world of landfill sites, gypsy ponies and dirty industry but I like Essex in all it’s cocky, in your face, entrepreneurial spirit. It was great to visit places that I usually only saw from across the river, the former radar tower, like something out of a George Orwell novel, the fairy land of Thamesport. The river here is more blighted, less palatable but somehow, less tamed.
As the rain became heavier we headed back inland to the station. As a young women on her bike I was drawn to the shores of the Thames. It was a place out of site of authority, a place of solitude and nature and derelict barges. It was a place where I could sit on a broken jetty, be bothered by no one and write. I was drawn to that sense that here, on the shores of the river was the edge of something, the edge of the known world, the edge of parental control, the edge of the man made world. The river draws me to it still.