Shingle Island

Mouth of the river Deben

I’m editing a book about conversion to and from Islam in the early-modern Mediterranean: stories about people who slipped between religions, communities, and places; people who layered up identities, translating and (re)inventing themselves; people who saw opportunities or feared repercussions; people on the margins and in the centre; anonymous and extraordinary people, people like us.

I wanted to go to the sea, where the river Deben meets the North Sea, where the shingle shifts and the currents are treacherous.

So we went, Kainaat and I.

Kainaat on the island

The tide was low, the shingle banks had shifted and there was a huge island at the mouth of the river.

river and felixstow ferry

Bawdsey Manor.jpg

The river water was running fast and deep.

Kainaat found a way across. Just at the moment where the river empties out into the sea the shingle had built up.

river meets sea

Where waters meet

crossing point

we crossed

Standing in the corssing point


and looked over to Felixstow Ferry

Felixstow ferry.jpg

I thought about history …. how people say we need to learn from the past.

And I thought about people crossing the sea, neither here nor there, translating themselves, fleeing.

out to sea

History doesn’t make us compassionate, it doesn’t make the world a more just, or better place. It is used to console, to excuse, to dissemble. It inures us to injustice, legitimises inequality, normalises the unspeakable – it makes us complacent.

Maybe we need different stories – stories that make us tolerant, stories that make us see ourselves in others, stories about now.

Kainaat-serious face.jpg






10 responses to “Shingle Island

  1. I say amen to all you wrote in this post. Please keep on visiting shingle islands, with Kainaat, mulling how we have come to be the way we are, what needs to be different, reporting to us about this. And, of course, keep writing dear Claire. Write the stories you named. Be one who tries to shift how we perceive.

    • Thank you Chris – it is lovely to hear from you. There is so much that needs to be different …. I will keep on writing and growing and cooking 🙂 xxx

  2. I’ve got to attempt to make some of these fun crossings! I feel it might satisfy the inner adventurer in me (the adventurer with disabilities). I notice your pics from Bawdsey to Shinglestreet aren’t chronological. Did you start at B and walk around to S, on the “shingle at sea?” This could be something to attempt this year. I imagine doing it at low tide during sunrise would be spectacular. ☀️

    • Martin, you should do it, you would love it. The photos are all from Bawdsey – there is a shingle island there as well sometimes – it was just where the river meets the sea – the river splits in two and makes an island. I do also walk from Shingle Street to Bawdsey – this is a brilliant walk. You can do it at low tide and at high tide although you have to scramble a tiny bit (not even really a scramble) at high tide near to Bawdsey.

  3. wow this is a very perceptive gaze through the liminality of life through the ages. The re-imagined pernumbra of todays experiences reflect and contrast past imaginings.
    I love days of reflection… soon?

  4. Hi Claire,

    I’m writing to you this way because it’s the only email I have for you. I hope this gets to you. I doubt you will recognize my name but I’m Chris Iosbaker’s husband so we are in some distant relationship by marriage.

    I have been very moved by your relationship to Daisy Dog, your accomplishments with her during her lifetime, and your feelings of loss after her death. I could feel my own connection to the animals in my life that I have lost, so I shared your grief. For the last five years I have been studying painting with an artist whose specialty is animals. Unlike my teacher or my classmates, I have never been drawn to try an animal but this time I was. I felt a connection with Daisy even across an ocean and a very distant relationship with her guardian. So I have painted her portrait based on a couple of her photos that you have posted over the years. I would like to have had it finished before Daisy Dog Day but, alas, things didn’t go according to plan. At any rate, here it is:

    I’d like you to have this painting if you’d like it. If you have any friends or family that you know are coming over to visit you from the States in the not-too-distant future, perhaps I could get it to them to carry with them on their flight. I have mailed paintings in the past to my family in Germany and they have all gotten there though requiring a bit of hassle at the German customs. The cost for mailing has been about $50-60. I have also mailed one to South Africa that never got delivered but I think that was a function of a subpar mail service there. (The painting did actually get returned to me in good shape after about four months.) I trust the British mail service works better than that.

    So please let me know if you’d like this painting and in case you do how I might get it to you. If not, I rather like it myself and will happily keep Daisy on my wall here in North Carolina.

    With love,

    Crayton (Bedford) >

  5. Hi Crayton – thank you for your wonderful offer, it is so thoughtful and lovely. I would love a portrait of Daisy Dog painted by you. I have sent you an email – hope you got it love claire xx

  6. Hiya Claire! Talking of Daisy Dog I’ve been meaning to ask about the daffodils we planted! Did they bloom? Looking forward to seeing you all soon xx

    • They have, and they are beautiful. I took a photo just the other day. I was working the sheep and saw a flash of yellow out of the corner of my eye. I miss her so much. See you soon. xx

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