I sit on a bench beside the harbour and the show begins:
Sparkling ripples criss-cross the water in the sunlit afternoon. Light and shadow draw their patterns across decks and quays. Glimpses of the depths alternate with surface reflections, as swirling patterns are repeated by fish below our feet and gulls above our heads; and all in time with the harbour’s symphony.
Tall masts stand up among the little dinghies, like cellos and double basses above the violins; and the music of the wind hums and thrums through the wires and rigging. The waves run up the sand and crash against the harbour wall, creating a complex ostinato with a syncopation no conductor could compute; while wires tap out their own irregular rhythms on flag poles all around the harbour.
Soaring above it all the gulls’ chorus echoes and echoes again, adding yet more movement, light and shadow to the symphony; and all the while their wheezing, whistling fledglings whine out their piercing one note descant.
The tide begins to turn, and the second movement changes mood as clouds gather, and strengthening winds lead the music into a new crescendo. Faster and faster sounds the metallic tapping of the wires on steel, and slapping rhythms are added to the score as boats move and rock in the rising swell.
The water changes colour. The sparkles, reflections and golden light are gone, and the show explores multitudinous graded shades of grey, while patterned shadows slowly fade away.
The gull’s chorus changes, and the silver and grey flash of wings fades from the dockside as they soar and swoop inland, further from the storm. Now their mewling cries, heard from far away, are like distant memories of children’s calls sounding faintly from a long lost past.
The flap and slap of pennants, flags and banners pulled and tugged by the wind adds another instrument to the orchestra, together with the piccolo’s whistle from the rigging on the crow’s nest.
The splish and splash of raindrops create an interweaving variety of notes as they fall in the harbour or bounce on stone, wood, water or canvas, building up to a thunderous finale before sinking slowly down, and, with an extended rallentando, fade away.
As the sun moves into the west the wind drops, silence comes to the scene, and slanting rays of orange light break up the clouds releasing the hidden blue again.
The gulls and swans settle on the still water to make doubled patterns below us, while a murmuration of home-coming starlings swirl and flow above, their flock miraculously changing shape from second to second.
Out of the silence new rhythms move around the quays as the early evening promenade begins. I hear the slow heavy beat of sensible, elderly shoes; the click-clack of hurrying high heels; the whirr and thump of skateboards accompany the rise and fall of boys’ voices as they try new jumps; and all the music of people’s voices greeting, chatting and parting again blends together against the whisper of the evening breeze.
New patterns of light and shadow form and reform as the sun slides down towards the sea, and in the final moments all the music is stilled as we watch in awe the last glorious moments of a sunset resplendent in aqua, pink, gold and purple.
The sun has gone, the starlings fall out of the sky to their roosts, the curtain of dusk has closed over the harbour, and the show is over.
Time for tea!