I almost packed a bucket and spade- we do have a set- but what with the picnic basket and Ailz's bag of books- for revision, you know- I thought we were carrying enough baggage.
We're about thirty miles from the West coast. I don't know why, but we go there very seldom. Maybe it's because we're Mancunians- and Liverpool- Queen of the West Coast- is a rival city state- hostile territory. Or maybe it's because we used to belong to a coven in Fleetwood and got sick of making the journey home in the early hours of the morning.
The West coast can be bleak. Our High Priestess- who was a Devon lass- hated it, and ran back down south as soon as an opportunity presented itself. But it's a kind of bleak I like- shining sands as far as the eye can see, the rain blowing in off the Irish Sea....
But yesterday it wasn't bleak at all. We went to Crosby. Crosby is- or used to be- a well-kept secret: miles of sandy beaches fringed by the villas of the Liverpool elite. It's less secret now- because of a quite remarkable artwork- Anthony Gormley's Another Place.
It consists of a hundred, life-size, iron men- dotted about- all gazing in the same direction. They were concieved as a peripatetic installation- and guested at a couple of places on the continent before ending up on Crosby sands, where they stare out to sea and are- all of them- completely submerged at high tide. They caused such a stir- and became so beloved- that the local Council eventually stumped up a million quid and bought them. So now they're fixed here in perpetuity- or until the sea eats them up.
Gormley also created Gateshead's iconic Angel of the North- so that's two obscure corners of the UK he's turned into sites of pilgrimage. I can't think of any artist in British history who has achieved anything comparable.
The tide goes out very far and comes in very fast. It was close to high tide when we arrived, so only a handful of the men were visible. I believe the ones that are very far-out have been well encrusted with marine life. The ones at the top of the beach are merely green and scaly. "Oh look, " says the very small boy, "I can see his willy!"