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I found these on Grenaway Beach, in Cornwall. They’re two halves of the same mussel. Worn, battle scarred, but lovingly built by a brave beastie that lived to quite an age, judging by its size and thickness.

The life that attaches itself to a mollusc is spattered and colourful, valiantly worn like some Pollock fashion statement. The algae bloom of different hues and textures, the grid of teeny eggs, laid by a limpet that thought this particular shell was a safe ride. There are holes bored into these shells… driven through by opportunistic whelks, hellbent on a free snack.

And then there’s the inside… the smooth, pearlescent cocoon, perfectly cupped to hold and protect the soft delicate body of the mussel. A little armoured haven.

They are quite beautiful.

I always gather at least one mussel shell, absent mindedly slipping it into a pocket of my coat, perfect for an idle hand to trace the slow graceful butter-knife-sharp curve, rough grey ribbing to smooth petrol blues. The thumb, on it’s blind journey, unfailingly catches on a tiny outcrop of micro barnacles and I find it circling and returning to this little world. Then I inevitably flip it to prone side up, presenting a sensuous thumb slide, from the palatial line and up to the hook of the umbo. I think I could draw these shells with my eyes closed. At least in my head and my heart.

On reaching home these treasures are usually washed, and dried on a tray in the bottom of the Aga. Then they’re stored in kilner jars to be admired and dipped into, when needed. When I flick the lever on these jars, I can just about sense the scent of the beach and sea spray.

I miss the sea, a lot.

But a bowl of these, cooked, and a decent tear of bread to soak up the juices would definitely go some way to salve this ache.


p.s. In case you’re interested….

Once finished, these mussels will be for sale on Friday 29th April 1 pm. Do shout if interested. There will be one other, and then no more, until there’s an R in the month…