Tag Archives: Virginia Griem

Mussel Boat

Mussel Boat

Mussel Boat

We have had some verse and song about oysters and cockles on the river Teign.  Now it’s the turn of the mussel.  Mussels have been harvested from early times, either as a cheap source of food or as bait for fishermen.  One particular mussel farm on the river can be traced back almost a thousand years.

Born into a family of musselmen, Syd Hook recalled in 2006: ’There were mussel beds all up the river.  It would take 10 men working on a sprat swain, and to keep the crew together, the owner would have mussels up the river to keep them from catching the sprats.’  Nowadays there are just two or three mussel men remaining.

Once, the seine boats were used for collecting mussels – they were fitted with sails to get to the mussel beds.  Now the farming is done from a mussel boat.

Mussel Boat
(Virginia Griem)

One of those pearly mornings
when the mist falls light on the river
and there is no sky,
the mussel boat is out.
It floats in that space neither water nor air
where mirage appear.
Yet it’s real enough,
seeding the channels,
laying down spat small as a fingernail
on the mussel beds.
Raising the racks of sharp edged shells,
bearded and barnacled, for sorting and grading.
The dead, the broken, crushed in a
mess of orange and black;
mussel flesh smeared
on the deck with
the mud and the rust.
There is no town – no bridge – no sea
on this cold spring morning,
only a mussel boat
cloaked in a mist of mother-of-pearl.

For more information check out:

Mussels on the Teign ….


Night Ride to Teignmouth with Keats

Graham Burchell reciting his poem outside the New Quay Inn

Graham Burchell reciting his poem outside the New Quay Inn

I’ve changed the order of the poems about Keats because we did a poetry walk around Teignmouth on Wednesday this week and this was one of the poems recited.

The author, Graham Burchell, read it to us outside the New Quay Inn where the verses from one of Keats’ pieces of ‘doggerel’ is writ on the outside wall.


(Graham Burchell, 2012)

On top of the coach, wedged between the fabrics
of others and packages in wicker, leather and wood,
there is room only for breath, rain and the wind
that draws discomfort like a purse string.

I touch his arm, smell the damp in his greatcoat
through my fingertips. He’ll never know. I am ghost.
I’ve clawed back time to see his skin in the night –
smooth and cold – stones in a streambed.

I hear the harsh compression of his lungs,
sense melancholy behind eyes that flicker.
His and all the other heads are bowed.
Those seats could be pews in a roofless church.

Inside, in the dry, a corpulent man smokes, reeks
of powder and porter. He rubs against a woman
clutching a bible that she’ll not open,
even when the white sky of morning comes.

Opposite, a Wesleyan priest with a fixed scowl,
journeys with a younger man whose nose needs dabbing,
who may be a relative. They do not converse
but sometimes growl, like coach wheels riding stones.

All complain when those same wheels drop into ruts.
A wife across from the poet, sleepy in the rain,
tightens the grip on her child. Her husband
digs deeper into the scruff of a fresh dead hare.

Want to know more?  Check out:

Poetry Walk …..

Kingsteignton to Teignmouth on the Number 2 bus

The Number 2 Bus

The Number 2 Bus

Time to return back down the river to Teignmouth.

This time we travel by bus to relish the spectacular views along the estuary and reflect, leaving behind eighteenth century verse for a more modern piece.  Thanks to Virginia Griem for this.



Kingsteignton to Teignmouth on the No 2 bus
(Virginia Griem)

After the roundabout
The road rises, steep,
Winds right and left.
On the lower deck windows
Grey dusty rape stalks – hedgerow invaders,
Tap, flick flack
The bus stops, picks up a hiker,
Dark head amongst silver holders
Of bus passes, shopping bags.
Gears grind, and the hot smell of engine
Joins cut grass for a moment,
Fades, is forgotten
As the Estuary sweeps into view.

And where are they going these people
With their bags for life and their memories
Down to the shops, Spend £40,
get a voucher
a free cup of coffee

On the top deck
The great arrow of mud
Pierces the eye,
shot from the distant sea.
Channels meander, hit high ground
Change direction, bubble, suck, stick,
Release, flow, shimmer, shine.
Vast banks of silt stretch empty,
but at their edge
White egrets dart with delicate step
Oystercatchers probe
Herring gulls strut their stuff.
Smaller black heads search brackish pools

And where are they going these gulls
After they’ve raided the mud flats
Down to the seafront, steal a warm pasty
From a tourist
A free ice cream

On through the valley
River no longer in sight.
Swifts hunt above waves of wheat,
Devouring their weight in winged creatures.
And all the while from the top of the bus
The landscape is being revealed.
Behind us the moors herald rain
As fields turn to gardens,
Washing lines, wheelie bins,
Manicured lawns,
Shop fronts, traffic lights,
Playgrounds and car parks.

And now the bus rests.
The shoppers, the hiker, silver haired lunchers,
Beachgoers, sandseekers
Dropped off in the town.
Estuary past
Journey completed
Kingsteignton to Teignmouth
On the No. 2 Bus