I have long held the profound, unshakeable and opposing beliefs that I am either a genius trapped inside the mind of a simpleton or a simpleton with the mind of a genius. My protracted fascination with Sand has complicated the resolution of these theories immeasurably and the verbose account which follows will not assist your conclusion in any way. Your understanding, however, of this enchanting earthly ingredient will grow boundlessly and my only hope is that you may, too, discover a lust for life in this granular substance that is unmatched by any.
I begin with a tale that captivates me now in its retelling as it did on first entrance to my juvenile lug holes at the tender and impressionable age of eight. It was one grey and fluorescently-lit morning in a clinical yet comfortingly warm classroom and the edges of the old stool I was sat on were sharp against my legs. Concentration at this point was low-level: we had been bleary-eyed and listening for over half an hour to explanations of atomic structures a little farfetched for even the brightest of eight year old intellects. I felt myself fading into a half conscious dream, scented with long grass and seen through longer lashes. It seemed as though nothing in the white room could ever enrapture me, particularly on such a thick morning as this. The speaker* was a middle-aged, rotund man with a lilting and unplaceable accent hailing from somewhere north of Stockport. He was becoming desperate in his desire for our interest and turned to his filmic aid in the form of the projector, as so many schoolteachers do when faced with multiplying vacant visages and ever-wandering minds. His not-so-seamless segway into atomic astrology began as his two-dimensional counterpart grew onto the screen before our eyes. An instant and palpable pricking up of close to 60 young ears electrified the room as the sound system crackled into effect with a multi-ranked wail not dissimilar to the preliminary notes of a Brian Eno EP. Duad, spade-sized hands tickled liquid earth and I was deep tissue, in-the-cheek hooked, before our new spokesman had even begun.
I’ll call this on-screen space and Sand guru Dexter, as his preference for intricate (yet one-handed) gestures and expressive motioning remains with me even today. Dexter had command over the white room, the white wall, the white beach upon which he trod and 60 wide eyes held him. His barge-like feet sloped through the wadable earth before him and before us, with each lung halting at capacity as Dexter dropped to his haunches and turned to face camera. “For every grain of Sand on this earth, there are over one million stars” he breathed, smiling a little crookedly as though he knew the gravity of this comment would remain painted upon our faces for years to come. Dexter and his film crew went on to explore further crevices of beach and rock and Sand, all the while equating Sand to stars and then to space, in some capacity. The rest of his words now escape me, his various theories and communicated directions lost on me. From that point on, I did not develop a vested interest in astronomy or geology or science in any form. Dexter had bestowed unto me the greatest gift of all: the understanding of the importance of the earth in one grain of Sand.
*In later years I would come to learn of his love of musical theatre and that he particularly favoured the work of Oscar Hammerstein (“Oklahoma !” was a special favourite) which he sought out in theatres around the south of England and visited with his wife, Anne.