Friday, 25 November 2011

Tales of Everyday Madness - Tywyn Bay

The people of Tywyn Bay, Wales, are fighting a battle with nature and themselves.  

“Tywyn” literally means “beach” or “sand-dune” in Welsh, an impermanent feature weathered and beaten by erosive forces.  Yet the people of Tywyn show none of the passivity of their namesake, choosing instead to build coastal defenses, creating their own eddy against this ineluctable tide of entropy.  Of course, they can only hope to do this for so long and it’ll become uneconomic long before the heat-death of the Universe makes it impossible.  So, for a while, they’ll carefully place rocks in the sea, their Canute-like protrusions offering momentary respite from the inevitable.

Against the backdrop of this tragic hubris a smaller madness presents itself.  The rocks that have been arranged in defense of the town have, themselves, been proscribed and labelled dangerous.  It’s out of the frying pan and into the fire for the people of Tywyn, with their homes saved, only for this new menacing threat to emerge.  The local authority thought that they’d decapitated the hydra of sea-side devastation only for “slippery rocks” and “man-made voids” to rear their ugly twin-heads.

Perhaps this is the final evidence for the non-existence of God.  The justification for blighting the rocks with warnings was “the headland breakwater is a man-made structure which poses a risk to those who attempt to climb onto the structure.”  Given everything deliberately constructed with agency must be labelled and risk assessed, then God could not have created anything.  After all, if there were a God, the Grand Canyon in Arizona should be accompanied by an ancient sign, 10-metre high letters carved into the very rock itself beseeching us “CAREFUL! 1-mile-deep ravine poses extreme health risk”.  Similarly, Captain Cook arriving in Botony Bay in 1770 would have been welcomed to Australia by stones laid out in the pristine beach reading “NO ENTRY: Most things here will kill you” and above us the very stars themselves would read “DANGER: Anoxic environment”.

One day the coastal defenses of Tywyn will wash away and all that will remain will be those dual-language toughened-plastic signs.  I like to imagine they’ll be buried in sediment where they’ll remain for millions of years before being exposed by weathering atop some mountain and surprising a goat.

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