Upon the sea’s horizon – a blue, cooler-than-before, but still-warmer-than-average morning at the tail-end of April – was a Thames Barge with taut-rigged sails calmly sliding from right to left. It was accompanied by the neat parades of the Gunfleet Windfarm turbines that did their best to remain visually fixed despite their involuntary conjuring-trick of moving along with the Barge in its fast decelerating wake.
Given free rein, one might have imagined a breakfast party on board. A honeymoon couple like Kate and William. Or a group of high-flying business-people trying to emulate various alternately loyal and disloyal permutations of Kate and William while travelling on this essentially working-class craft, bringing boredom nearer the edge...
Someone among them had brought along a box of cream cakes. Containing cream that was real fresh or clotted. In contrast, those synthetic, slightly sour, vaguely discoloured or metallic consistencies of the fillings in cream horns of a 1950s childhood in Lyons Corner Houses, where cakes were delivered on silver tiers along with infusions of best tea and a Max Jaffa ensemble of musicians, were a thing of the past. Today, all is authentic, even life itself. Any suspicion of imitation cream as well as imitation human behaviour would be concealed beneath various invisible layers of veneer. Even from where one stood on the promenade, one could just hear the shriek, as one munched on a cake that squirted cream into an eye, whether the eye was someone else’s or that of oneself. And, of course, there’s always one.
Here’s one for Kate. And a cake is raised as if in toast. And here’s one for William. And another cake raised this time as a clown might raise a cake in the shape of a custard pie poised upon the edge of slapstick. One for Harry. Another for Charles and Camilla as one. And a final one for Elizabeth and Philip, but this one is one of those double cream horns that someone at least recalls from the 1930s but no-one else can. Full of real cream. The past is full of real cream. Only the memories are synthetic and slightly bitter. If death can taste of anything at all.
Later, there is one abortive suffusion of sunset sparsely striated with charcoal-sketched oars of turning air. The Thames Barge finally slides into the side of the sea as its arcs of sail are blushing blood-coloured either from the promise of a distant dawn or from more royal squirts.