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Maree’s Musings

November 3, 2023 November 2023, Regular Features No Comments

Sandcastles and Sundry stuff 

I’m over election fever, and probably you are too. Something completely different was called for. But sandcastles? The word actually popped up in an electioneering speech. I have no idea why now, but that was enough. 

We all have a sandcastle in our life. Their utility value is nil, although their artistic merit makes up for that. Size doesn’t generally matter, and they only last until the next big wave or deliberate demolishment [I made that up] by its creator, making me wonder if transience is in the builder’s mind, perhaps reflecting the transience of life. Golly! 

The art of sandcastle building is nearly as old as time, but documented evidence started much later. The first recorded ones were built by the 14th Century [that’s the 1300’s – to save you doing the math] by Indian poet Balaram Das as an expression of devotion. I do hope his devotion lasted longer than his icons. 

Inevitably, the competitive spirit soon took hold. In 2021, the world’s biggest sandcastle was created in the small Danish seaside town of Blokhus. At higher than 69ft, it toppled the previous German one [figuratively speaking, naturally]. And it also had a message. 

Here’s the story. The Dutchman Wilfred Stijger and 30 of his mates used nearly 5,000 tonnes of sand, with 10% clay added to aid cohesion, and a protective layer of glue so it would survive for a while. The completed work was a pyramid, with a replica of the coronavirus wearing a crown on top, and built to represent the power that Covid had had since the pandemic’s beginning. 

“It’s ruling our lives,” Stijger said. “It tells you what to do. It tells you to stay away from your family and not go to nice places. Don’t do activities, stay home.” After all that work, I hope people got the message. 

Not to be outdone, perhaps, the smallest sandcastle was not really one at all, but a picture of one etched onto a single grain of sand by artists Vic Muniz and Marcelo Coelh in 2014, using “Focussed Ion Beam’ technology. I have no idea, either, and not sure whether it counts. 

Apologies if I seem to be a tad fixated on world records, but here’s another one. As we know, sandcastles usually only last until the next incoming tide. The Portuguese town of Nazare is great for surfers, not so flash for sandcastlers. It got the world record in 2020 for the biggest wave – just over 26metres – as high as an eight storey building. Bang goes your sandcastle, together with your bucket and spade, and Guinness knows what else. 

I’m wandering off on a tangent, so another apology. Much information, useful or otherwise, is documented in the famous The Guinness Book of World Records; now almost 70 years old, which is a sort of record in itself. I learned (from another source!) that Mr Guinness never actually existed: the book was in fact created following an argument between Sir Hugh Beaver, the CEO of the Guinness Breweries, and one of his shooting mates over which game bird was the fastest. [The Golden Plover, just so you know]. At home later, no doubt over a glass of stout, he thought it would be great to have a ‘record book’ one could refer to, and so it was born. The first edition topped the bestseller list in the UK by Christmas 1955; so ‘every home probably had one’, as they say. 

I guess that record is in the latest edition and all.

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Maree’s Musings

Sandcastles and Sundry stuff  I’m over election fever, and probably you are too. Something completely …

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