A couple of days ago, I went to my favourite mudlarking spot near Woolwich, and had a great time foraging for treasures in the Thames mud. As I was finishing up, there was a beautiful sunset and a whole flotilla of swans appeared to make the evening extra special.
As the tide rushed in, I made my way back along the foreshore, but as I did, something caught my eye!
So very excitedly, I sat down by the River Thames in the beautiful sunset and decided to indulge myself then and there and read the messages contained within the bottle. Often I wait in suspense until I get home, but this time, it felt right to enjoy the ambiance of the sunset for as long as I could. Imagine my delight when I found not one, not two, not even three... messages - but eight little messages in one bottle. Here they are for your enjoyment. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you.....messages in bottles along the theme of "Friday - High Day!" (in some cases, I have typed a transcription of the message which is posted next to the actual message)
Well what a feast of thoughts!! I can imagine this group of teenagers (I think they're teenagers!) having a lot of fun writing down their gems of wisdom and streams of consciousness as they sit and enjoy each others company. As the sun went down and the sky turned a glorious red, I had a smile on my face at these bottled thoughts, which were well worth writing down. And amongst the complete madness of these musings, there were some extremely good lessons to be found. I know which one resonated with me!
As one of the messages alludes to - Savour each moment. Don't wish your life away. As my Dad used to say "Don't Hurry. Don't Worry. Don't forget to stop and smell the flowers..."
Thanks for the Friday High Day messages!
You made my day.
With London being as multi-cultural as it is, it is no surprise that I have found a wonderfully wide variety of messages in different languages in our River Thames, and from a variety of nationalities. Now let me think about it..... So there has been the following:
1.A message from a German girl who threw her message in from Tower Bridge
2. A message from Belgium thrown in during the opening of a seaworld centre
3. An anonymous message from a Sri Lankan person
4. 4 messages from Norwegian school children
5. a message from some Swedish people wishing their brother a happy 40th birthday
6. A message from 2 swedish tourists visiting Greenwich.
7. a couple of mysterious messages with Chinese symbols (remember them?!) I never did find out the meaning of them by the way! Here they are just in case you can decipher them!
Some time ago, I stumbled upon a very small bottle on the Banks of the River Thames near Greenwich, which contained a piece of paper with what we subsequently found out was some text from the Koran (I believe it is anyway, please correct me if I'm wrong). I don't exactly know what it says, but on sending it out on twitter, I was informed that it is some verses contained within the Koran. If you know which ones, I'd be delighted to know by the way. Please see below.
So today, as we wandered along the River for an afternoon walk, we couldn't help noticing this laminated piece of paper floating in on the incoming tide. OK, it wasn't in a bottle, but they are still words from the water thrown out from the River.
The River Thames carries all these messages and lessons along on the tide regardless of what nationality and religion they are. We have rich diverse culture here in London. It's one of the most diverse cities in the World. The incredible mixture of messages I've found in the River are testament to that!
Today it was a super low tide on the River Thames and so I got up very early to head on down to see what treasures it might yield. As always, I had that lovely sense of anticipation as I approached the Thames foreshore.
The beauty of mudlarking is that you never know what you will find, but you know that you WILL always find something, even if it is a single beautiful piece of pottery with a pretty design on it. With mudlarking (searching for pieces of history along the banks of the River Thames), you are generally searching for older pieces of our past - clay pipes, coins, bullets... evidence of the lives of people from the London of the past - long gone. Tangible pieces of lives from sometimes hundreds of years ago. Today we did find some super pieces of history, but the River Thames does not only hold the secrets of olden times. Within its currents, there are many fragments of modern day lives too, and it is these modern mysteries that I would like to focus on.
Today the River Thames gave me three mysteries to ponder on. I wonder if you might be able to help me solve them.
Ok, here goes. Mystery number one is a message in a bottle that was sitting there alone on the foreshore ( I have to admit, the last thing I was expecting to find today). It was in a small bottle, with tape sealing the lid, so obviously the person who wrote it wanted to make sure it stayed waterproof.
When I arrived home, I opened the note over a cup of tea, and the message is marked with what I believe to be a name and a place. No date unfortunately.
Do you know this person? It's slightly hard to read, but I'm assuming this is a name, and that the person comes from Sri Lanka. Maybe they're visiting London (it definitely hasn't travelled all the way from Sri Lanka). It would be lovely to trace the person (Is it Saneera?).
modern mystery number two
The second modern mystery in a bottle is this photograph which someone has carefully placed in a bottle and thrown in the River Thames. I had hoped that perhaps they had written something on the back, but there is nothing. Who are they? They look very happy. They seem to be at some kind of party. Is it a memory that someone has placed in a bottle and thrown in the River? Do you know who they are?
This bottle, (and photograph) holds a lot of happy memories, and for some reason it was let go into the River. The River Thames holds so many mysteries from both our recent past and from times gone by..... Keeper of secrets and inspiration for our imagination.
modern mystery number three
The third mystery is a fun one. It was not found in a bottle, but probably involved drinking a few bottles :) Whilst we were mudlarking along the River Thames today, a couple of party boats went past, music blaring, people dancing.. (and , it was only 11.30am!). This third find, found nestled in the mud, is evidence of a happy fun time. Zoe's hen party no less!
It is not just people from hundreds of years ago that leave evidence and teasers from their lives for us to find and wonder over. We who are well and truly still alive, do it too. It can be just as fascinating to find these fragments of modern day lives. It makes me wonder, and makes me want to make a connection.
Do you know the person from Sri Lanka? Or, the couple in the photograph? or Zoe? Please let me know if you do. X
“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?" That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
Let me tell you the story of Elise and her message in a bottle which I found on the bank of the River Thames at the beginning of January. It was I believe Sunday January 4th when I did my usual walk along the River to blow away the New Year celebration cobwebs and as I looked amongst the washed up debris I noticed a small plastic bottle with a rolled up piece of paper inside. I could see there was some writing and a drawing, so I picked it up and put it in my rucksack to be opened on returning home. I do like to include a bit of anticipation when I find a message – and keep it unopened – so that I can be excitedly curious about what it will say.
I was delighted to find this letter from Elise from Norway and was extremely impressed with her grasp of the English language. As well as this, I was introduced to the term “indoor bandy” which was completely new to me (a form of indoor hockey, which I found out by doing some research). Now, although the writing was clear for the most part, Elise did put an address down, but this was slightly obscured by some water which had got into the bottle. I could just about make it out and so wrote her a letter and posted it to what I hoped was her address in Norway.
And then…. I waited for a reply……..ho, hum.....
And it would appear that patience is not my virtue (well, actually I do already know that – but this just proved it). After waiting just over 2 weeks and not hearing anything, I was convinced that Elise had not received my letter and so feeling a little bored on a Friday evening at home, decided to shake things up a bit so.....I threw her message in a bottle out into the virtual sea of twitter. Well… I certainly did not realise what the response would be......
I was not prepared for the overwhelming reaction of the twittersphere. There was such a frenzy of retweets that I could only watch with a little bit of alarm at how quickly Elise's letter surfed the waves of tweets to Norway – in a matter of moments. So many people took up the challenge of detective and Elise, the unsuspecting 12 year old, who threw a simple message in a bottle, was not going to be able to hide anywhere!! By Sunday, after a couple of newspapers also embarked on the search, the nonplussed, reluctant celebrity Elise had been found and I received an email from her Mum to say that she…. had indeed received my letter but had not yet replied! Oops. I apologised for turning her into a semi celebrity, and I understand that she was not too upset about all the attention she was getting.
So, there are several lessons I can draw from this:
1. Patience! Perhaps I could have waited a little longer to receive a letter back from Elise before kicking off a worldwide supported search for her!
2. Twitter is an amazingly powerful tool and a lot of people love joining in a search, and solving a mystery.
3. The consequences of just one tiny action, can render big results - Just one small message in a bottle ended up being read by over 1,500 people. Now everyone knows that Elise’s favourite food is stew (well done by the way, I wish my daughter would eat stew!).
4. Everyone loves a message in a bottle!
And one lesson for Elise and indeed any child! You know, us middle aged grownups aren’t very patient about waiting for letters, and so if you’ve got a thank you card or letter due for any Christmas presents, get writing, as if not, the long arm of twitter might just come along and give you a big prod! It can be done. We’ve just proved it!
I’d like to finish with a big thank you to Elise for her lovely message in a bottle, for her teacher who threw it in the River Thames, and mostly to ALL of the people who helped track Elise down! I hope the experience and the outcome has been a fun one and that I have not embarrassed you Elise!
It’s really quite magical.
Love Nicola X
oh, and ps, now having found Elise, there is still the small matter of finding Madison from London (see my previous blog entry before this. And....there is a reward for that one!! ). Get hunting!!
Earlier this year - on 17th April 2014 to be precise, on a visit to one of my favourite little haunts along the Greenwich Thames path (my little pier of contemplation), I spotted a message in a bottle on the shore below. There happened to be another couple of people on the foreshore that day, and I nearly broke my ankle in my haste to jump down and retrieve the bottle before they saw it! On the other hand, I think that unless you are looking for a message in a bottle, you often just don't see it!
Well, landing awkwardly on the foreshore, I made a grab for the bottle (much to the surprise and amusement of the other couple), and sauntered off happily with my prize!
On opening the bottle, and reading the note, I was delighted to find that there was a phone number to call - to inform Madison, age 8, that the note had been found.
However, it was not to be, as the mobile number simply isn't correct and does not appear to work. (and I've just retried it to make sure).
So, as usual, I did embark on a twitter mission to try to trace Madison, but to this day, there has been no success.
So.... I've decided to give a prize to the person who finds her. A bit like Cinderalla and the glass slipper, except it's Madison (wasn't that the name of the mermaid in the film "Splash"?) and the prize is a Thames bottle fish - see below - made from glass collected on the very foreshore where Madison's note was found.
So, if you're up for a New Year Challenge! Please help to find Madison and let her know her message in a bottle was found. There can't be that many Madisons in London can there?
Good Luck All!
Feeling in need of a blustery walk to blow away the New Year's Eve cobwebs and clear our heads, we set off quite late in the afternoon to Cliffe, in Kent for a brisk stroll. It is one of those places which tends to collect a lot of debris on the incoming tide, and so there was always the possibility that I would find a message in a bottle. It was not until the walk back however, when the light was fading rapidly, that I spotted what I thought might be a piece of paper in a light green bottle. The bottle was actually in a field and had obviously landed there after a particularly high tide - or was blown over the river wall by a strong gust of wind. On closer examination, I could see that there was indeed a small piece of folded paper inside. I popped it in my rucksack and took it home to open it over a cup of tea. It's always nice to string out the suspense a bit! sometimes it is just a food wrapper, or a receipt, or even a blank piece of paper....
So, I'm happy to say that indeed it was a message. I was extremely fortunate to be able to read it, as it was very soggy and it took some delicate prodding with a knife to unfold it before it turned into mush. But.... success - and I could just make out the words.
If you're struggling to read the message then here is the translation: "Hi, this is Lisa, Emma, Gemma, Nathan and Michael. We have set sail from Tilbury Docks and we are stuck in the middle of the Thames. Please help us!"
Oh dear! Bit of a dilemma. With it being by now pitch black outside, very windy and stormy, and..... pretty sure that this SOS was sent a considerable time ago, I can only hope - that Lisa, Emma, Gemma, Nathan and Michael made it back ok and that they are not stranded on one of the islands in the Thames, surviving on berries, insects and washed up tins of baked beans etc...! Hopefully they made it back.
If anyone knows them - please ask them to get in touch and put my mind at rest!
As if not, I may have to send out a search party at dawn tomorrow - in the form of David and Mischa in our blow up kayak (although, maybe not a good idea as then we will probably be the ones stranded in the middle of the Thames!).
I hope you've all had a super New Year and I wish you all an abundant, happy and peaceful 2015. I look forward to sharing more finds in the weeks to come. Oh, and if you haven't seen this little documentary about my search for messages in bottles, you might enjoy it. The link is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-28904275
HAPPY NEW YEAR!! XX
This morning we set off to catch the low tide down in Greenwich. We had high hopes of doing a spot of Christmas day mudlarking, but alas, it was sludge city this morning and you would not find a thing unless you were a mud snorkeller! There was however a lot of rubbish washed up and amongst the plastic debris, there were as usual, a lot of bottles. On closer examination, I noticed that this brown bottle had a piece of paper in it. Excited?! oh yes!
What a lovely declaration of love to find on Christmas Day. And amongst the debris washed up was also a stray Christmas star decoration ,so it gave the message a rather festive feel.
The next message I found was another message of love - to Colin, who was obviously a very special person. It was in a very small tube and contained 3 letters written by members of his family on what would have been his birthday. As it was of such a person nature, I popped the letters back in the bottle, sealed it with the cork and threw it back in the River to continue it's journey.
Colin was obviously a very special person and you could really got a sense of how loved and missed he is.
The last message, which I found is also a kind of love letter to the earth, and it made us smile this Christmas morning. It's from the dolphins" (apparently!)
So three love letters from the River Thames today for Christmas! What more could I ask for. How many more secrets and stories of love is the River Thames hiding? More than we will ever know I expect. Here below are two hearts which I found this year in the Greenwich Thames mud - the stories of which I can only guess at.
Happy Christmas All. Hope your Christmas is a good one, blessed with Love and Happiness!
Some messages in bottles hold a lot more mystery than usual, and this is one of them. When I found it back in August 2014, it was particularly thrilling, as the rolled up piece of paper was in a glass bottle with a cork in it, like a real, genuine, story like message in a bottle that you might imagine washed up on a deserted island, thrown in the water by a castaway at sea - as opposed to a plastic bottle... which, of course, are great to find all the same - but well, this one just exuded excitement, by sheer virtue of the fact that it had a cork! As usual, to draw out the anticipation, I put it carefully in my rucksack out of temptation's way - ready to open after our walk, possibly over a pint of Ale at the local pub! And, so several hours later, back from our trek along the Thames Estuary, beer on the table, I prised the cork out and fished the letter from the bottle:
What a great, uplifting letter! And what you can't see, as it's hidden behind my finger, is the mobile phone number - just waiting to be called of course..... Had I perhaps won the lottery? Was Georgie going to award me a prize? Ok, Ok, we can all dream can't we? But no, really, it was such an uplifting note to find and I couldn't wait to let Georgie Manor know that I'd found his message! Was Georgie a man, or a woman?
And so the next day, I texted the mobile number on the letter, and imagining that Georgie would be as excited as me, I thought I would hear back within a millisecond. But, I waited..... and waited... and didn't hear back ...........
.....for 3 days, when I suddenly received a call on my mobile phone from a number that I did not recognise.
It was Georgie Manor, and the funny thing is, he (yes, it was a man), sounded just as I had imagined! He asked me where I found the message, and then said that he needed to tell me that he had done some bad things in his life that he wasn't proud of, and that he been involved in an armed robbery, that he had spent time in prison but that he was going to turn his life around - and that he had had plenty of time to consider his life whilst in a small cell.
Well.... it was an interesting conversation, and it left me wanting to ask more questions, but it was clear that Georgie was not going to say any more. He said he was completely uncontactable, but that one day he might like to tell me his life story - and that I sounded like quite a mad person. And I said to him that it was never too late to turn your life around - and thanks for the uplifting message in a bottle.
And that was it. That was the end of the mysterious conversation between Georgie Manor and me, and I have to be honest, I have had much luck and happiness this year so far.
I don't expect to hear back from Georgie, but wherever you are, and whoever you are and whatever you've done - I hope you continue to turn your life around and give out happiness to the world. In my experience, what you give out, comes back to you in the end. It's never too late to turn over a new leaf.
I always love finding messages in bottles from children. These next two letters which I will write about, were written by children (or should I say 1 child and 1 teenager!). They were both found this year. The first one is from a little girl called Niamh Woods from Sidcup. I found it along the Kent Coast near Egypt Bay, an evocative place with a past full of smuggling and prison hulks! You can just about make out the little note - which is a super drawing of 2 people and a little flower. I guessed it was quite old as the message was barely legible.
When I got home, I wrote to Niamh at the address on the letter and waited in anticipation to hear from her. It's always a bit unsure as to whether the address will still be the correct one. I was delighted when I received an email back from Niamh, and here it is:-
So as it happens, this message from Niamh, turned out to be a real time capsule. It nestled amongst the reeds and seaweed for 11 years before it was found when I turned a rotten piece of wood over and there it was. It was undoubtedly the fact that it was sheltered from the sunlight, that it did not become completely bleached. I expect Niamh had completely forgotten and it must have been such a surprise that someone found it. The last time that bottle was opened in 2003, she was 3! A lot has happened since then, and Niamh is now 13. What a lovely surprise to recall a little piece of your childhood all those years later. I also found a few toys that day, washed up by the tide - also symbols of childhood - and some of them were so faded and obviously old, that their previous owners are also probably much older by now....
This next letter, I was equally happy to find and thought it was a very original way indeed to find a penpal.
With this letter, I wasn't quite so lucky however. I did write to Rebecca and my 10 year old daughter was very keen to be a penfriend - but either Rebecca moved, or she had changed her mind! We never did hear back from her. Sadly there was no date, and so I don't know when the letter was put in the water (although I suspect not too long ago, as the pen is very clear to read). So if you're out there Rebecca somewhere, and you'd like to have a penfriend, then get back to me and we can arrange something. It's such a great thing these days to write and receive letters and it's a fabulous opportunity to put aside the mobiles and laptops and tablets....
Bottle mail is very unreliable, and it can take a bit of time - but.... it's worth the wait. I wonder how many more are out there waiting to be found!
If you would like to see the place where I found both Niamh's and Rebecca's letters, then do watch this little documentary about my search for messages in bottles. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-28904275
Hi, I'm Nicola - Im currently enjoying finding a variety of messages in bottles and discovering the stories behind them! you can watch a video here of a recent message in a bottle finding expedition! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-28904275