In 1957 Colin Soudain began to decorate his house with shells. Over the years he accumulated so many mollusc shells, decorating every inch of the property, that he could boast it was the largest collection of mollusc shells in the world. As a kid the place was magical and ridiculous. We would go there and enjoy the artistry, and he would often be there, eccentric, presiding over his creation with a patrician air.
On his death he bequeathed this labour of love to The Jersey National Trust. He didn’t have a specific clause in his will to say they had to keep it open. You’d think that it was implied in the gesture. But the Jersey National Trust shrugged. “It’s ours to do with as we please,” they said. “And anyway, it’s got no disabled access.” So before his body was cold they flogged it to some geezer – probably related to somebody in the trust – and he tore the whole place down. I expect it’s flats now. Maybe there’s a laminated picture of a shell in a hallway. There are rats in this island, and some of them are people. I hope they get haunted, the ones who made that decision. I hope they wake up to find shells in their beds. I hope the ghost of Colin Soudain causes them decades of shell-related annoyance before one day they wake up with a jolt and say “I’m a complete bastard!” out loud in a revelatory tone.
I was thinking of places to go, this beautiful Sunday, that I remember from my youth. The Shell Garden has been eaten by rats as described above. The Fantastic Tropical Gardens are flats as well. I hope they are fantastic flats. I’ve done the zoo and the weekend is not the right time to go back there. So I stuck a pin in the map and I’ve driven to St Catherine’s slipway. It’s not artistic. There are no shells stuck anywhere. But there’s sun, a whole hell of a lot of boats and an Amazing Sand Sculpture, which is free and probably like those sand dog things that cropped up in London a few years ago with a proud looking grifter holding a donation bucket. The dogs turned out to be moulded and dropped like a sandcastle bucket, causing all sorts of outrage. The amazing sand sculpture is the real deal though, in a geodesic dome tent right next to a shop that sells the impossibly tall ice cream cones that everybody I have seen so far today is eating.
The dome is apparently the only green dome in Europe. Simon the Sand Wizard is thinking of selling it before long. He runs on donations from visiting coach parties who come to the café nearby. He’s made a huge fairytale out of sand and he hangs out next to it making conversation, smoking and accepting donations in exchange for postcards. I expect he hasn’t been raking it in this year. I was the only person in there.
He built the dome around an existing sand sculpture, and then be realised it had to be ventilated as the Jersey council wouldn’t allow it without it being green, and the reason why they are usually white is to reflect the sun. He’s rigged up loads of pumps to blow air about the place. It’s a huge bother for the occasional donation from a tourist, especially in a year where there are no tourists. I would say go bung the guy enough to buy a sandwich but it’s in Jersey. You can’t get here too easily yet. I have him a fiver.
At least the sand sculpture is ephemeral by nature. He’ll likely change it when he gets bored of it. I guess it gives him something to do, and when he dies it’s not gonna get turned into flats.