On Sunday 25th January 2015, we were walking along the beach between Portnadler Bay and Looe in Cornwall, UK. Having dropped off all my work at the National Martime Museum Cornwall for my exhibition Stranded, I couldn’t resist the urge to head to the coast for a spot of beachcombing.
Walking close to the cliffs, I had been scouring for interesting treasures that could have become tangled in vegetation and to my delight, I spotted a small glass bottle with what appeared to be a note inside!
The following video shows the moment I open the damp piece of paper and try to read the message inside.
So the message appeared to be written by Charlie thanking Santa for their Christmas presents. It was written in blue biro on a blue square of paper in the handwriting of a young child. Many of the words have been written phonetically, so why not try reading the following out loud as I was trying to do in the video:
My name is charlie
Dir santer I wont
to sa fang you
fo giving me
My translation of the message is thus: My name is Charlie. Dear Santa I want to say thank you for giving me presents.
I found it interesting that Charlie dropped this message in the sea two weeks before Christmas, perhaps to send thanks early to be sure Santa would remember their presents!
I spotted the bottle tangled in some tall grasses about a mile from Looe just over a month after it was written. It is my guess that it had been thrown in the sea locally and become lodged in vegetation after a high tide. Without any clue as to the source, all we can do is speculate. For me, this is where the wonder lies, as I ponder who Charlie is, whether they are a boy or a girl and what they opened on Christmas morning.
I am intrigued that a child would think to use a message in a bottle as a means of contacting Father Christmas. In my childhood, letters would be written then burned on the fire with the understanding that our words would be taken up the chimney to the North Pole. On reflection, the message in a bottle method sounds like a more reliable method!