Monday, April 13, 2015

By the sea

I love being by the sea. I try to make it to the seaside  at least once every year - more if I can. Not always a seaside holiday, but a visit just long enough to hear that crash of surf, to taste the tang of salt in the air, and to enjoy the view of open sea and beach.

Today I went to Happisburg (check pronounciation, it'll amaze) in Norfolk. Only a short visit, but long enough to let my eyes stretch over the blue - for the sky and the sea to meet, for clouds to loom and lower, and for distant seagulls to appear like flotsam upon the waves. I got my fix.

Many years ago I wrote a song with the lines 'I hear the sea and it calls to me, I feel the sea and it draws me in, I am beckoned by the ocean like the wolf is by the moon'. That is how I feel when I see the sea - it's like the sirens are there, calling me, saying come into the water, into the arms of the loving ocean. Of course I don't go, I am tied to the mast of reality and the call is like an echo, not the irresistible voice of the siren but a memory of the desire.
Brighton - our vanity in ruins

That may sound a little crazy, but how many people do you know who want to live or retire and be by the sea? Why do we populate the shores of this small island where our houses might (and do) fall into the sea, where a rising tide can flood our homes, and where the storms can strike our presence from the very soil upon which we build? I think it is an island people thing. This is a small country, and wherever you are you don't have to go too far to find the sea.

I don't want to retire to the seaside though; I love the remote beaches where no penny-arcade has yet dared to plant its glittering lights, yet I fear the bleak emptiness of isolation and the power of a sea unchecked. There must be some place that fits between the two - not too commercial, yet not too remote, but I haven't found it yet.

Seaside visits do me just fine in the meantime. I can birdwatch, if the weather is fine I can paddle or swim, and if I were to have children with me again (and even if I did not), then I could build sandcastles and a mock Stonehenge from beach stones and driftwood.

If you want to see me thoughtful, but in truth happy, just take me to the sea.

Photos: all (C) Carolyn Sheppard.

Letter to Philip

Dear Phil

Before I start my letter, just a quick aside to anyone reading this who isn’t you. If you are wondering why I am writing to my brother on here, it’s quite simple. I don’t know where he is so this is how I write to him. 

I was reminded of something that happened when we were kids. My friend told me about a girl who walked into a pond covered in duckweed and hadn’t realised it wasn’t solid ground. I remember Nick’s dog, Dusty, doing almost the same thing at Hope Cove. At least I think that’s where it was – where the in-shore pond by the rocks that was filled with weed when the tide went out looked like a small green lawn. And Dusty, enthusiastic dog that she was, ran full pelt into it expecting it to be solid ground. Dog’s faces can show surprise.

Hope Cove
It was good to have those two dogs, Dusty and Petra, in our childhood. I remember Petra jumping from the bridge at the Pig and Whistle on the way down to Devon. We would often stop there as our half-way point. No M4 in those days. Were we in a big old Humber, or were we in the Reliant?  I only just remember the Reliant, sliding about in the back on yellow plastic mats. No seats, let alone seat belts.

I’m sure you remember these things better than I do; my memories of childhood aren’t that many. I remember certain things that could be constructed memories (from stories or photographs), and I remember things that can only have been my memories – such as riding a tricycle in the ward at Great Ormond Street hospital, and a huge room where I had to go with mum for ‘breathing practice’.
Sally told me about taking me to the psychiatrist for my asthma – and of me rolling out plasticine into long rolls. “Very phallic” the doc is supposed to have said. And mother, now, says ‘and of course I just plonked you into a bath with your brother. Phallic indeed – what else can you do with plasticine except roll it out?’  Although I would argue that now (I make faces and animals out of blu-tac all the time), I would think when I was four it probably was all I could do with it. I don’t think sharing a bath when we were kids was the cause of my asthma somehow. 

Why am I going over these memories? Because they are far and few between I guess, and maybe me talking about some of the stuff I do remember will trigger more memories, and some in you too. Hopefully good ones.  

Enough of the past – a quick update on my life: My new job is with a wildlife conservation charity. I love fundraising; some people think it’s a horrible job about just asking people for money, but it’s about a lot more than that to me. It’s about taking responsibility, and taking action. I enjoyed my time at the medical research charity, but I’m back in the area that I feel most passionate about, so I am happy, even though this job is very busy and demanding. I am learning a lot too. It’s all good; I have never liked being bored in a job. 

Well, they say that internet posts shouldn’t be much more than 500 words, so I guess letters on line shouldn’t either.

I know it’s your choice to remain unfound, and I respect that Phil. But I do still think of you, often. 

Photo credit: