A moment beside the sea, at Burnham Overy.
I rinse coffee out of mugs and drain toast crumbs away watching swifts swoop through the blue sky. Diving towards red roof tiles they sing of summer beside the sea. Their joyful chirruping calls me into the garden. I wander through the gate into the lane. I want to play in the landscape they see.
My path is a grassy verge undulating along the lane between a sagging pebble wall and a strip of warm tarmac. The wall of bobbles and bricks breaks for an occasional cottage gate. A background buzz of bees enjoy purple wild flowers, birds swoop into ancient rafters, although I am walking I feel still as I approach the end of New Road.
The thick air begins to lighten as I cross into Harbour Way. There’s an aperture change, I have a sense of the sea. A poppy red telephone box is on guard at the road’s entryway. It’s a relatively recent inhabitant of this hamlet which has been here since before records began.
I feel that I'm walking in the steps of a fisherman's wife. My body understands the human history, my eyes pull to look out to sea. A row of tiny cottages line the shore. One room wide, they are cosy, bijou holiday homes. Glass fronted retreats to while away the morning tide. Life here would not have always been this idyllic.
Rope as thick as my arm loops a boundary to the four miniature gardens, paved and planted now where once piles of soggy nets and stacked crab cages would have been. The handwritten block in the centre of the white washed wall signs life since 1764. I can smell warm stone melted by centuries of weather. Protected from the sea breeze the air tastes of mellow sweet brine.
At the end of the row the view opens up to reveal the arrival of the River Burn. Its cool water idly moves through a creek of reedy grass banks and beds of dark mud. Above the estuary a seagull caws and the boats in the yard tink-tink their rigging against masts waiting for their turn on the water. Oily diesel tinctures the air as I cross the harbour car park towards the jetty. A small crowd is gathered at the jetty's edge. The bare legged figures turn and wave, “Mummy we’ve caught a crab!”
“Wonderful!” I wave back.
They hold a bucket or string in one hand, the other shields their squinting eyes from the sunlight behind me. I keep walking.
My sandals crunch on the gravely concrete in-front of the boathouse. Domineering the seafront with austere functionality, its open oak doors and looming shadow offer a steady calm welcome. The road becomes a beach, rocks become road, road becomes rocks with sand in-between. Samphire pushes prehistoric green tendrils through the brown edge of the banked beach. It sparsely covers the landscape next to the quay with an illusion of grass. Although the tide cleans the beach twice a day its rocks are smothered in dirty dark green. It's an awkward scene to walk through. I want to be in the sea.
I stop to remove my sandals. The sand is now thick, oozing, smoothing mud all over my feet. Nature has left her mark on everything. I pioneer a path between rocks, carefully looking for a route that won’t tip me off my feet. Small wooden boats floating on anchors watch me approach the water's edge, sliding into each step. My heels slip into the cool thick darkness and my toes involuntarily move to balance my weight in the mud. I hold the straps of my sandals in the hook of my finger, my other arm is out stretched like the horizon.
The river ambles between its high sandy banks knowing the sea will soon open to greet it. I can feel my family behind me, my ears trained to catch their shrieks on the breeze.
Their laughing makes my smile wide. The sun warms my back as my feet numb. Occasionally rocks hidden in the depths push against my bones, the pain of their pummeling tightens my chest. The water is cold, it sucks my breath out to sea. I wade in, up to my knees, finding a sandy path between boulders in the silty blue-green. I turn and stand to see small faces peering over the edge of the jetty towards me. We are brimming with glee.