I realised yesterday, on my way to Brighton, that for the last thirty years I’ve lived within touching distance of the sea. Now, I’m possibly as detached as I have been – but if I walk up the hill at the back of our house and climb to the top of the university library that stands there in amongst the heinousness of the other university buildings (it isn’t a place I like) there’s an aisle of books I’ve found from where I know I can see the coast. On bright days there’s a fierce glow in the distance where the two giant chimneys of the Richborough Towers power station used to stand. Those are gone now, blown up one Sunday morning, but the sea still makes a mirror for the sun down there, and if you know where to look you can find it if you want to think of the sound of the waves and the smell of the sea. Or I can drive to Seasalter:
It’s fifteen minutes away and a lot more interesting than Dungeness, which seems like a kind of a relative. Over the estuary there’s Sheppey.
I’m still in touch with the sea.
But what has it been about the sea? I think it’s the open space that I’ve craved. Other places, the Highlands or Dartmoor, have given me as much. Now, I find it interesting I’m as far from the sea as I’ve allowed myself; and in myself I haven’t felt better. There’s a restlessness I’ve come to recognise by remaining still: the same people in my life, the same job. And I answer it more like this, by looking it in the eye and seeing what happens if I mention it. You need good people around you to do that. I don’t need the sea, or the sky, or the heather to soak me up.
I can’t remember the last time I went into the library unless it was to get a book.