Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The other end of the year

We went head to head once more. It was inevitable. When we said our goodbye, when I closed the door, I knew it was the last time I would see you. I looked into the blank space you left behind with quiet curiosity and felt like I could breathe again. I wrapped up to go and catch the last hour of February daylight. 

Alone on the beach, I walked on low tide sand that shone pale metallic blue on it's higher edges. A strange light was left after a huge storm that was racing out to sea like an arm cast out ahead and pointing. Veils of rain and hail were dragged along behind it in drapes that seemed to carve huge distances into the sky. The sun glowed like a cooling bronze disc behind layers of shrouding cloud. The warmth of sunset pink lay like embers on a bank of low cloud in the west - the kind that looks like a distant land you could walk into if you were there.

The sea rolled to shore in idyllic surfer dude waves, like from the other end of the year. Strong enough to stand on and long-lived enough to carry you riding to the shallows, each wave seemed to be sculpted to perfection, held almost at bay by the ruthless biting wind coming off the land. Sheltered down there in the wildest place in town, the buildings protected me from it's teeth. 

I watched black grit clouding with sand as the waves sucked the last foaming tide away and left those strange river delta patterns that I so love. I was in a beautiful solitude. It felt like a restoration. It felt like a gift.  

I heard it draw closer. The hail was sweeping in on another tide. I ran for scanty cover by the beached wreck of the West Pier. I never saw it look so menacing a cage against the frowning sky. I stood next to the depths of it's echoing shell, the brutal arms of it's spiked beams. Mists of hail swirled and speckled down, and the world lost it's colour. Then came the sudden loss of sound as percussion became silence and the air suddenly softened with huge snowflakes and their hypnotic flight against the background hiss of the tide. Dark monotone was turning into brilliant white.  

I zipped up my wet pockets and my feet were running to the next beach with a new found energy, like my legs came directly out of the pot of anger in my fuelled belly. The next stretch of sand was the widest low tide beach I've seen for months and as I ran into that temporary place, I wondered what my running limbs would look like to someone looking down at this view from up high in one of the hotel windows?  Would I be a stick figure? A small spiky calligraphy? A moving dot? I felt wonderfully small. I felt wonderfully alive and wonderfully free.

My face was glowing in the bitter wind and snow, and as I turned for home in the darkening remnants of light, I caught a glimpse of a triangle of  blue sky racing behind a chimney stack. It was breaking free from the grasp of the dark storm. The light broke through the downpour for a moment and I wanted to be indoors, sitting beside a cinematic window with an epic view of this sky drama. I wanted to see this evening from every window of the house.

Brighton beach is covered in pebbles - ouch on bare feet! At really low tides there are stretches of sand to enjoy but they are far rarer than I would like. Let's face it, we can't always make it to the beach at 2.30 am just to enjoy walking barefoot! So this low tide that I wrote about was even more special coming on so dramatic a day.