They gave me the beach back
Some days the sandy beach stretches for about half a mile down to the distant blue sea, glistening in the sun, sitting high in a cloudless sky. Seagulls sweep and soar, at times descending at speed to a few inches from the water’s surface where they scavenge and fight with others for food. Sand dunes, at the beach’s edge, flutter and sway in the gentle breeze, seemingly wistful in their shape and form. A lone boat in full sail glides into the outer reaches of the harbour, making the only ripples in a calm sea. Sunbathers stretch out, parents build sandcastles and big fort-like constructions, dog walkers exercise their dogs, families picnic, and bathers paddle around in the shallow water, timidly inching deeper into the cool sea until they can’t delay the inevitable any longer and dive headlong into the water, splashing and swimming with vigor until their bodies adjust to a wet and chilly sensation.
And then there are windy days when small white crests top the jagged-looking waves, and kite surfers race across the sea’s surface at speeds up to 40mph, changing direction at the end of their long stretches by jumping out of the water and twisting their board around 180° to head back from where they came, a feat they make easy but in reality breathtaking. Days when the wind is so strong that sand flurries swirl around, sometimes stinging your face. In winter these are bracing days, wrap up well days and days to prepare for watery eyes from the cold.
I love the beach at all times, summer and winter, sunny or not, and once I knew the beaches were open again, I headed off to West Wittering Beach, one of the UK’s best, and close to where I live. Familiar with the beach, I headed away from the popular area to round West Head to find an empty beach, peaceful and tranquil.
As I walked, I thought of Otto, one of the main characters in my novel, Otto and Frankie, due out in September. Here are the opening lines:
The water is clear. Gentle waves lap on the sand, covering for a fleeting moment a broken white shell in their effervescentfoam, and I realise I’m standing on a beach, a beach I know and love, but I have no idea how I come to be in this place.It’s as though I’ve woken to find myself here, conveyed like in a sci-fi movie from one point in time to another, unaware of the journey: no sensation, no memory, no recollection of anything. A breeze on my face, a bright sun shining in the blue sky, a flat, clear sparkling sea, clean sand and emptiness – no people, no dogs, just an open space. Low tide, mud flats stretching for miles, and across the water an island, Hayling Island I think, gleaming in the still, morning light… More