The sea and me

I’ve lived in the UK for over five years now and I’ve come to realise how inescapable the sea is. It is the place where I can travel no further with trains or my bike. I come to a stop and imagine France, Canada, or Norway on the other side of where I am even though the distances and places are often obscure to me.

Of course, I knew before moving that Britain is an island. I’ve seen it on maps for years, looming over France in a history full of conflicts and complicated relationship. I’ve looked up at it, yearning to learn more about it before finally making the jump. But I never considered its border with the sea. You don’t need a boat to go to the UK nowadays, you don’t even have to acknowledge that there is a sea around it. I certainly ignored it.

But then, I went exploring the country and the smell of salt began to permeate my journeys. I took regular trips to the seaside, drawn to the edges of this new home of mine rather than to the lands inside. I saw the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters, I’ve walked along the rugged Jurassic Coast, I’ve watched the Irish Sea lap the coast of Wales, I’ve plunged into the Atlantic Ocean in Northern Ireland, and I’ve been overwhelmed by the North Sea in the Orkney Islands.

I come back again and again to the water, watch and listen.

Those are not the water of my childhood to be enjoyed and played in. Those I fear. They enclave me on an island and in an odd way I feel at their mercy. They could rise up and swallow the land. They lick the stone and melt the borders. They are mighty and I am frail.

I should avoid them, stay inland and explore the hills and fields of the countryside, safe on solid ground. But I don’t. Know your enemy, they say. So I travel to the seas. I explore their edges and familiarise myself with their rhythms.

The pebbles sing under my shoes, the sand hums under my bare feet, the waves mark the passage of time. I listened to it all and fell in love.

The ever changing seascape stopped being immense as I went from place and place and discovered local plants and scenery. Piers and sea defences made me feel welcome, myths and legends weaved stories through my head, and the raucous sound of the pebbles being called back to the sea and foam fizzing on the sand became a treat to be cherished by the shore.

Those are not the water of my childhood to be enjoyed and played in. Those I respect. They sing for me and in and odd way protect me and bound me to the land. They come and go, faithful and reliable. They wash over my feet and bid me welcome. They are mighty and I am humbled.

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10 thoughts on “The sea and me

  1. I feel the same as you do. The times I spent at the seaside where always marvellous, even when I froze and shivered on that certain day in Jurmala… The seaside is amazing and I feel, that my trips through Latvia and the world will always somehow draw me to the sea… I have to admit that I haven’t visited anything but London on my trips to the UK- any suggestions for the next time? I have 3 months of summer holidays (like real holidays, no exams, no work, no fussing around.. it is gorgeous πŸ˜‰ ) and plan to visit London and do some trips into the countryside πŸ˜‰

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    • The sea is amazing, isn’t it. It’s everywhere and yet always so different.

      I’d recommend Brighton for a lively seaside resort by the shore. Hastings is good fun too. It’s another seaside resort but there are also great walks around there on top of cliffs. I’d definitely recommend Devn and Cornwall too. The coast is very different there, more rugged and less crowded if you go out of season.
      I loved my time in the Orkney Islands. It was just impossible to escape the water (whether sea or loch) and would definitely recommend a trip there (althought it’s not as easily accessible). I keep hearing and seeing good things about the Scottish west coast but I’ve sadly never made it there. Basically, anywhere should be good by the seaside ^^ I have yet to be disappointed by what I find there.

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      • Thank you! Like… Thanks a lot! I will definitely go and check some of them out on the internet and will decide then… Because I just have to see the british coast… The sea is as you said to similar but so different at the same time depending on the place you visit… In the carribbean it was so wonderful to find out that each island has a different kind of water… Sometimes it’s clear, sometimes it is somehow milky due to the swirling sand… But it was always wonderful to swim in there… Thank you for that soundcloud thing btw… There was a test in anatomy scheduled for today (the surprise kind of test) and I was learning the whole week, starting from last tuesday… The seasounds prevented me from getting totally lunatic- and the professor just told us today that – as we all studied for an exam – there is none. Because all of us studied anyways… I thought of hitting him for a few moments… Or taking him to my flat, forcing him to do all the housework that assembled during the last week as I was studying 24/7… So I think I’ll plan some vacation now, watch a bit of ‘Sherlock’ and sleep for 12 hours straight πŸ˜‰

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      • No problem πŸ™‚
        I’m glad to hear the seaside sounds brought some relief in that intensive study period. I find field recordings great for that. There’s plenty of them on SoundCloud if you want more πŸ™‚

        It does sound like you deserve a nice break. Enjoy the sleep and Sherlock ^^

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      • I’ve just found that there is a whole bunch of them… Amazing πŸ˜‰
        Yeah… It got ‘The imitation game’ instead of sherlock- It’s all about Benedict Cumberbatch, you know? I think its the voice… So smooth… πŸ˜‰

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  2. Dar Williams, one of my favorite musicians sang about the ocean saying, “I thought the ocean, the ocean thought nothing.” It’s come back into my head anytime I’ve walked along a seashore, and shaped how I feel about the ocean. After all, I’m landlocked, and it’s a good ten to twelve hour drive to the nearest coastline… But I digress. It’s amazing how some waters are protective and welcoming, while others are threatening and frightful. Is it just the nature of the waves at different locations? Or could Dar be wrong and perhaps the ocean does have a thought about us?

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    • I hadn’t heard of that song. Thanks for sharing it πŸ™‚
      That line does make a good summary of the ocean.

      It’s probably a whole… the waves, the coast line, the sand, and what people have built around it. When I went cycle touring in Kent, there were a lot of sea defences and houses built high up on the cliffs. The sea felt detached from people in that sense. It was there but kept at bay – so in a sense more dangerous. But when I was in the Orkney Islands, the sea was everywhere. Houses and beaches were easily accessible. I knew there must be bad storms in winter but people seemed to have adapted to it and know the limits of their control over the waters. So maybe, it’s more a matter of what we think of the ocean, how we view it and choose to live with it.
      Those are very good questions. You have certainly got me thinking. I’m sure I’ll give it some more thoughts while on my travels πŸ™‚

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      • I have a tendency to see everything as having its own personality, I suppose. I’m a bit of an animist I guess, but I think you’re right about how people get to know their limits. Maybe they also get to know the personality of the spot a little too. Or maybe I’m just a bit of a romantic!

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  3. Another great post Allysse – wonderful words about something close to my heart. I love the second recording with the rhythm of the waves and the flow of the water over the pebbles. I know Lyme Regis but have a slightly uncomfortable memory of going out on one of the fishing boats with my daughter when the wind was high and all the other boats had stopped taking people. My daughter was fine but when the boat turned to come back into harbour, the change of direction over the waves made me feel very unwell and I’m told I went a very strange colour. Lol, happy memories – glad I can laugh now πŸ™‚

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