Would You Like to Live by the Sea?
Since going self-employed as a freelance I have found a great deal of help and support on various writers’ forums and websites. These sites serve as a valuable platform where dialogue is discussed and split infinitives are dissected. Through this activity I have befriended many fellow scribblers from all over the country (and beyond) and I communicate with some on a regular basis. Aside from writing we talk about more humdrum things, and one aspect of my life that stirs up a friendly envy in those of my compatriots who live in land-locked counties, is my close proximity to the golden sands of Blyth Beach.
As I spend hours of most days working from my computer at home, I often take my lunch break at the beach for a walk in the fresh air and a change of scenery. I relay this information to my fellow writers and, of course, I do play up to their envy by embellishing the assets of what is already a lovely stretch of coastline, possibly to the extent that their mental image of my local beach is something akin to the Copacabana itself.
So while many landlubbers are still enchanted by the novelty of the sea, for people like me, who have lived by its ebb and flow for years, the coast must be as ordinary as a streetlight. You would think so, but in fact I still find the coast as fresh and exciting as I did as a small child making sandcastles and enjoying egg and tomato sandwiches (with added sand). I was recently on the pier at Tynemouth and the sheer power of the waves crashing and seething was almost mesmerising. And with the scenery of the coast changing constantly according to the weather and tide, it is a feature of my surroundings that I will never tire of.
But, as the man said, every rose has its thorns and coastal living is not the complete idyll that I project to my writing friends. There are downsides like sea frets, seagulls, pungent smells and foghorns, and the last of these are a particular bugbear with me.
Although modern GPS systems can pinpoint a ship’s position to the barnacle, there is, apparently, still the need for an audible warning to keep vessels clear of coastal hazards. And, I discovered on an episode of the TV programme Coast, each foghorn must have its own sound so that sailors can discern which is which. I can vouch for this as I hear three from my bedroom, particularly on those summer nights when sea frets are most common and I must have the bedroom window open because of the heat.
I hear the deep bass sound of the Tyne horn, the dismal drone of the one here in Blyth and a high-pitched one somewhere off in the distance (I swear they did Bohemian Rhapsody one night). While the foghorn raises a laugh as the doorbell in The Addams Family, and it adds atmosphere to a coastal episode of Scooby Doo, the reality is that it is a miserable sound specifically made to remind us that it is miserable outside.
So would I ever let this occasional nuisance drive me into moving inland? Perhaps, when the North Sea freezes over.
For one friend from the West Midlands (or, ‘er inland, as Arthur Daley might have put it), the chance to cadge a lift from her friend and spend a few hours at the beach with me was too good to miss. And so, before you could say ‘jellyfish alert’, we were in the queue at the café just opposite the sands.
Although it was a bitterly cold day in April, with leaden sky and icy wind, we ate chips on the ample seating that is provided at the recently revamped beach area. After her post-lunch cigarette, which she had considerable difficulty lighting such was the strength of the wind, we made our way down to the beach.
As soon as we reached the sand she unzipped her boots and kicked them off. I looked at her in astonishment.
“It’s freezing,” I said, “you’re surely not going in.”
“Of course I am,” she said, “I haven’t seen the sea for about three years.”
“Well I just saw it last week, so I’ll stay here,” I said, and off she went paddling in the angry foam.
This is the extent of the attraction of the seaside to those who do not have the opportunity to visit it on a regular basis. I remember that a similar thing happened years ago when I had arranged for a rock band from Batley in West Yorkshire to come to play at a local bar. They wanted to see the sea so I took them to the beach on a November afternoon. They immediately jettisoned all footwear and ran into the shallows, laughing and shivering in equal measure.
Photos are all my own.