I was born in Cornwall, that rugged, mystical peninsula in the far south-west of the island, and my first years were spent in the port town of Falmouth. We moved away when I was very young to Haywards Heath in Mid-Sussex but returned every year to the coast of Cornwall for our Summer holidays. In between, we took the caravan to Pevensey. No surprise then that some of my fondest memories are of time spent by the seashore.
When I left home my first independent abode was in Bognor Regis, then on to the western edge of Brighton where I have lived ever since. I’ve considered moving further inland, but the truth is I’m a coastal Druid. I think I will probably see out my life with the sound of the waves within an easy walk.
So what is the attraction of the sea?
In truth, I love most things about it. From fresh seafood to the smell of seaweed cooking in the Summer sunshine on the beach (not a smell many people like to be sure), I adore the call of gulls and other sea birds, I love the mythology and legends of the sea – from Mermaids to Davey Jones’ Locker – when I see a Tall Ship in full sail my heart literally beats faster. I’ve often wondered if this is somehow connected to a past-life experience, or maybe it’s a similar feeling I get when I hear the sound of a Merlin engine as a Spitfire flies overhead – Britain’s Navy has been the saviour of this little island on a number of occasions, as was that amazing aircraft.
Then there are the sea shanties, songs sung whilst balancing on the mainmast letting loose the sails, or on deck drawing up the anchor. I love sea shanties. I might even record an album of them one day.
As I now walk the shoreline I sometimes let my imagination free and try to visualise what the area was like, when people stood there, looking out to sea and watching for white sails upon the horizon. The sea has a massive impact on where I live too. There have been times when I’ve driven back from the OBOD office in Lewes, the Sun shining above in a clear sky, but as I cross the South Down onto the Sussex Coastal Plain, the Sun disappears, as does the blue sky, as I and my entire town are engulfed in a thick sea mist. It’s magical. Otherworldly.
A forest is a place of magic, there is no doubt, but so is the shoreline. It’s a liminal place where land, sky and sea meet, and what could be more magical than that. It’s a place where all of the senses are heightened and engaged, and there is a great tradition of coastal magic. From catching the wind in knots on a piece of rope to give to the sailor or fisherman should the wind drop and they find themselves in the ‘doldrums’, to the traditions attached to ‘Hag Stones’ (stones with holes in their centre). The Mermaids Purse (a dogfish egg-case), working with the ‘Seventh Wave’, or the tides as they wax and wane each day. The path of light made upon the surface of the ocean by the Moon, like a magical walkway that leads to the Heart of the Mysteries, or the cry of seabirds who some still believe are the souls of drowned sailors. The sea is a place of tangible magic.
Maybe it’s no surprise that the people who live upon this island have such a love of the sea. It surrounds us. Even in the centre of the land, we are still so close to a shoreline. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live in a land-locked country. To this island-dweller that sounds so foreign and strange. Almost unimaginable. Right now a strong South-Westerly is blowing. Where I live there is nothing to protect us from the wind as it draws in from the English Channel – the weather here on the coast is ruled by the sea.
So enough of this writing about the sea.
The brine is calling me.
Time to take Oscar once more down to the shore, to listen to the music of the waves, and the chorus of Gulls, to breathe the salt, salt air, and commune with the Gods.