The weather today was very unpleasant, with driving rain and blustery winds. I found myself agreeing to a trip to Highcliffe. After all, we were going to get wet anyway, so why not at the seaside?
Jackie drove me to the clifftop and pointed out the Isle of Wight, quite near, but only just discernible in the grey gloom. She thought I might want a nice bracing walk along the seashore. I thought I might wander around a new town. In fact I did both. We agreed a meeting time and point. I left her heading for a carpark as I set off along the high street. Having realised that Highcliffe town centre had far more than it’s share of House Clearance Specialists, Charity Shops, and Funeral Directors, I decided I wasn’t quite ready for it, and turned back to the coast. The wind furling and unfurling The Solent was so strong that it held me up as I descended from the upper level. On my return, it helped me up. Seagulls were drinking from rainwater puddles in a park. I’ve never thought of it before, but perhaps they don’t drink seawater.
Waves crashed against the stone breakwaters, one of which was having its ingredients arranged by a grabbing crane. It’s flag fluttered violently. Foaming spume clung to the pebbles and the rocks, quivering until the gusts of wind ripped chunks off it and flung them into the air to land on grass some distance away, like anaemic candyfloss fallen from a child’s fairground treat. Then I heard the sound of pebbles on Dover Beach. Matthew Arnold’s poem of that name had entranced me in my teens as he described ‘…the grating roar of pebbles on the beach……….. begin and cease, and then begin again, with tremulous cadence slow….’. The ‘begin and cease’ seemed to me perfectly to catch the sliding of pebbles grating together as the water slipped back down the beach ready for the next assault. Through the buffeting of the wind and the clashing of the sea against the breakwaters a snatch of that music came to me as if in a vacuum and brought back a poem I hadn’t read for more than fifty years.
After meeting Jackie we had a late afternoon main meal of gammon steaks and sticky toffee pudding in the Globe Inn, during which I learned that she had done the rounds of the Charity and House Clearance shops and bought a number of treasures for our new home. We returned to one and bought a beautifully made oval brass Indian tray table. I told the proprietor his shop looked like my Mum’s sitting room. He replied that a lot of people had said that.
This evening I read a bit more of A.L.Rowse’s ‘The England of Elizabeth which I had begun a couple of days ago.