14 April 2015
Late afternoon, or early evening given that it was after five and touristic groups were beginning to arrive to pre-dinner drinks. Beesands has undergone trauma these past two years: the storms of two winters ago which battered the road above the strand that was once a sea defence; heavy machinery to delight the heart of many-a-three-year-old with their manly but futile attempts to repair the damage; and this winter despite moderate weather and a shortage of storms and even of rain, the damage has continues. Bits of defensive rock and then the last remnants of what used to be the place where the fishermen came to park (95% of them are, it seems, men, so this term feels acceptable even in these days of gender-neutralisation) have fallen into the sea, or left their parts strewn across the beach, taken up the beach by the gentle but relentless longshore drift.
Today, this evening, despite this continuing slide and despite that fact that local commercial fishermen can still not land here as they have done probably for hundreds of years, Beesands felt relaxed and in holiday mood. It’s the week after Easter week and most schools have now gone back, taking with then many of the holidaying families. Left in their wake are ageing tourists and, according to words of the fish and chip seller ‘young honeymooners’. They are gathering now, thinking about their day, greeting friends, planning food for later, sitting by the sea and sharing drinks and laughter.
And the sea. The sea is also in holiday mood, calm, gentle, whispering its high-tideness almost with embarrassment. It may be time in the diurnal round to come back to shore, but today it will do only in the gentlest way possible, lapping like a lake rather than roughing up like an adolescent or angry man. As each wave caresses the shore, it stirs up the newly-arrived shingle, leaving a little cloud of sand which quickly settles back. The shingle is hopeful, beginning now to encroach back on the stairs that once upon a time – well until a couple of years ago – led down to the beach or directly into the sea. Since then it has only led to a mid-air collision with the surrounding rocks, giant rocks that now affront the sand-less beach. But the beach, as it always will, is coming back after its ravaging by those century-blasting storms. The wooden stairs now end in shingle, just coming over the first step. When the tide is lower, they deposit you gently onto the fine shingle beach rather than threatening you with a fall onto rock.
The fishermen are not so fortunate. The rude concrete jetty once so proudly leading into the water now ends abruptly with its iron mould which would at one time have been underwater now ending simply in mid-air. It will be a very long time before the shingle comes back far enough to allow for safe passage of boats on and off this jetty. It has changed the nature of the village which at one time shared fish and those who caught them with the tourists and pleasure line fishermen.
Despite the fact that we are still very much in late Spring, the weather has felt both summer-like and yet not, with harsh northerly and easterly winds reminding the weak flesh that winter was not so long ago and that any effrontery to assume that the sun is a warming, life-giving thing is a foolish misunderstanding of nature. The land is warming however, and the collision with a cold sea and with warming are masses is creating offshore fog banks that at the beginning and end of each day come ashore, blotting out the sun and the near distance. This evening, for by now it is so, the effect is magical. The gentle riffles on the water are slowly erased as the mist begins to enshroud the water, softening them to the point of silvery invisibility. The air itself becomes a silvery grey as the late summer rays commingle with the incoming fog to create an extraordinary illusion of light and colour.
It feels as though the world is being erased before our eyes.