Summer fog obscures the view to seaward but ashore the air is clear beneath the solid white sky. The red sandstone of the headland is emerging but its crown of conifers is still just a smudge of green on the mist.Our river meets the sea by that headland. It’s a great place to swim. The brackish water has carved a pool between the sandstone and the pebbled bank of the beach. I’m not swimming, though. It’s early, the kids are at school and I’m at the other end of the beach, at a picnic table, drinking coffee.
To my right, the sea is pawing at the shore. It’s a quiet, calming sound between the occasional rumble and crash of the breakers. Above and below the surf’s rhythm is the low rattle of stones being dragged back by the undertow and the piercing gossip of predatory gulls that are staking out my table. The owner of the kiosk where I bought my coffee has a dog and she knows something that the gulls don’t. She’s realised that I have no food on my table and is now ignoring me. You’d think the gulls would twig – after all, they have a birds-eye view.
The first time I came to this café was on the way to the railway station. My sister brought me here before I set off on the long journey to my home in a northern seaside town. It was a hot sunny morning and I wanted to stay. I didn’t want to go home and look at the North Sea, I wanted to stay here by the Channel. Now, I am home. I’ve moved back to the South West and my soul feels easier. I am very lucky.
I have no good reason to tell you all this, I just want to. And I hope that, wherever you are, there is a place like this for you – somewhere that you can top up on tranquility and lose yourself in daydreams.
I have to go now, I want another coffee but I only have a £20 note. Best I climb back up the cliff to the town and get some change …