Walking along the seafront here, today, I was reminded why I chose to move here. I’d toyed for years with the thought of moving to the coast ‘one day’ but, perhaps, in my head, that probably meant ‘when I retire’. I realised nine years ago, though, that there was nothing stopping me doing it there and then – so I did.
I find the sea so relaxing when it’s calm – just sitting and looking at it calms me. And the smell – even the strong seaweed smell that we sometimes get here and which some other people hate – reminds me of happy childhood holidays. I like to paddle and feel the water and sand between my toes. I like the sound of the waves – gentle or rough – and the feel and sound of the pebbles beneath my feet.
There’s something about the raw power of the sea that fascinates me, too – it’s as if it knows it has it, but is holding back when it’s gently lapping at the shore – and then when it’s stormy and blustery, it’s as if it’s fully expressing itself, making itself heard!
Even though I’ve lived here for a few years, now, the novelty hasn’t worn off. I don’t live right on the seafront and still occasionally get that same lurch in my stomach as I walk or drive towards it that I remember as a child when we got our first glimpse of the sea on the way to family holidays.
I love the juxtaposition of countryside and coast – and of town centre and sea. Growing up inland meant, for me, that the countryside and the seaside were two very separate things – and I still can’t get over the fact that, here, the town centre is located right next to the seafront – people who were born here probably think me odd but, to me, this feels strange and exciting, even now.
This puts me in mind of how things can seem so different, to different people, depending on each person’s own life experience, values and beliefs. For example, if you were a Martian, just visiting Earth, walking along the part of the seafront where dogs can be let off leads, what might you think when you saw a person scooping up their dog’s poop into a little plastic bag and depositing it in the appropriate bin? Would you think the person (the dog’s ‘owner’) was in charge, or would you make a different judgement based on the dog running free, doing what it does, having fun, and the person dutifully coming along behind and clearing up its mess?
There’s something about ‘the prom’ that seems to bring out a more friendly side in us, too. Along the quieter stretches, where the path is narrower, people often smile and say ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ as they pass each other. So, as well as being a place to feel more connected with nature, it’s also a place where we can feel more connected with each other – even if we’re taking a walk by ourselves.
The prom is also, for me, a great metaphor for my own life – as I try to live it now. Walking along it, on one side there is the road, busy with cars and people – with places to go, people to see, jobs to be done. On the other side, on a calm day, is the sea, playfully lapping at the shore, twinkling in the sun, being itself, doing what it does no matter what. And I’m walking a line between the two, able to dip in and out of each – but with both aspects being a key part of what it means to be me. When things get tough I can visit the sea easily now and feel calmed on a peaceful day – or, on blustery days, I can march along briskly, feeling the sea breeze, the fresh air, and the freedom and power of nature, and blow away my cobwebs. Either way, it works for me.