What a way to start the New Year.
Feeling the residual, dreamy effects of Pregabalin last night I take a spontaneous trip to Bawdsey.
The UK has been put back on high alert as the new strain of Covid has lead to a surge in cases: more than 50,000 new cases per day at the moment. Schools won’t be going back. Primary schools were going to but it looks like there’ll be another government u-turn about this to try and keep the spread of infections down. This variant of the virus is 3 times more virulent, apparently. I don’t mind it. It’s unusual, historic, interesting. It is also an opportunity for someone like me with no ties. I will volunteer next week to help with the mass testing of students at school. There is the opportunity for so much storytelling and for walking. What else?
I left the car at Bawdsey Quay and headed back along the road towards Alderton. A slight change in the light in the sky made me spin round trying to absorb the spirit of the near world, the present as much as is possible. Never quite able to get close enough. Like wanting to fly.
Turned off the road East towards the sea along yet another muddy track (I seem to have inhabited a world of muddy paths and tracks for the last few months). Approaching the sea I was totally caught off guard: an optical illusion, a confusion in the mind. Where did the sky meet the sea? I had been looking ahead used to seeing the sky and then realised I was looking at the sea and sky together. Just a 2 tone grey. Like a Rothko painting.
It was a beautiful trick. How I love the norm to be upset, unbalanced. The camera on my phone is better at picking it up. In reality it was far more indistinct and greyer.
Of course I have done this walk before when I was at home looking after Dad and walking the coast path. This little line of Suffolk coastline is particularly bonkers. It borders Bawdsey Manor, once a stately home and then taken over by the RAF during WW2 and where radar was invented and used to track down enemy ships, planes, etc. It was also used during the Cold War and had Bloodhound missiles in case of attack from the East. Always and forever – so it seems – the threat of invasion.
The path ends at a sand cliff and like at countless other points on this coastline there is land slippage. Always invasion and also erosion – in fact the worst in the UK. Instead of the path leading to the beach, it just stops and you make your way down a landfall. It just seems to be normal here in the same way you see old sea defences sunk into the beach or manmade structures teetering on the side of the cliffs.
Here is the old, fucked pill box sunk into the sand, its one small square hole creating a little mini view of the beach stretching away to the South. A young couple wander around it smoking a spliff. People are everywhere right now. What else do we do but walk?
Starting just beyond this the beach is filled with the broken teeth remains of wooden groynes stretching for at least half a mile towards the manor. There is something freakish about these jagged shapes so incongruous with the flatness of the beach and sea.
There is something post apocalyptic about this scene, perhaps heightened in my mind by the present situation. There are hints of the trenches of World War 1 or is it the final scene of a dystopian film like Planst of the Apes. Spooky. Inspiring. As I tread over the slimy, blackened boards dug into the sand I feel a huge rush of a familiar pleasure, one which I have felt over many years. The pleasure being lost and alone. I so want to inhabit this moment, be a part of this world, feel the interconnectedness that I know exists between person and place. To feel everything and quieten that ever present voice distracting me in my head.
Alone and bliss
Feel don’t think
The day is ending
Everyone has gone home
I can hear their echoes
And I am alone
In a wilderness of nothingness
Grey sky and sea
And the ageless lapping of the waves
Alone and bliss