Friday, June 13, 2008

Oh I do like to be beside the sea side

Every now and then a Friday Five comes along which somehow underlines the fact that most of my revgalblogpals live on the far side of the Atlantic, and not on this small island, where you are rarely much more than 2 hours away from the sea.
Though I grew up in St Leonards-on-Sea, if you please, I'm very clear that when my American friends talk about the ocean they usually have in mind something altogether larger and grander than the pebbly beaches and cold grey seas of my childhood.

Mother Laura writes
.... in honor of summer, please share your own beachy memories, plans, and dreams with a "Beach Trip" Friday Five.

1. Ocean rocks, lake limps? Vice versa? Or "it's all beautiful in its own way"?
No real experience of large lakes, other than one wonderful visit to Lake Como the summer before Hattie Gandhi was for me, beach= seaside...
I love the movements of the tides, the wild white horses on a windy day, the way the waves flung themselves and handfuls of shingle right onto the sea front during the storms of my childhood.
I love the experience of singing to the sea, or shouting songs of praise or lamentation into the wind, knowing them drowned out by the sound of breakers, unheard by all but the One for whom they were intended.
Lakes, to me, have been far tamer. Beautiful, part of halcyon summer days, but with none of the force and fury of the winter sea. When the wind blows, I still feel a pang that I cannot immediately set out to walk along the promenade, to feel the spray on my face and return home with hair matted, smelling of salt and freshness, tingling all over. My father's family were boat builders on the River Thames for generations, but he longed to sail far and wide, and for the six brief years he had his wish as he served in the Royal Navy. It's a cliche, but I suspect that the sea really is "in my blood".

2. Year round beach living: Heaven...or the Other Place?
It's a definite maybe for retirement, when that particularly alarming crunch actually comes.

3. Any beach plans for this summer?
I don't think so. Gloucestershire is about as landlocked as England gets....We will, of course, spend our fortnight's holiday afloat, but that is very different. No sea for me this year.

4. Best beach memory ever?
The Dufflepud has just finished his GCSE exams, and is changing schools in the autumn...His freedom from the classroom has put me in mind of my own "O" level summer, when there was 6 weeks of perfect weather, and each day I packed up some fruit and some books and went down to the beach. The wonderful Eirene was there most days, and there was a boy, A., with whom I was rather smitten....We lay on a rug and talked about literature and our great plans for saving the world and ate cherries, warmed by the sun, direct from a brown paper bag.

5. Fantasy beach trip?
This really happened, and I probably blogged it at the time...When I was in India, we were transported on the bus journey from hell for 22 hours from Bangalore to Kanyakumari, for a clergy conference. On the second day, we were told that we were going on another bus ride, to visit Kovalam beach in Kerala. Only good manners prevented revolt as we faced the prospect of at least 2 hours more in a very hot coach (positively no air conditioning) with 50 assorted Indian clergy, whose mobiles rang constantly...and many of whom were, by this stage, displaying symptoms of a virulent conjunctivits called Madras Eye. The journey was every bit as bad as we'd feared...but when we reached Kovalam, and disembarked at Hawa beach, it was, I may say, satisfactory. For me, reared on the bracing coasts of the English channel the experience of walking into the Indian ocean, with no shock of cold to greet me may just have spoiled me forever. Clear warm water, sandy shore, and the sheer delight of being in India...a return trip to Kerala would qualify as a fantasy beach trip, sure enough.

Bonus: Share a piece of music/poetry/film/book that expresses something about what the beach means to you.

My beach poem par excellence is Matthew Arnold's The Forsaken Merman, which I loved with a passion throughout my much so that I have no idea at all whether it is good poetry or not. It's just part of me, and carries the sound of the sea and the enchantment of living close to it in every single line.
If it is, in fact, little more than doggerel, don't worry to tell me. I'll go on loving it anyway!
For anyone who grew up in England in the 1970s with The Onedin Line as part of the fabric of Sunday night tv, the Spartacus music by Khachaturian is the sea music par excellence....or perhaps Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony or some of his arrangements of English Sea Chanties. When I was a child, I used to sing some of those with my father as we crunched over the pebbles on Hastings beach - Rio, The Mermaid, Spanish Ladies, - they are all part of my soundtrack to the sea...though the music of the waves will always have the last word.


Sally said...

wonderful stuff Kathyrn- my childhood memories are of Penang- I grew up in Malaysia!

Mary said...

I'd forgotten the Onedin Line....
As for Arnold, I'm a Dover Beach fan, but it's not very cheering I suppose.

Mrs. M said...

All of this is delightful! You're a great storyteller.

Auntie Knickers said...

I had forgotten The Forsaken Merman -- what a great twist compared to The Little Mermaid! And no, I don't think it's doggerel. But I do wonder why he had to spell "sat" - "sate". Surely by his time the word was pronounced much as we do it today?

Erin said...

The Onedin Line! that was wonderful stuff....