Shopping is an excuse to load my bag up with books and go walking. It bulges uncomfortably; bumping against my hip on my wanderings through the Broads, or along the beach, or into town and around the winding residential roads of Carlton Colville. Shopping rarely takes place.
The roads are thick with traffic. One-way systems stressed under heavy loads and wide stomachs. Here, the world roars industrial; tears into you with mechanical creakings. The pedestrian is a sideways glance, a left-behind crumpled in the borders of a painting. Conversely, ironically, the cemetery yawns with wide arms that reach around and pat you solidly on the back. Hold you at your shoulders. Guide you in. Whisper in your ear and lead you in, deeper into the pines. Squirrels, robins, swifts, the sounds of the Saxons, far away. The wind rustles the brush as the stones sink into the earth, the light streams through gaps in the canopy, and I’m awake. A dance of ears and eyes. A bready wholeness; a somebody, something, solid with Britain, now.
The old litter the streets in various stages of unfortunate collapse. All sticks and wheels, scaffolding, stony cement slipping down chiselled faces like the façade of St Peters. They wait at the bus stop, chatting, but it’s not chatting. It’s banter about having a gander down the shops, and he’s not a him but ‘old boi’. The bus holds up the traffic and I take the chance to dart across. Traffic only waits for traffic. Organic matter so easily lost beneath the folds of metal. Hedgehogs, rabbits, seagulls.
Here it’s fresh with salt. The face burns when the wind blows and your hair grows unruly – sharp, wiry, unkempt – the longer you stay. Dog walkers and cyclists, couples, children, families and the elderly sit stand lie swim chat dig build play. I feel my feet on the crimson promenade and the eyes in the Victorian houses looking out over blue silk. Light blue on dark blue, with a hint of white, a sandy yellow. The sun warms smiles, and we’re all jolly in ourselves or with others. The primary school backing on to the beach swells with children on break; parading themselves on wooden pirate ships and hanging off obstacles. They sing in screams and laugh at the sun, at the sea, at the ladies attempting to find method in the madness of shoulders, sweat, and games.
The pier cackles with amusement. Mouth open wide with neon enclosures. Uninterested. So I find myself at the fountains. More children screaming whilst the old yawn smiles under thick glasses. Leaning on tartan prams. Holding tea with saucers. Cream cakes. The water rises and falls in waves of chlorine. The heat sears the pastel paving stones beneath our feet.
I type on a keyboard propped up against The Early Plays by Chekov. I’m cold. It’s early.
I breathe as I sit, churning: remembering reflecting creating obscuring fixing.
This is a now. My here and now.
Further south, past town, over the bridge that rises to let the boats through to the Broads, the sand struggles against the dunes. The pebbles move in. Trees and bushes churn up in greening sand. The Easterly Point is a monstrosity of concrete that tastes of the nearby Birds Eye factory, but further down I escape. The bushes curl together like romantic couples. The trees lean on each others shoulders. Arms reach around to support shoulders. More pats on the back. The pillboxes drown in greenery; suffocated by nature. War culled by the Earth. More rustling – birds, calls, seagulls and the earth beneath my feet seems to give a little. Spongy with small sticks, and I can smell it, the brownness. Real earth thick with itself, dirt you could hold in your hand and shape or form. Dream into something.
Back out onto sand and sea. Memories and difficulty. The cliffs rise to the left, the sea to the right and I can’t help but imagine the crashing, the sand relenting, sliding down the slopes to meet that foaming force. Yarmouth in the distance, and you can almost see the whole coast ahead. Space, so much of it. Distance, so much of it. A depth that sinks into itself where the air is hottest; puckering up like hot plastic. I realise I’m alone. No dog walkers, no couples. Here alone, me, with the odd pines, odd limes, odd seagull or two. Here as a wholeness, an entity with aim.
Complexity, wildfire – walking, keep walking. We think when we walk. Wandering feet wandering mind. Yet these spaces are too familiar. Histories caught in the trees. Memories caught under the rocks. The shape of a tree, the decay of the groynes are all swift in conclusions. Weeping up within me difficulties so slight, so irrelevant. There’s sand in my shoes, salt in my hair, books in my bag and I’m away. I’m away, I tell myself, and I’m away. Happy in the warm of faces.
It’s a crisp Autumn morning, the kind where the sun seems to shine off the air itself.
Each breath is an extra strong mint.
Nature is still green with the last of summer.
Our cat is curled up by the kettle, half-awake half-asleep.
He dreams me.