Leaving home on one bit of coast to holiday on another is a true sign of loving the sea. We travelled from the Isle of Wight to the Isle of Purbeck for a long weekend of sunshine and skimming stones. I love how the sound of rocks changes underfoot close to the waters edge. Sit in one spot for an hour and you’ll find a hundred pebbly variations, just asking to be smoothed beneath thumbs, gathered in linty pockets, or released in to the deep blue beyond. When I was little my dad would point out the feldspar and fossils, while my mum would point out the rings in stones that granted wishes; a perfect childhood mix of fact and fiction. A week later and the salty sea has dried off my feet, but the pebbles are still in my pocket.
This slice of sea is with me every day, sunrise and sunset. The sun’s position may change only slightly every day, but the light and shape of the water below is ever changing. Every morning, I walk down the hill in cold fog, pacing down the centre of the road to reclaim it in this small hour. Through the narrow streets and out on to the quayside, tall masts and the thrumming whir of the arriving ferry.
I always sit on the same side of the ferry, hunting the first and last of the light. In the morning the sun rises behind Osborne Point, across waters choppy grey or smooth silk blue. On the way home, we travel past piers, chimneys and a pebbly spit, before the west wight hills appear, with pink and blue light dropping behind.
Sometimes I sit and slump with my coffee, or plough through a book, ignoring the view. Sometimes the boat is full of the mumbled chatter of commuters, and the windows are too steamy to watch more than a smear of sea. Sometimes the ride is so rough that you lose your stomach halfway across the Solent, and the contents of your bag across the aisle.
So whilst I travel the same stretch of sea, it’s never the same, and my everyday commute ain’t bad. Travelling across waters always beats the motorway, no matter how rough the ride. Just don’t ask me how long my journey takes. My ferry ride only marks halfway, so now I’m working on cutting out the motorway from the second half of my journey.
Contending with a chesty cough, my outdoor time this weekend was pretty still. We took a trip to Shanklin Chine, a classic old seaside destination with a quiet out-of-season feel. I’m not very good and sitting and doing nothing, but a pebbly beach certainly encourages it. The roar of waves and retreating rattle of hundreds of pebbles rolling over each other is a sound that demands full attention, and cuts out everything else. I could sit and listen to it for hours. Which is a good job, when you’re on a beach trip with a photographer.
Setting off on still grey waters, with a cup of strong coffee and a good book is not a bad way to start the day. I may have a longer commute now, but there is something quite delicious about the way travel creates a chunk of time to do nothing but sit.
It’s just as well I have some extra time as I’ve taken on a big social reading challenge and I’m a slow reader. I’m too easily distracted and on this, of all weeks, I have lost my iPod. So, instead of Joanna Newsom’s clear tones and James Yorkston’s easy turns, I have enjoyed a ferry soundtrack of business calls and tv show debriefs. I’m only surprised by how sociably inclined other people are so early in the morning.
Southampton’s big industry port and busy shipping lanes sets a different pace from Cowes’ sailing boats and quiet marina. City rush hour traffic is a shock to the system, and I’m suffering from bike envy, seeing those wheels nip off down a speedy side road while I join the slow-moving rank of cars. In comparison to that, a boat is a most civilised way to travel!
Perhaps my persistent positivity about the weather paid off. Or, we’re finally due some decent weather. Either way we’ve now had days of perfect summer sunshine. I’ve been soaking up every minute, maxing out on outdoors time and ignoring any screen draw (bar Instagram, of course!).
Tom’s school summer holidays have started off in the best of ways, with mini adventures and celebrations. I’ve been along for the ride and in complete denial about work. We’ve spent our weekends in the countryside riding and walking, and our weekday evenings on the beach, drinking bubbly and dipping more-than-toes in the sea (it’s really not too cold!)
We’ve had plenty cause to celebrate, with the end of term, a new job in the pipeline, and our second wedding anniversary. Here’s to long summer days, filled with sunshine and happiness. Cheers!