Friday, 16 July 2010
I am enjoying my holiday from writing so much!
On a normal day I either start with chores and correspondence or start straight in to writing, finally getting out of bed about half-past eight, half-past nine, half-past ten – ish – to have a bowl of muesli and a cup of herb tea. Then I think and write and think and write and, if I’m working hard, by four in the afternoon I feel like a used-up husk, slightly querulous and impossible to please, over-tired and stuck for a way to wind down. I eat whatever’s in the house those days – brown bread, maybe hummus or tinned fish, salad, whatever. It’s a happy life but very focused on output. When the evening comes I water the vegetable garden, chill out with the rest of the household, chatting and watching TV, cooking supper – maybe vegetable bean sludge and cous-cous or pasta with courgettes and snow peas and herbs from the garden.
But today I am on holiday. Pause for a smile.
We waited in until the organic veggie box from Riverford had been delivered, then it was time for Hebe to go down to the stonemasonry and earn her living for the day, so I walked along with her. First we took some stuff into Silverhill to the charity shop – we’ve been thinning out possessions again – then wandered down the hill towards the sea.
We parted at the pedestrian crossing amid the complicated jumble of shops just up from the shore: there are not many upmarket or large shops in Hastings and St Leonards, because we are not rich enough to buy their wares, so instead we have any number of odd little eateries and greengrocers, butchers and bakers and pharmacists and flea markets and hardware shops, places you can get keys cut or buy rugs or jewellery or second-hand furniture. Down by the sea where Hebe’s and my ways parted quite a number of the shops belong to Muslims now, because the mosque is located there in Mercatoria and it has developed slowly into a quarter favoured by the Arabs and Africans and Eastern Europeans who belong to the Islamic faith. I stopped at a greengrocer for a big bag of Kent cherries – they’re late this year, only just now in the shops where usually they are ready in June. We’ve had a long, cold Spring.
As I walked to the bottom of the hill, the wind was whipping my hair all over the place so I could hardly see. I stopped by an alleyway to sort it out, causing consternation to a seagull trying to fly along between the houses in a wind tunnel – pausing so as not to crash into me, the air currents flung him everywhere and it took all his strength to hover and stay on course.
Tucking my hair firmly into my T-shirt to anchor it, I carried on down to the sea road, where Plenty is just round the corner. They stock all the hippy foods. Wholemeal bread and proper sea-salt, marinated tofu and locally grown vegetables, muesli and nuts and brown rice and herb teas in packets that that describe the contents not as teabags but tea temples! The lady who runs Plenty wants to make it like the provisions stores of the Wild West – a place you can find all you need in one small shop.
I bought some of the bright white sea-salt that always stays slightly damp – it has more minerals and trace elements in – and some pot-scourers made from recycled plastics, some Marigold bouillon mix, a birthday card to give Alison on Sunday, and a small punnet of fresh raspberries – they are delicious just now.
When I came out of Plenty I had to cross the road. That’s hard in the wind. Traffic seems to come from everywhere and my hair kept blowing across my eyes, and the pounding surf and the wind’s own sound made it difficult to hear the cars. Drivers are typically impatient and arrogant, with an unquestioning belief that they are more important than pedestrians. I personally see the sense in taking responsibility for my own safety, but I wish they did not drive so fast and were not so quick on the horn. Crossing the road leaves me feeling ruffled and harassed and slightly afraid.
Once over I could walk all the way along the edge of the sea to where I was headed next: the little fish stalls with the local catch down at The Stade, among the net huts opposite the Tamarisk Steps at Rock-a-Nore. Two or three miles’ walk alongside the pounding waves of a Quaker-grey sea skeined with lacy white spume and flinging spray beige with stirred-up sand. Mischievous and wild the wind played the long ropes against the metal flagpoles like a musical instrument, while the red hazard flags flapped and fluttered frantically hoisted up high.
There are building works down at the Angling Club, generating in me a faint sense of foreboding: please no more concrete, no more amusements, no more buildings to separate the people from the sea. Our souls need the sparkle of the sunlight on the ocean, they do not need one-armed bandits or fruit machines giving prizes of shudderous nylon stuffed animals in improbable colours; garish hellholes full of blasting music with no windows to let in the light and the air.
On the small island in the middle of the lake for the pleasure boats, its own choppy little sea today, seagulls huddled together sleeping out the rough weather.
At the fishmarket I looked for dressed crab… found some at £7.25 each (no thanks)… and some at £4.25 each (yes, okay); then went to catch the bus home. I just missed the 100 but arrived at the bus stop at the same time as the 20a, bought a day ticket and rode to the station where I transferred onto the No 26, which noses its way through the muddle of badly parked delivery vehicles up the hill from the sea, then detours round by St Johns on its way to Silverhill. As we pass its red-brick Byzantine style turrets and semi-tended garden, I like the novelty of feeling: ‘That’s our church!’ It’s lovely being a church member instead of a pastor.
When I got home, I picked some broad beans, lemon balm and a sprig of rosemary from the garden, and steamed the beans just a minute or two to have with the crab… followed by the raspberries… followed by a cup of rosemary and lemon balm tea – light and fragrant and aromatic; good for the heart and the circulation generally. While the tea brewed I nipped back into the garden to take a photograph of the Compassion rose growing by the wall, to show you.
Such a scrumptious lunch. Such a happy morning.