What follows is an essay from someone in lockdown with little in the way of company. However, a short walk from his home, he found great comfort and joy in a new friend… the sea.
My new friend – I had previously been wary of you and somewhat afraid: I don’t know why; a past life experience maybe? However, since moving to your North Yorkshire coastline close to the seaside resort of Filey, my view of you has changed.
I have become more familiar with you and recognise both your beauty and potential dangers. Each day I walk two, sometimes three hours beside you; firstly turning right to walk towards Bempton Cliffs, then my favourite, with you on my right hand side, to the Brigg. I have walked alongside you in sunshine, rain, winds and hail and each day your character is different.
I encounter dog walkers, fishermen, surfers and those like myself enjoying exercise in the fresh air, enjoying all you have to offer while contemplating life, reflecting and making plans. This seems more relevant now in these strange times.
When you are low you retreat and unveil mile upon mile of golden sand, scattered with pebbles of every size and colour; shells too that glint in the sunshine like jewels covering your shore. I listen to the hiss of your receding waves which is carried by the breeze, as the undertow draws your sand with it.
On the Brigg, I marvel at seals basking in the afternoon sunshine and later, when you roll in, they return to you and you crash and roll over their now submerged private sunbathing spot.
In the early evening, fishing boats, returned from the day’s work, rest with their nets hung over the wall to dry, brightly coloured lobster baskets laid out, while seagulls search out scraps of fish from nooks and crannies missed by the fishermens’ brooms.
Dogs dip their paws into you and bark at you as if in conversation, seabirds swoop to within inches of you offering you their plaintive cries, while others poke their beaks into your sandy beach in search of food.
Footprints left by your daily visitors you will soon wash away, only to leave fresh sand for the next day, when new visitors will make their mark at least until it’s time for you to wipe the slate clean again.
As I walk along the promenade I notice the sun cast my shadow long on to your sands below, as you slowly move in towards me. I appear to be a moving giant figure stretching out over your sands as if to greet you, wish you well and then be on my way. I notice too the dark faces of buildings silhouetted against the setting sun, whilst seabirds perform their final flight as the light fades.
Later, when you are at your highest, you crash in against the wall and rush up the landings like long fingers, while fishermen stand in their prime spot with head torches shining out in the ever increasing darkness and their rods set and lines cast into your open arms; patient, resolute and hopeful.
Fading light now illuminates your waves, crashing over rocks I had earlier passed on my walk; now just a few solitary figures walk alongside you on the promenade. I smell and taste your salt and seaweed cocktail on the wind as I walk beside you for my final time this day and smile as I feel your breeze on my face.
You lash the walls that hold you in check time and time again, casting your spray over the wall and onto the promenade, where couples taking their last stroll of the day beside you laugh as you occasionally take them by surprise with a drenching as they head home.
I close my eyes and listen at different times of the day to you gently caress your shore and later let out your fierce roar. I observe you month by month, season by season and my big question remains: What would I find beneath your waters? What treasures would you unveil? Hidden kingdoms perhaps? I can only dream and wonder.
I remember you from when I was a child and think to myself – I know that smell, I remember that sound. It’s you! Yes you – you are good for my soul and help me deal with any worries I may occasionally have, putting them in perspective, as I witness your power, calming spirit and overall majesty. So, my new friend, I hope to continue to learn from your wonders and to marvel at all you are.
Martin Gough wrote this ‘love letter to the sea’ during the early stages of lockdown. He lives on the outskirts of the beautiful North Yorkshire seaside town of Filey and is a keen walker, an accomplished musician and a published author.
For over 20 years, he worked for the NHS in procurement, and then in 2007 retrained to become a mental health nurse. He is now retired from the profession.
To date, he has written a guide book to the Yorkshire Dales ‘Up ‘ill ’N’ Down Dale’ – in aid of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and a book on mental health ‘How to overcome Stress, Anxiety and Depression – a guide for sufferers and their loved ones’.
Alongside other literary projects, he is currently working on a second book on mental health ‘Healthy Attitudes for Living – Mind and Body’.