I must go down to the sea again

“And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.”
John Masefield

I think I must have once been a mermaid, or maybe I wasn’t. But there is surely some reason for my need to return again and again to the sea. Perhaps instead it’s something inherent in my being. My father was born and brought up within a stone’s throw of the sea in Dun Laoghaire. As a child his summers were spent swimming each day at the forty foot bathing place immortalised by Joyce in Ulysses as Buck Mulligan’s choice of location for his daily dip. I wish that my dad had decided to bring his own children up close to the sea but instead we had to make do with two weeks every summer. For that, at least, I am grateful. Similarly I made sure that my children too visited the sea, Devon or Corwall every summer and Aberdovey in Wales in the Autumn.

Worcestershire (my home) is a county full of pretty villages, the countryside as beautiful as any, and The Cotswolds are easily accessible to anyone with a car. Visiting my daughter in lovely Shropshire delights the senses too. In these, and many other places we can walk beside rivers, stroll around parks, sit peacefully marvelling at the stunning views. But none, in my book, compare to the joyous experience of feeling the sea breeze on one’s face. Breathing in the pure air is healing to both the mind and spirit. Our home is just about as far away from the sea in the UK as it’s possible to be and days at the sea can only be enjoyed as part of a holiday. Busy lives benefit from time out and there’s something about the sea that pulls me back again and again. Husband and I have spent the last week in a beautiful lodge set high on a cliff overlooking  St. Mary’s Bay close to the fishing town of Brixham in South Devon. A case of “I must go down to the sea again,” even if the heavy traffic meant that it took more than five hours to get there!

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If you’re looking for a sandy beach then, whilst you will find beautiful ones elsewhere in Devon, Brixham’s not the place for you.  It is a busy fishing town (a fish market with a £40million annual turnover equating to £120 million retail value) with as pretty a harbour and marina as you’ll find anywhere, and the pride of its 17,500 residents in their home town is evident everywhere. Winners of several gold awards in the Britain in Bloom competitions, the volunteers are responsible for stunning displays all over the town.

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We didn’t venture far out because a) it was to be a relaxing holiday, and b) it was far too hot! A great deal of time was spent doing nothing but reading on the balcony at the lodge. We also did a lot of sitting and watching (despite my troublesome eye – no eye make up for a whole week!) in the town, enjoying  the gentle roll of the waves against the rocks and watching  the working boats coming and going in the harbour …

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…and the marina full of leisure craft.

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And on a windy day, with the white clouds flying, although it was still hot,  we took a walk along the breakwater out to the lighthouse. It stretches for half a mile and the view from here gives a very different perspective of the harbour and the town and across the whole of Torbay.

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The lodge in which we stayed was only three months old and even better than we had imagined it would be. We dreamed a little of buying one and chose our plot. Here is what would be our view from the sitting room. Unfortunately, barring a lottery win, the required (minimum of) £175,000 isn’t available!

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This is the seagull who landed on the balcony table and tried to pick up my coffee cup in his beak! Frustrated at his lack of success he  actually flew inside through the patio doors and swiped some biscuits from the coffee table! A bird of taste – M&S lemon cookies no less! I didn’t really mind, I like seagulls. I wrote about them here: In praise of seagulls). I spent more time in the past week listening to them communicating that I’ve ever done before and I am astounded at the range of different calls and the way that they appear to communicate differently in pairs than in groups.

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Brixham by night

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I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
John Masefield

 

 

12 comments

  1. I, too, love the sea. Whether I am simply watching the waves or walking along the shore, I find there is something very peaceful and calming. I suppose one could call it a ‘mindful’ experience.

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  2. I too, love John Masefield’s sea poem. For me, it exemplifies that longing to again be by the sea. About 11 years ago, I was in about the middle of India, in the North. I had a mild panic attack when I realised that I was so far from the sea. Unusual experience I know, but I’ve always been within a 40 minute, at most, drive to the ocean.

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    • How lovely to have always lived so close. My sister in law lives in Dorset and when her children were young, she’d pick them up from school and take them to the beach for an hour. I was so envious.

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  3. I’m glad you were able to enjoy a holiday by the sea. I lived in an apartment across the street from the ocean for several years, when I was growing up. From my 4th floor window, I could see the ships sailing to and from the harbor just a mile or two away and, if I leaned out and looked to the right, I could see the lighthouse. I would watch the sunset over the Indian Ocean and fell asleep to the sound of the waves. These days, I live inland, but the ocean is a little over an hour’s drive away. I don’t go as often as I’d like to, however, but I must make more of an effort and go to the beach once I am retired.

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    • Oh how lovely to grow up being able to watch the ships and to see the sea\ every day. Sounds like you’re planning for a lovely way to spend retirement

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  4. You took some beautiful photographs; thanks for sharing them. The sea is so blue. I’m glad you had such a lovely weekend.

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    • I must own up, Joy. Most of the photos were taken by my husband. Yes, the sea was a beautiful colour – in places, quite turquoise. We were there for the whole week and I’d have happily stayed longer.

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  5. I love the Masefield poem and I love Brixham. Oh, how lucky we are to live just across the Bay from Brixham and the volunteers really do keep the parks and gardens looking wonderful. I was born by the sea in N. Ireland (Strangford on Strangford Lough) but while I love being by the sea, I’ve no desire to be on it, bar a trip on the ferry from Torquay to Brixham and back, that’s enough of the seafarer in me! Lovely, but I’m only really happy with my feet on terra firma.
    Margaret P

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    • You live in a beautiful part of the country, Margaret. I often think I should have moved to the sea when younger but there was always a ‘people’ reason not to do so. Parents, children, grandchildren but so long as I get to see it two or three times a year.

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