Lumpy London Bridge
A chilly-willy winter’s day with a brisk south-easterly tousling the white-capped swell. It’s almost low tide, and the tiny beach at Peaked Tor Cove is rocky and draped with glistening seaweeds. The raw slap of sea soon becomes tolerable and then exhilarating, and I strike out round the rocks through opaque, pale turquoise, buffeted and bounced by the chop. Waves fling spray into the air around the arch, and water sluices through from behind.
We head for the sea-cave, and watch for a while but it’s too dangerous. Rollers surge in to the narrow inlet and, split by the submerged rocks, churn around inside making escape difficult. The sea billows increase as we approach the back of the arch to see whether that might be passable. JJ cannot be dissuaded and he sets off with Hugo and me watching carefully to see whether he makes it. We catch an occasional flash of his blue hat amid the maelstrom, then swim round to find he’s reappeared in a rather more dishevelled state than when he entered. Startled eyes and a wonky, frozen mouth soon remodel into a grin. He says he got stuck in a little pool left by the retreating waves for a bit, but still offers to go back with me. I’m tempted, but feel cold now so I decline.
It’s easier returning with the wind and waves. From time to time the sun partially breaks through leaden clouds and shoots rays of light to glimmer off the surface, like an illustration in a children’s bible. As I roll to breathe I see a low-flying cormorant, neck extended, a couple of feet away. I arrive at the beach and manage to effect a staggering, shivering exit onto the pebbles. The contrast in how I feel by comparison to yesterday is dramatic. The sea is warmer than the river, but it’s still cold. I think it has more to do with the way that the character of the water changes with the temperature. Chilled river water is metallic and hard-edged; cold sea water while abrasively salty is somehow softer, bouncier and, well, more cuddly.
Allan, Jackie, Rosie, Stephanie, Geoffrey, Mark, Hugo, JJ, Plum
Chilling on the Beach
Not Quite to Heel