Updated: Jan 27
My sister and I on Brighton Beach.
Living in the middle of London in the early 60s as a kid, one of my first experiences of outside water was at the Battersea Park paddling pool. Which me and sister took to and soon after learning to swim at the public baths in Buckingham Palace Road.
Learning to swim was scary as the water was much deeper than the paddling pool, but I’m glad that I persevered with it, as it proved very useful later in life and work. Feeling confident, me and a gang of friends decided to swim in the Thames because a barge was moored just off the embankment and it looked easy to get to. We played all day and had a great time. After drying out and putting our clothes on it was time to go back home.
However my Mum quizzed me on where I had been...I lied...(she knew).. ‘it’s time for a bath’ she said and it wasn’t Sunday? So there I was, just about to enter the bath and Mum and Dad were at the door of the kitchen after a quick clip around the ear for telling lies...for there were leeches clinging to my legs.. these were removed by using a lit cigarette...I was sent to bed after the bath ...never went back to the river for a swim...strangely neither did my gang of mates.
My first recollection of seeing the sea 'proper' was a day trip to Brighton with my Nan, Mum and sister. I must have been about eight and I remember the smell of the sea as I departed the train station and shortly afterwards could see the sea at the bottom of the main road that looked to rise the nearer, we got to it. The beach was amazing, full of little stones and the sea so vast. The air was full of freshness and the sound of the waves crashing into the shingle created its own musical rhythm pulsating along the beach.
My sibling and I were young and only allowed to paddle up to our knees. I remember trekking to the water's edge took some diligence, walking over the small stones and sand to eventually paddle in the coldness of the water. A chill which soon passed. What a lovely day we all spent by the sea..exploring all things natural, bits of seaweed, jumping sea bugs (never found out what they were)...even barnacles!
As a boy Scout (third boy in from the left- kneeling) I recall a trip around the coast of England on SS Nevasa, but because the weather was so rough, it only travelled from Southampton to Liverpool...but I loved it!
From then on, I was hooked on the idea of seeing the sea regularly by going to Brighton, Margate, Ramsgate and Deal all of which seemed to have stony beaches, until we had a holiday at Shanklin on the Isle of Wight. Sand and lots of it, and in different colours ...plus it was much easier to get to the sea. It was at one these places I remember the murmuration of starlings dancing over the sea and that was a sight I’d never forget.
It was many years later that I felt the need to live by the sea, and settled to live in Clacton-on-sea on the east coast for a while before eventually moving to Plymouth, a city of the sea. Plymouth has to be the best place to learn about the sea. With easy access to it and the availability to travel to other beaches locally that have different geology to them. Whilst here I was lucky to find myself working for a sail training centre, and for nearly twenty years able to enjoy other aspects of what the sea has to offer, from work to recreation. With my other passion for Art and History I became more intrinsic with the sea. I love its drama and the different moods it can
give in the matter of minutes. Its history is also overwhelming for me. There's so much to delve into and so diverse. But for me it’s firstly the wildlife, and then there’s the myths and legends that lure me with a magnetic magic that only the sea can give.