Winter Storm

What a wild wind this morning. What a furious sea. Thrashing and crashing against the sea wall. Further along – technically the beach, but most of its sand is on the pavement above – bubbles of seafoam dance on the curving surface of the sea’s kaleidoscope of jetsam. There are piles of kelp and weed, twigs and branches, whole and crushed shells, fragments of glass, dead sea creatures, pieces of rope and lobster pots, the inevitable plastic items, small and large. A whole tyre, most of a child’s scooter, part of a faded Fairy Liquid bottle – though not faded enough that the price cannot be seen: 2/6d. How long has that been living its life in the ocean?


There is nothing like a winter storm to make the sea disgorge its past – and its nutritious present. Gulls fill the air – as turbulent as the sea beneath – manoeuvring of wings matching curves of waves as the birds circle and hang, circle and hang, waiting for yet another meal to become visible in the maelstrom of surf. How do these wind-dancing creatures see one small crab or clam in that foaming mass? Then dive down, snatch it up and fly off to eat in a calmer place? Others choose a different strategy: they patrol the promenade pavement above, fighting over scraps of fleshy bodies exposed in an assortment of smashed mussel, clam, razor and crab shells. In a storm like this, the sea does the work for them: other times they will fly above the prom, dropping shells onto the pavement below to get to the juicy morsels within.


At the Point, where sea becomes estuary, moves into the river mouth, and begins to calm, oystercatchers trundle up and down the sandbanks like small tanks, dividing their energy between gobbling up the feast and defending it from their neighbours. If one gets too close to another, it lowers its head and sets off on the scaring mission, screaming meep-meep, red light – or rather orange bill – a vibrant flash of colour on its black-white body.


There is so much wild activity in the whole scene. The sea is star player, but everything is on full alert, everything in movement. On the wooded cliff top opposite the estuary mouth the branches of Holm oak and Monterey pines thrash about like the waves, dropping their small acorn and cone bombs into the sea beneath. The few people braving the storm are almost running along the prom if they have the wind at their back; or if they are facing into it, they struggle slowly, bent almost into an L shape, hair and scarves flying chaotically about them. Even the few vehicles parked on the promenade car park jiggle as the wind catches them, or shimmer as sea spray glistens on paint work. Alarms sound.


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