“Take me where the clean winds blow”. This is a line from a song I sing with the Island Voices Choir, called Give me Wild*. It’s a jaunty little piece with sixties-style harmonies. In a restless mood, I turned the lyrics over in my head: Take me where the clean winds blow/ Oh, Give me wild, give me wild… And suddenly I knew exactly where I needed to be. I put on my walking shoes…
The Chesil Beach is a very special place. I’m standing on it now, as I write. Before me is the sea, dark blue and gently heaving, as far as the eye can see. Some of those rolling waves would have begun their lives across the Atlantic Ocean. You’d never think so to look at them today, but the deep bass rumble of the shingle as they disturb it is a reminder of their power. The sheer weight and force of green water – not to be trifled with.
To my left is the Isle of Portland, so often my muse as a writer, swathed in mist just now and looking suitably secretive. To my right the long crescent of the Chesil scythes away into the distance, pale gold in this light. It seems so solid, immoveable, permanent. And yet, pebble by grey and gold pebble it is creeping to the east. A true, beautiful natural wonder.
Behind me is the Fleet Lagoon – a most un-British and exotic sounding feature – lying peacefully between the great beach and the land, and alive with waving sea-grass and migrating birds. Beyond that is Portland Harbour, sparkling to itself, and accommodating a big grey warship at anchor. I can see the roof of my house from here, too.
How could I ever have thought of leaving this place? And yet I did, fairly seriously.
A visit to my native Kent a few weeks ago left me unsettled and wondering if it might be time to return to my roots. The scene of your childhood can exert a strong pull, can’t it? I visited old haunts and felt the link very intensely. Do you know, for instance, that the sea smells different on different parts of the coastline? The sea coast here in Dorset is very beautiful, but it doesn’t smell like the old, remembered sea coast of my childhood – I need to be in Kent for that, and when I was there it just smelt right. Proper Thames Estuary seaside! Strange, isn’t it? A tiny detail, but it tugged at my heart, and I wondered.
For all that, standing on the Chesil today, being dive-bombed by careless swallows heading south, I no longer share their restlessness. It isn’t time yet to go back. Here on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset is where I belong for now. Take me where the clean winds blow. Give me wild. Here I am, and I’m not going anywhere. But my next book will be set in Kent. Watch this space…