On with my walking boots and sox; my James Dean trousers that I bought in 1995 for Jim’s performance as Launce at the Globe – him and his dog stole the show – a pink sweater to match me kecks and a fancy puffer jacket. You never know what’s on offer on a November day on the South Coast. As it turned out it was billowy and balmy.
Over three roundabouts – Norman, the Sat Nav man, repeated himself over and over until the old git told Norm to shut the fuck up – we still needed him to get us to the A22 then 38 minutes later Hastings would open its old fashioned arms to us. All was well apart from a little fly that had landed in my pot of ointment. The NHS trace and test app was pinging like the bells on a herd of Mongolian goats. Somebody I had been near had tested positive for Covid and I would be required to self isolate for ten days. I shoved the information into the very arse crack of my brain, and we gently rolled towards Hastings.
And then at the very last minute we decided to go to Pevensey Bay instead. It was here that William the Conqueror made the landing in his invasion of England in 1066 after crossing the English Channel from Normandy. The light clouds gave way momentarily to a weak sun, as Jim and I talked about ‘What ifs’ in a book he’s writing and a road sign appeared, ‘1066 Country.’ Flat grassland, sheep nibbling on flat grass and herds of black and brown cows munching on more grass.
‘What a life’ observed the driver.
‘Thats all they do eat grass, all day, without a thought in their heads – only where’s the next blade coming from?’
Not unlike me, thought I; we eat, buy food, work to buy more, cook the meals from the food we’ve bought to give us the strength to work, sleep and ablute. Rise up and eat again. Me and them sheep have more in common than you think, I thought. Why not cut out the middle-man thought I, and just eat shit.
And then Norman sent us round a roundabout that signalled we were about to arrive at our destination. Over the level Crossing at Norman’s Bay station. A narrow road, a gravelly parking spot, and out we tumbled. I left my phone in the boot of the car, no fly was going to bugger up any more ointment.
We climbed up some stone steps and there was Norman’s Bay. All shingle and pebbles. A convoy of yellow and orange movers and shakers trundled past us levelling up the shore line. Piles of stones with huge Catertpilla tracks in them. The coast here was also being prepared for global warming. We slid sideways down towards the sea. Grey green softly lapping waves under a green grey sky. Gulls a deux, sat on the roof tops of the beach houses, houses with lots of windows and wooden furniture, ropes to designate territory. Upturned boats and out of season furniture. Beach houses like in Malibou except Malibou has sunshine and Joan Fonder, Normans Bay has lowering clouds and the occasional glimpse of Piers Morgan.
We were the only people there. An old couple walked towards us but concentrated on not slipping over sea cabbage and bladderwrack seaweed which had been washed up on the beach. We walked right to the edge of the Channel. A slither of sand allowed a moment of unfettered walking. A colony of sea gulls bunched up at the waterline and then the ‘oosbind cried out
‘I should have brought my binoculars.’
For there standing, camouflaged by the pebbles was a Turnstone, closely related to sandpipers they are a long-lived bird that will eat almost anything, they scavenge for left over foods, although their numbers have dropped by 50% in just thirty years. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen one. If only we’d had some chips to chuck but Norman’s Bay had nothing to offer only pebbles and more pebbles with a ton of shingle besides.
We set the timer for an hour, walked thirty minutes then hauled ourselves up the slip, sliding pebbles to get to the road. Thirty odd years ago we came to Norman’s Bay with a picnic hamper, bath towels and a toddler. Got friendly with a family who lived in one of the beach houses, and used their facilities when necessary. Thirty odd years ago the shingle lay lower, the weather was more predictable and the one and only shop sold green dribbly Twisters and triangular Zooms.
We walked the thirty minutes back to the car, the fronts of the beach houses standing grandly on the side of the road.
Into the car. I collected my phone from the boot and that fucking fly had hatched into a swarm of messages from the NHS trace and test system. How can you not speculate when you have a 28 mile car drive home.
‘Will I have to isolate for ten days?’
‘Who were you with?”
‘Will I miss G’s resturant opening?
‘When were you with anybody that had covid?’
The grey skies darkened as I tried to retrace my steps from last week. I imagined life behind closed doors with the Northern butler serving me bowls of tinned soup which he would leave outside the bedroom door.
‘I won’t make the dentist.’
‘I wont make G’s do.’
On and on it went as we left 1066 country and drove into Covid 19 land.
And then a call from an old agent who wanted to pay me some residuals of £2.39p
And then a call from my voice over agent who wanted me to do a voice casting.
And then a call from the dawter who needed the car.
And then we arrived home.
I opened up the NHS trace and test app and put in my name and it turns out I do not need to isolate for ten days, but the whole experience left me remarkably shaky. I don’t want Covid 19 whether I’m in 1066 country or 2021 terror-tory – well who does?
The gently lapping English Channel and screeching gulls were sandwiched between hysteria and anger, I wanted to blame the abominable Boris for ruining my seaside jaunt. So I did.
It’s now time for Evan Davis on the wireless and a catch up on ‘Portrait Artist of the Year.’
As days go, apart from flies and panic, the old git and I enjoyed the clean air and grey green sea – although we were reminded that raw sewage had routinely been pumped into the Channel by Southern Water.
I wanted to stop for chips and flounder. but Covid won the day. I dared not go into a shop in case I was infected with the virus. Without any nudging Norman told us to turn round and return to the route. If you could have heard the old git’s expletives you would have covered both yours and Normans ears.
Perhaps we should think of a different kind of awayday? Maybe a ferry to the other side of 1066 country to Mille soixante-six Pays
Goodbye 1066 and hello 2021.
Next week Hastings?