Author : Sam Clough aka “Hrekka”, Featured Writer
The wind is always cold. Or – I correct myself – the wind always feels cold. It’s usually about four degrees this time of year, but the wind makes it feel like minus ten. It’s heavily laden with salt. I’ve lived down here for months, but I can still taste the salt on the air. Obscurely, it’s a point of pride for the locals. ‘We have wind that can strip chrome’, they say, with a smug expression, as if expecting the visitor to try and best them. It’s not just chrome, though. The wind kills plants. Some people manage to keep pots of flowers, or sometimes trees alive for weeks and months, but they’re diligent. I tried keeping some flowers alive once. I didn’t manage it. The sea crashes against the beach, as if trying to drive it back. Most of the pebbles are gone, crushed to sand or whipped away by longshore drift. About half of the sea defences still stand.
Aside from the few straggling plants, the natural world has left as alone here. The last seagull was seen two years ago. Ever since, the seafront has been free of those avian pests. Funny thing, though, you don’t realise how much you’re going to miss them until they’re gone. I would kill just to hear that irritating squawk again.
Beach Street, the road closest to the sea, is actually pretty high compared to the rest of the town. The roads slope down towards the High Street – the town was built on the salt flats. As a result of that the High Street, and Middle Street, and all the way back until London Road are underwater. Since it’s close to the old High Street, Beach Street has become the town’s main thoroughfare. The rest of the town is pretty much just salt flats again.
Traders used to come down from London. When there were more animals around, some of those traders used to bring pigs and sheep and goats. I really liked the goats. Don’t ask me why, but they’ve always appealed to me. Might be something to do with the way they seem to eat everything. Smacks of efficiency, and I like that in people, so I like to see it in animals, too.
I had been walking along the old sea wall, as I liked to. Off land, (to my left) there was a block of flats. ‘Marina House’, or somesuch. Old, abandoned, and on the verge of collapse, the old building didn’t interest me. But something suddenly drew my attention to the decrepit structure.
I could hear birdsong.
I’ve never heard birdsong before, not live. The gulls, those most tenacious of the now vanished birds, didn’t sing, and I missed them plenty. But this was birdsong, real birdsong, the kind you hear in movies and on TV.
And finally, I spotted the bird. A lark, sitting on a railing, on a balcony of the second floor.
Behind me, I could clearly hear the sea, the tide ramping against the beach. These two sounds, both as old as the hills, and one that we had believed was lost for good.
“How these two shame this shallow and frail town,” I murmured to myself, quoting a poem from one of the few dry books I’d managed to save over the years. I was entranced by this delicate bird, who was singing so cheerfully. Not wanting it to fly away, I stayed motionless. I hoped I could stretch that moment on for days.
I must have been there for twenty minutes before the lark took wing and flitted away to the west, over the drowned houses, leaving me to the crashing and the silence once more.