I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
Once on the beach I struck up a conversation with another walker and was asked “Is always windy here?” Since the view out across the waves if followed would not strike land until the Americas there was really only one answer. “No we occasionally have calm days too.” But rarely calm seas
Seaford is exhilarating when the wind howls and blows salt spray 60feet high across the town, the call of the sea unmistakeable. The cold grey green of the waves and the white spume are a far different colour base to still waters. The exposed coast with the crumbling chalk cliffs makes for an intensity of physical experience, but for the visual riches something calmer, clearer and more sheltered is needed.
In my wanderings over the last 20 years I have always found the attraction of harbours irresistible. Some harbours are full of flotsam and jetsam, with rubbish and rusting hulks rotting away at quaysides. Others are fenced off for the rich yachties with their totties, but the working harbours, where sea walls and quaysides allow a wanderer to be entranced by the working boats and the colour and activity that they bring in their wake are the ones to be enjoyed most.
The nearest quaysides to Seaford are Newhaven and Eastbourne. In neither case is it possible to stroll the quayside easily as the elf* has erected barriers to prevent the public getting close to the working areas. This is quite unlike other small ports where fishermen gut and sell their fish straight off the deck after mooring.
Norway is a sea-oriented society, a Viking inheritance, and their ports are the heart of much of their life. The oil docks are fenced off but the smaller fishing boats and areas with heritage craft are part of a living quayside environment that has posh offices, restaurants and pubs as well as the places for working boats and fisherfolk.
Larger ports like the Victoria and Albert harbour to Cape Town take a similar approach, mixing working areas with restaurants and pubs but applying fencing only where the activities are so industrial they would be dangerous for people like me who have eyes only for image making. Our planners are frequently a dead hand – how often I have dreamt of making a home in an industrial unit that would allow me to mix living with a large-scale studio space, but here it is not permitted. Older dock areas, along the Lune for example, could benefit from a more relaxed approach
I walk with a camera and collect images along coasts wherever I am. Occasionally they are of the quality of holiday snapshots which are collected after each trip and made into a memory book for continuing pleasure, sometimes they make stories, but often they are collected for their own sake. I look for the things that have fascinated me in making paintings – colour balance and contrasts, symmetry and asymmetry.
On quiet days I like to construct visual stories of my walks, but in such efforts I cannot compare to the stories of Andy Marshall . However, I can make images that stand well when printed out, looking for those abstract values that fascinate my inner eye. Andy says “I was so taken by the beauty of it all that I didn’t photograph it. It was that good”. When I get back and start going through the images I find more beauty than maybe I saw at the time.
So, I play. Because of my history of cancer and operations I am in isolation, but it doesn’t seem so very different from everyday life before. The joy is my OH is constrained to staying home too and that is a real pleasure. Finding my imagery anew is keeping me thinking and maybe, just maybe, I’ll gain the impetus to return to the studio. Meanwhile I will continue to delight in orgies of colour and pattern.
*the Health and Safety Executive are ‘the Elf’
All images are available as ‘C’ type prints mounted on aero board. I have one printed out at 2 feet square and it looks sensational. Enquire via the email link on this site. Guide price on foamboard backing about £150, printed on aluminium £450 (plus p&p)