And so, to see in the New Year, I drank a couple of glasses of wine and went down to the seafront. It was a mild, almost-dry night, and there were plenty of people strolling the prom (even before the groups of more rowdy revellers spilled out of the pubs and clubs around midnight). A pair of wild rebels shouted something very rude at a police car and then tittered nervously: “Ooh, we could get arrested for that, you know!” (As I say, wild.)
(See here for some of the same views in daylight…)
There were couples with champagne. A party set up a mini firework display at the top end of the beach.
I smiled and said ‘Happy New Year!’ to strangers, but I felt sadness whenever I turned westward.
The tide was coming in. Leaning on the railings, it was beautiful, benign; the rhythmic patterns of the incoming waves were gently soothing. The street lights and the camera flash combined to give the water an atmospheric reddish glow.
Even my slight difficulties with holding the camera steady (something to do with that wine, methinks) created some strange but pleasing effects. I think there were some fireworks in here somewhere…
Yet even this small stretch of water is known to be dangerous. There are treacherous currents, my friends. Watch your step.
Every year when the new students arrive, the warning posters go up: “Don’t drink and dive.” But every few years, it happens again: the sea claims the lives of those whose only crime was to drink a little too much and think they could play games with the waves. Last night, somehow, I could not bring myself to walk onto the beach. I stayed behind the railings, clutching my camera.
But the railings will not always keep you safe, either. The storms that batter the seafronts here and in other towns along this coast have taken their toll in the past. The sandbags are never too far away; the local lifeboat has never been idle for too long.
The defences are rebuilt after the storms; but it may be that before too long, we will have to surrender part of our beloved prom to the sea. It seems, right now, such a small sacrifice.
How can something so beautiful be so terrible?
Remember: What you can do.