Sunday, 8 October 2017

Stories from the Sea

Burton Bradstock was where I stayed on holiday - not in some quirky folly this time, but just a wee cottage a bit worryingly close to a filling station and car showroom, but in fact that caused no problem at all. I have a lot of pictures to show off now, so will bore you with them over the coming days.

Mere yards up the lane from the Old Pottery Cottage was Burton Cliff, from which you can survey the coast all the way from Portland Bill to Start Point, when the weather's right. The moods of the sea, even this modest sea called the English Channel, vary so hugely. The water was bright blue on Friday, apparently calm and inviting; on Saturday, grey and wild. Before leaving that morning I went up the lane to say farewell to the sea and stood awhile as the waves smashed against the shingle far below. I thought of the story I'd read at Lyme Regis Museum, of the wreck of the Heroine in 1852, when five Lyme men went to the aid of the stricken ship and four of them were drowned themselves. However ordered and structured our human environment becomes, the sea remains alien, untameable. Looking out from Burton Cliff, how strange it seems to imagine that there's anything beyond that stretching, level blue, or grey.

My activities on Friday, though, had a haunted aspect, due to the overshadowing presence of a bad dream I'd had in the morning, in which I was awaiting my own execution at 2 in the afternoon, not for anything I had done, but inescapably. The uneasy feeling was compounded in real life later in morning by meeting a white horse in a field at Abbotsbury: owing to another dream many years ago I've come to recognise white horses as my personal harbinger of danger. I know this all sounds very weird, but as 2pm drew nearer I really felt remarkably strange and was glad I was able to park by the roadside in case I was about to have a stroke or some uncontrollable affliction. Of course nothing happened, but I'll remember the experience.

I found myself thinking that, even if Friday 6th October 2017 was going to be my last day in this earthly existence, it wouldn't have been a bad one, and I could think of nothing I would rather be doing than what I'd planned to do, visiting wells, churches and historic sites. In the evening, once the hysteria had passed, I was again looking out over the water, this time in the dark outside Eype Church (a very sacred spot because it's where Let England Shake was recorded), waiting for a concert to start. When I do die, I thought, the strange mixture of things I've experienced, seen and heard will all come to an end, at least as far as human knowledge can access, and this is true for all of us. We must each put that mixture to work, processing the experiences the world through it, struggling to make sense of it, producing. It's how we take part in the work of God.


  1. The power of a nightmare - never to be underestimated, I guess. But that aside, this post brings back memories of happy days on the south-west coast path with our then-young family and friends. A wonderful coastline.

  2. Hope you enjoyed your holiday to Dorset despite your presence of your bad dream.Lovely pictures I will look forward to seeing some more. Sarah

  3. So horses in YOUR dreams aren't as welcome a presence as they are for a certain other Dorset person! I sympathise with your uneasiness totally, as I've had particularly unpleasant dreams that became reality in one way or another. Also, there aren't too many things I love as much as being by the sea. Glad the rest of your holiday was good and I look forward to being bored by your pictures!