I spent my childhood in Norfolk so the huge skies and wild seascapes are as familiar a memory as the brisk wind that gusts in from the North Sea, leaving you reaching for a warm cosy jumper to protect yourself in. Even in the warmer months it can catch you unawares, but I don’t really mind – all of this forms part of the memory for me and welcomes me back whenever I visit.
So it’s hard at the moment, not being able to return. I would ordinarily have been back at least twice in the last couple of months, to see the seasons unfold and the warmth return to the sea. I imagine that you, like me, are longing for the freedom and solace of that infinite coastline , the raw winds that buffer the beaches, bird filled dawns and peaceful sunsets, the regular pulse of the sea and expansive horizon which somehow looks wider in this part of the world.
I have been searching for words to take me there, in books, songs and poetry; in particular through the songs of Beth Orton and the fabulously descriptive poetry of Kevin Crossley-Holland (a brilliant poet who lives in one of the remote north Norfolk villages). I’m particularly drawn to his poems set at dusk which describe walks along the shore. If I half close my eyes, I am back in Norfolk once again…
I hope the poems have the same effect on you …
The blue hour ends, this world
floats on a great stillness.
I only guess where marsh
finishes and sky begins,
each grows out of the other.
In a creek a slip
of water gleams. Rowboats
Bob and swing above the mud,
the barnacled and broken
ribs of Old Stoker’s boat.
A wedge of gulls rustles
overhead, and for a moment
the water notices them.
Such calm is some prelude.
Then across the marsh it comes,
the sound as if an endless
train in a distant cutting,
the god working his way back,
butting and shunting,
reclaiming his territory.
This world’s his soundbox now;
in the stillness he still moves.
Anything could happen.
Kevin Crossley-Holland, The Mountains of Norfolk: New and Selected Poems (Enitharmon Press, 2011)
Sometimes the neap is surreptitious,
so soft so steady there’s neither swill
nor suck as she slides into the muddy
staithe and lifts skiffs on their anchors,
shifting, out-eager, dreaming of searoom.
Just a jasmine smudge and a dozen
stars, a few marsh birds still conferring.
Three boys on a jetty, shoulder to shoulder.
Low voices, each daring the others.
They can hear the punch, the pound,
distant, arhythmical , and the shingle
cracking. Tide’s almost on the drag
again, they can see the red eyes
winking. The coast is quite clear.
From a collection of poetry by Kevin Crossley-Holland called “Veering North-Easterly. The Green Dragon Press (Diss)