On a bright and blustery morning Jackie drove me to Milford on Sea, so I could walk along Hurst Spit whilst she sat in the car with her puzzles. I walked the length of the wall protected by Norwegian rocks, with Sturt Pond on my left and, beyond the waves on my right, The Needles. As it was pretty cold up there, my return was alongside the channel and the pond. Thus I avoided the chill wind coming off the Solent. the stretch of water between the mainland and the Isle of Wight.
Various waterfowl and sea birds bobbed and floated on the pond or scavenged among the mud pools. Suddenly spooked by something unseen, the Brent geese all left the surface of the water, and, setting up a cacophonous honking above the howl of the wind, filled the skies overhead, before eventually settling down again.
At the far end of the spit, beyond the granite rocks, the terrain drops and the deep shingle is banked up. As I trudged across this my footsteps were echoed by the gravelly tones of stones seeking new levels after their disturbance. They slipped into place with sliding sounds similar to those of ‘Dover Beach’ described so eloquently by the poet Matthew Arnold.
The channel that had made Jackie and me think of ‘Star Wars’ on an earlier trip leads to a harbour where yachts are moored before one reaches Hurst Castle. This is where I turned round and set off back to the car. Because of the ‘Star Wars’ memory and the idea that I might be able to photograph a gull from the level of the stream, I stepped down the bank by one of the two bridges that each span a section of this stretch of water.
I didn’t spot a suitable flier, so, as far as that picture was concerned, I went empty handed. Fortunately I also left empty handed from something else I spotted just in time.
It soon became apparent, as I tracked the stream, that I was going to run out of dry land, so I decided it was time to climb back up the now steeper bank. This required the use of both hands and feet. Peering over the top and clawing at a tussock with my left hand, my right one poised for planting and restoring balance, I noticed this was destined to descend into a neat pile of coagulating dog turds. I could no longer rely entirely on my sinister arm. Not being as dextrous as I once was, and not wishing to hear an unpleasant squelching sound whilst my nose was rather too close to its source, in mid-air with an impressive display of reflexes, I adjusted the trajectory of my right palm, swivelled out of control on my left, and fell over instead. In that split second I had realised that brushing dried sandy mud off my clothing later was preferable to the likely necessity presented by the immediate ‘clear and present danger’. I trust Tom Clancy will forgive me for borrowing his title.
Our sustenance this evening was provided by battered pollock and chips; pickled onions and cornichons; mushy peas and bread and butter; followed by rice pudding with strawberry jam and evaporated milk. I drank water.