Written by Carolyn
Here I am back in the hut. This is the first night I’ve slept out since retreating into the cottage last December. A rising tide is breaking over the rocks on the beach below; crests hit the sea wall as the waves move in rhythmic surges. I hear water falling on water, water carried forward, backward, under, away. From my bed, a stone’s throw from the tide line I am listening to the sounds of the night, sound carried across still air over distance; the call of the curlew, seagull, a mating fox. And over all, without cease, like a great beast pawing and rolling, the sea moves closer with a rushing, swirling sound, like sound caught in a giant seashell held to the ear.
I have no curtains in the hut and with one candle lit the night is dark outside my window. I see a light from a fishing boat shining like a star on the ocean, how far away is it, hard to judge, maybe less than a mile, maybe more than two. It’s calm tonight, the tide is at full stretch, it’s run the foreshore and met the sea wall at the base of the cliff. The waves splash but the body of the sea is calm, no wind tonight. Stillness within movement. How happy I am to be out here again imbedded in nature. I hear geese on the river. Are they fishing? Has the rising tide brought bass, sea trout, congers and sprats flipping below the riverbanks where they roost? I feel alive, more alive than when I sleep in the house. I don’t want to go back inside ever.
The Easter holidays ended today and my daughter Li Chen returned to school. She stays there during the week. She’s nearly 15 and in the last 4 months she’s grown older; developed the need to sleep in her own room, she prefers the house, walls, privacy. I took her to school, returned home and straight away made up my bed in the hut. It’s midnight now and I feel alert, alone but for my young cat and little dog. I get out of bed, prop open the door and let the night in still further. I step outside and look at the one star on the ocean and the multitude above. My pyjamas flutter like a flag in the breeze. Which is more remarkable I muse; the sea, the sky or the earth?
My tai chi terrace project with the bedroom underneath, which I wrote about in my last article, has begun. I’ve been waiting to start for a few weeks but the guys who were going to help are still involved with other projects. I was beginning to wonder how to make it happen when a man who lives in a tree house in the middle of a wood called to see me about another matter. When I mentioned my project he rocked back on his Cuban heals, tugged at the sleeve of his immaculately ironed floral shirt and immediately devised an unconventional but seemingly viable way of constructing my flagship, very economically. He returned the next morning with nicely drawn plans and a shovel. Together, with me wielding my new pickaxe, we dug two one metre deep holes.
“ What are you doing with 2 one meter square holes ?” said the man in the DIY store when I enquired how much cement it would take to fill them. “ Are you sure you mean one meter square?”
“ I certainly do, I dug them myself…. with bit of help.”
“ What are you going to put in them, a body?” said the man.
“ Of course.” I replied. It was clear he didn’t know what to make of me. “ I’m extending my terrace so I need to cast a couple of concrete pads to hold the uprights.” I explained with a smile.
“You,” he said eyeing me with alarm, “ building an extension! I presume you’re following regs. and have planning permission?”
“ Obviously,” I replied, “ and now If you’d be so kind, please put one bag of cement and five bags of ballast straight into my trolley. ” I hurried away as fast as I could. I shall have to be careful; British health and safety regulations have reached hysterical proportions. In the future, I shan’t admit to digging or building anything and to be extra safe I’ll use the other DIY store. Hey-ho, life in the free west.