I had not seen the sea for a very long time. Not the water of a river, or even a big lake: I wanted to see The Sea, smell and taste the salt, see the waves, hear and feel the rollers crashing on the sand, pick shells on the beach, feel the breeze on my face. It was more than a desire. The more I thought about it, the more I needed to see the sea.
In the plane, looking at my Green Guide, my eye fell on Whitby, right on the coast of the North Sea. The North Sea: you can’t get more sea than that.
A few days later I was driving up a steep, curving road to the height of a hill on the northern side of Whitby that I thought would afford me a good view. I stepped out of the car and almost ran to the edge of the hill.
The vista opened, and I stood there transfixed.
Below, a small harbour protected by a mole, a headland opposite with an old monastery, the old fishing village huddled on both sides of the harbour and then, beyond, filling the horizon, the longed-for sea.
I don’t know how long I stood there, in a wondering daze, taking deep breaths of sea air.
I made my way down to harbour level. There was a pier, a big, old pier stretching out into the sea with a lighthouse in the middle.
I walked along the pier to a kind of round battlement made of immense blocks of stone with the lighthouse in the centre. It was a blustery September day and the sea was choppy. The waves came crashing against the battlements like the furious assaults of some unknown enemy, only to recede before trying again.
I looked up at the lighthouse. A metal wire, a lightning conductor perhaps, led from the summit to the pier. I saw a little, old sign next to it. I had to step closer to read what it said.
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