extract from The Day the Sea Stood Still
The strangeness began as I stood on the shingle in my Wellington boots and looked out in disbelief. The clouds were still stitched to the sky but the sea was close pounding the shore, white topped waves high and powerful. The waves crashed on the shingle, pulling pebbles back onto the sand.
“This is all wrong,” I said to no one. But something was wrong. I could feel it.Every day I walk the coast from Worthing Pier to the Sea Lane Cafe in Goring, and back. Sometimes I walk on the promenade, occasionally on the wet shingle playing catch-me with the retreating waves at the end of each groyne, but other days far out on the wet sand among the squabbling seagulls and curiously running little pied wagtails.
I read the tide tables as if they are a book. The fine print tells me a story. The changing pull of the moon dictates my footwear. Is it to be trainers for the promenade or Wellington boots for the beach?
When the sea is right out I am unconnected, in a different world, the pier like a gigantic insect astride the sand on multiple legs, the sea-front hotels and terraced 18th Century houses lost in haze, the ugly multi-storied car park mercifully shrouded from view by the band stand. (They pulled down the elegant Grafton House to build that monstrosity. They should have gone underground, like Mole.) I know it's haunted. When I pass by late at night, I hear the clunk-clunk of croquet balls and the tinkle of china tea cups.
My watch said 4.20 p.m. A 6’3’’ high tide had been at 11.31 a.m. The sea should be seeping far out by now, nudging the distant pale horizon.
"Misprint," I said aloud, dismissing it. But I knew it wasn't. No one else had noticed the change but I know the tide times by heart. Something had gone wrong with the tide.
The churning sea matched my annoyance as I stumbled and slithered down the steep bank of shingle and trudged along the water's edge, climbing over each slippery weed-hung groyne. It was hard work.
"You got it wrong," I shouted to the waves. I often talk to the sea. It matches my moods. It is a satisfactory conversationalist, mirroring my thoughts, answering back with a myriad of reflected twinkles in its eye. No words, just a rush of water.
A dog came leaping out of the waves, plumed and eager, stepping high as a thoroughbred racehorse. It came bounding over and shook itself, the spray flying like crystal rain from its pale coat.
"Hello," I said, my ill-humour vanishing. "You're a nice dog. What's your name? Maybe I shall call you Flora, after Flora Macdonald."
The dog barked and bounded off, wanting to play. There was a lot of greyhound in her. I wished I had a ball. I don't throw stones for dogs. It wasn't fair when they could never find them. And I hated the thought of sharp flints carried in tender mouths.
"How did you know her name?"