An unexpected holiday
I have been on holiday to the seaside. Hardly noteworthy except that I have been shielding for almost five months, so this was a big event. And, living in Shropshire, we are a long way from the sea. We are in the largest county that is land locked in England. I have been looking forward to this trip for some time.
I packed all the food we would need so that we did not have to visit any shops. I usually support the local holiday shops but not this time, unfortunately. We were on the motorway and ‘free’ as a bird. Flying off to the east coast.
Then, with masks on, we nipped into the cottage. Neighbours waved through the window as I stared out and mouthed, ‘Are you alright?’ and we all did the thumbs up sign.
Now, to see the sea at last. But it was not so easy. The car parks were crowded as were the sands. It would be difficult to social distance here. I saw a little girl skipping along in a pink dress with her matching pink mask twirling round her hand like the plastic windmills in the shop.
So, it was back to the cottage for tea. Here we swapped the tapping of our hen, Speckles, for the tapping of a herring gull on the window. His bright yellow beak made it clear that he wanted feeding. I had to ignore it, but in the early morning, at about 4am, I had no choice but to notice. I woke with a start at the gulls squawking into the rising sun from the roof tops. You can see why they are not popular even though, surprisingly, their numbers are in rapid decline.
That day I decided that I would feel more comfortable going inland and exploring little villages. All was incredibly quiet, what a contrast to the seaside. I discovered churches down tracks, in fields and on little hills. I could get out of the car, at last, and wander round armed with my mobile internet. In the peace of churchyards, I researched the history of each church and found some were built from stones washed up by the sea. The fisherman had dragged the boulders from the sands to use as building material. I learnt that some were used for smugglers hauls and one little church had a lepers’ squint.
A lepers’ squint was made in the middle ages for people who could not mix with others. They could only stand at the tiny slit window to peer in. The lepers could watch the service from the outside so that they would not infect the rest of the congregation. This was social distancing in the fourteenth century.
On our way home west, we met heavy traffic bumper to bumper. One solid line of families going off on their holiday to the west coast. I hope they see more of the sea than I did.
(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)