Beachy Heads


Oh, you know what it’s like. You get out of the habit of doing something and then it just seems too effortful, too contrived to start again. This was, um, that, until I spent some time with some better photographers than I am and was spurred back to activity by their lovely snaps, which are just a few paragraphs away.

A quick round-up of the last few months would include the languorous end of that chest infection (leaving a souvenir of increased wheeziness), a big pile of work, an influx of furniture to the little house, and a bit of swimming. No Ibiza this year, and not much walking, until last week, that is.

In May I was invited to a party in Inkpen and marked the occasion by walking to it. It took three days and, apart from feeling mugged for £70 by the worst B&B I’ve ever stayed in, it was dreamy. This fired me with enthusiasm, so when an invitation to a friend’s house in Faversham arrived, with the optional extra of a trip to a Whitstable beach hut on the Sunday, I brushed off the boots and unfurled the maps.

Off I set at sparrow’s fart to Uckfield in Sussex, then set my face to north-east and kept going, over rivers, up hills, through hedges, past deer, geese, goats and on one discombobulating occasion, a kangaroo. It might have been wallaby, of course, though as I thought it was just a funny-shaped feed bin until it started hopping, I’m probably not best placed to judge. Brown, furry, hoppy – that’s your lot, I’m afraid.

Anyhow, into Kent (where, without wishing to stoke any intercountry rivalry, it should be noted the footpaths are 10,000 times better signposted than in East Sussex) and the home straights. Beauty, beauty, beauty, punctuated by thunderstorms so long and severe that laughter was the only possible response. Certainly I guffawed as I realized I was standing on the vast playing fields of Benenden School, carrying a metal umbrella near some oak trees and the thunder was so perpendicularly overhead it made a tearing sound.

To my hostess on Friday evening, who is a friend of such long standing it was only 20% embarrassing to ask if I could dump my sweaty, muddy, blackberry-stained gear in her washing machine. The extra friends arrived the next day for more walks and the trip to Whitstable where a beach hut was waiting to be draped with ladies.

V, S, E beach hut-lo

Here it is, enjoying our company.


And here WE are, enjoying each other’s company.

V, S, E looking away-lo

Now, it’s an action-style tableau, for here we are admiring the clouds over Seasalter. Everyone else on this outing was a stylist, creative director, art director and general aesthetician, so presumably are wondering what Farrow & Ball would call that colour: Wet Slate? Depressed Donkey? Soggy otter? I’m just considering a swim, hence the expression of unalloyed delight.

That flowery thing on my lap is not a novelty tea towel, nor a shirt I borrowed from Elvis in Blue Hawaii, it is the swimsuit that I am thinking of putting on.

VH in sea-lo

But then I tested the water and found that – unlike Seapoint in Dublin, where I napalmed a hangover with a heart-stoppingly cold swim a few weeks back – it didn’t give my feet migraines when they were 2cm submerged. So off I waded. You can see it was a popular choice; my friends wouldn’t even go for a paddle.

E, and V in sea-lo

And here are the swarms of paparazzi who make my life such hell.


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