I love the sea. I love all its moods from the calm nuzzling at the shore to the pounding on the rocks and the rattling of the shingle. I used to take my cup of coffee down to Seatoun beach and sit and think – working out stories, dilemmas, work related issues, or just clearing my head after a heavy night. Him Outdoors isn’t as much of a fan, unfortunately, so he could bear to be parted from it.
We have moved back to Arrowtown – slap bang in the middle of the South Island of New Zealand. For a country surrounded by water, this is one of the furthest places you can get from the sea. I have been back here for five days now and I miss it. I miss the sound and the sight and the smell. I miss that horizon. Mountains make me feel hemmed in – oceans open vistas before me.
We have lakes here – beautiful, stunning lakes fringed with blazing poplars and reflecting surrounding snow-capped mountains. They’re spectacular, but they don’t have the same personality. Maybe it’s the movement and the unpredictability? Having said that, we were made homeless for six months when Lake Wakaitpu flooded its banks and the hills slipped down the valleys under torrents of rain – so they’re not entirely staid.
I like rivers too. I have taken to running daily down by the Arrow River – it rushes greenly past and the sun glints deceptively like flashes of gold in the pan. The flinty pebbles are tart and I imagine a dry Reisling whenever I am there. When we performed Rush! here in 2004 we did a photo-shoot by the Arrow. It was freezing as the lads splashed through the water and the women drank coffee on the bank.
I remember reading a book by Colette in French when I was about 13 – yes, I was that precocious. There was a passage about growing up by the Marne – the children thought that Marne was the word for river – there was no other river as far as they were concerned. For me it was the Thames. It was the backdrop to my childhood – from The Wind in the Willows to the Marlow Regatta.
We used to laze on the banks, collect tadpoles in jars and sneak off to swim by the islands on hot summer days – don’t tell mum! I got married on the banks of the Thames and we crossed the river in a launch to have the reception on the other side, walking through a park ornamented with a statue of Sir Steven Redgrave. I think water may be in my blood.
When we watched the results of the last American presidential election it was wonderful to see the map turn blue – finally! Coming from England and refusing to ever vote Tory (don’t get me started…) it was a little odd to be supporting the blue side, but it makes sense. It seems that in the States the thinking and creative types are on the edge, literally as well as metaphorically. If they are not on the fringes of society, hugging the coast lines, they are nestling up to the Great Lakes. It’s got to have something to do with the water.
A favourite of T-shirt companies (particularly in New Zealand) is the anonymous, but oft claimed, quote, ‘If you’re not living on the edge; you’re taking up too much space.’ I’m not entirely sure that I agree with this, but it’s certainly something to think about – maybe with a cup of coffee down by the beach.