Sunday, April 07, 2013

needles, cliffs, the sea, tennyson & half a dead fox - england day 4

what did i wake up to? a blue sky! so i decided not to go to london after all, because i didn't want to risk missing out on a hike on what might possibly be the only sunny day during this holiday. instead, i took the bus to revisit a couple of places i'd been to in the 90s, starting at alum bay.

alum bay is famous for its multi-coloured sands and the fact that, due to geological folding, you can find vertical layers of rock instead of horizontal layers - younger rocks to the west and older rocks to the east. quite stunningly beautiful. until recently i did not know that guglielmo marconi moved here at the end of the 19th century and experimented with radio, communicating with ships offshore.

i did not go down to the beach, however, but instead walked to the needles battery and the needles viewpoint. the needles are three stacks of chalk rising out of the sea just off the shore at the isle's westernmost point. they don't actually look like needles at all, but that is easily explained: there was actually one shaped like a needle, called lot's wife, but it collapsed ages ago. the name, however, stuck. the needles lighthouse is iconic - just walk into any souvenir shop on the island, and it will greet you a hundred times.

queen victoria may have been the most famous resident on the island, but another VIP, so to speak, spent many, many years here: alfred lord tennyson, poet laureate. he owned a house on the island and was a permanent resident for one and a half decades, before he "fled" from the starstruck tourists who kept pestering him, returning to the island during the quiet winters. it was up the hill named after him (tennyson down) that i walked to the memorial erected in his memory, up on a clifftop 147m above the sea, silently reciting lines from his "lady of shalott". i inwardly groaned when some folks up by the memorial were wondering what the "poet, wasn't he" had written and came up with "i wandered lonely as a cloud" ... call me a snob, but - ouch. poor wordsworth, poor tennyson.

it was so beautiful up there, and though it was quite windy at the top, the more than welcome sun made such a difference! i walked on towards freshwater bay, where i stopped for a hot drink, then walked on along the coastal path towards brook. ah, the sea! if there is one thing i would change about my home country it is the fact that it's landlocked. i have always loved the sea. it has never scared me, always drawn me to it. there's something about it that is healing, comforting. i also love the fact that its mood can change like a person's ... from calm and inviting to turmoil, fury and bleakness. it's as if it reflected a person's emotions, inner life.

i walked past tucked away little bays, among gorse bushes, encountered the first two bumblebeesof the season, saw a lot of smiling faces, took plenty of pictures, enjoyed the views all around, and - almost stumbled over half a dead fox. the first thought was "oh, brilliant!" what does that say about me? ha. it looked quite bizarre - only the front half of the animal was left fairly intact ... the rest ... well ... don't ask. i'll post a picture later.

not far from the fox, a bloody wing. above me, seagulls and crows circling and screeching, riding the currents. life and death.

i got to brook chine much sooner than i'd expected, so i went down and sat on the beach for a bit, soaking up some good sea, sun & sand vibes. at the bus stop i stretched out on the bench, face tilted towards the sun, listening to the crows making a racket in the adjacent field, and i could have fallen asleep there, it was so peaceful!

back in sandown, i once again found that nothing beats a long, hot shower after a 14 or 15 km hike. bliss! i felt like dining out, so i put on some decent clothes for a change, no muddy boots or hiking gear. in celebration of me i even put on lipstick! ;) i went to the indian restaurant for some kadai paneer and tandoori roti, and i actually allowed myself the first half pint of cider in ages.

i barely drink alcohol anymore - i went teetotal in 2007, because i did not want to mix my psychotropic drugs with alcohol. i didn't actually mind all that much. when i went off the pills, i found that wine didn't do me good anymore - unfortunately, because i had always enjoyed a glass of shiraz. wines tend to make me anxious and slightly paranoid now. funnily enough, i am alright with some bailey's or even a small caipirinha now and again. anyway, so i thought i'd see how cider agrees with me these days. i spent an hour eating and reading "being alive", being particularly struck by simon armitage's "Not the Furniture Game".

back in my room, i had another video chat with heinz. i had felt hot and my eyes had hurt after my hike, but i'd put it down to the sun, wind and exercise. however, by about 10:30 i was convinced something was wrong. well, 38°C body temperature, that's what was wrong with me. aaaaarghhhh! so, off to bed. i went from burning up to teeth chattering cold until i eventually fell asleep.

here are some photos!

view of the needles

gorse - south england's light

alum bay

freshwater bay

tennyson memorial

half a dead fox

reflective bird

song of the day: the lady of shalott by loreena mckennitt, based on the poem by alfred lord tennyson.

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