Whenever people ask me if I miss Dunbar, I always say ‘I miss the sea’. And it’s true. My life is so radically different that my life there and my life here are like night and day. I am the same person but enhanced by the new opportunities and experiences I’ve had. But I still miss the sea.
Every few months, I get pangs, feelings that I need to go back, just to get a top up. The last time I was there, before last Friday, was just after I was away to Cambridge in October. It was a beautiful autumn day and I took a walk along the Prom down to Belhaven. I have a particular route I take whenever I’m there. I walk along the High Street then through the Glebe and down the stairs, taking the John Muir Way up to the War Memorial and along the Prom right to the end. From there, I walk down the stairs again and along the side of the golf course to end up at the Bridge to Nowhere. I sit there a while then walk back. Once I hit the Glebe, I head by the Pool along Castle Street and down the Vennel to walk by the East Beach. At Woodbush, I walk up the hill to East Links Road and then along to the other prom as far as the other golf course. I walk back and usually that’s time to head for the train home.
I have a conflicted relationship with Dunbar. It’s where I am from but I am not entirely of the place. I went to primary school in Edinburgh and of course now live in Glasgow, which I love. There was always a further horizon, another place to be. I worked there and knew some people but looking back, a big move had to happen. There is more of a world beyond the Beltonford Roundabout and I have always had an outlook that reflects that. I found that I couldn’t grow as a person. It’s been more possible here. But I am still a Dunbar boy, my formative experiences were largely there, I still speak (mostly) the same way and I like pretty much the same things. I cannot shake the place and I have the feeling it won’t let me.
When I go back, it doesn’t feel like home any more. It feels weird, like this place I know well from my past but not a place where my soul lives or anything. But I still feel a need to go back every so often. I just need a walk along to Belhaven, to just feel the air and the wind on my face, just to reset and recharge before going back to my hectic life. So maybe that is what home is, the place you go when you need to start afresh and take stock. It’s here at home in Glasgow but I get it at Belhaven as I do at Prestongrange and a couple of other places.
I miss the sea. I used to be able to see it from my bedroom window. All I can see now is houses. I miss the sea far more than I do Dunbar itself. I think it’s a wee bit worse this weather because my new commute doesn’t take me within sight of it. When I used to work in Dumbarton, the stretch from Bowling to Milton with the harbour before the train passes close to the shoreline, that sustained me a bit. Being by water is soothing and has great possibilities for thought, to consider the colours, the storms abrewing or the distances visible across it. Growing up in Dunbar gave me my need to be by the sea. Even in the big city, that hasn’t changed. It just needs more effort to make it happen, that’s all.