A few days ago, I was in Craster in Northumberland. I wrote a bit about it in the post Along the way, published on Tuesday, but I wanted to expand a bit. We arrived about 11am and left about 1.30. The weather, the light changed utterly in the space of that time. So did the sea. When we arrived, the sky was cloud-filled and grey. The sea was like slate. Barely an hour later, the sea was brighter because the sun was peeking out from behind the clouds. Much of the sky was blue, light and pale since it was still January but it was blue nonetheless. It was stunning and an utter joy to be there.
Every morning, I look at Twitter and see a picture posted on the Sea Window Craster account. Seeing that sky and those waves usually sees me right for a while. To walk there and see it for real was even better. A screen is a poor substitute for real life. I know people who will post social media updates while they are away somewhere. I tend not to do that because I like to live first and tell the story later. Words are an impression. They cannot possibly encapsulate every single aspect of an experience. But we, I, spend a lot of time trying. A photograph inspires and makes you want to go back, even if the place you are looking at is 139 miles away, as Craster is from here.
Craster is beautiful and thus it is a very popular place. If you are there in the summer, getting a parking space is incredibly difficult. (Public transport rules!) Being an out-of-season sort of guy is useful only occasionally. A lot of the places I like are only open in the summer months. Craster in January was quiet with only a few non-locals, like us, about to share one of the finest places in these islands. It wasn’t particularly cold, not stormy unlike what it has become towards the end of the week. January is a good time to go places and it was certainly glorious to be in Northumberland over that time. We were incredibly lucky with the weather, not least in Craster with the light changing even as we were there for a short time.
I think I wrote the other night about the sculpture Couple in Newbiggin-by-Sea and how I wasn’t sure what I thought of it. I’m still not convinced but I am beginning to see the point of putting the sculptures there in the first place. Being by the sea actively invites contemplation and wider, deeper thoughts than often seem possible inland. I suspect people who go up mountains would disagree with that – that’s fine. When I am by the sea, I spend a lot of time looking out, whether at the waves or further afield, to land across the way or just to the horizon. In Craster, the gaze was drawn to the horizon or to Dunstanburgh Castle, just up the coast.
What I gained from the experience, as I did later in the day on Bamburgh beach, was a sense of calmness, gained from my surroundings and a quieter pace quite removed from the city life I live now. Right now it is there and all it needs is the right thought or looking at a photo to soothe and lower my heartrate. I’m like that with Belhaven a lot of the time, same with several places on the East Neuk of Fife. Prestwick Beach and Lochaber too. I hope this doesn’t go away too soon, even while the holiday mode is even now a distant memory.