I was half way to the fish shop yesterday when a wave crashed onto the promenade ahead – pebbles and cuttlefish rattling across the tarmac. It was an August Saturday, but the beach huts were all closed up against what we’d been told was an Atlantic storm. I was getting wet – not sure if it was rain or sea spray; probably a bit of both. No problem: where I grew up, 75 miles east of here, the Channel narrows, squeezing storms to whip round the very south east corner of Britain. There, pebbles rattled down the chimneys of seafront cottages in the winter. Coming home from school we’d play chicken with the sea and arrive back with damp, salty clothes. I’m surprised we didn’t get into deep water with the grown-ups. After all the sea is a magnificent, deadly monster.
Still, I was surprised at how few people – in this city of a quarter of a million residents – were out along the promenade yesterday to experience the drama of the elements. Coastlines are a wonder – longed-for by many landlocked people, and yet too often taken for granted by those who live within a stone’s throw. The sun brings out the crowds. But when skies are grey even the beach-hut owners shun the seafront. Their loss. I’ve more childhood memories of watching the sea through the rain and open doors of a cosy beach hut, the smell of a paraffin stove and the little kettle whistling.
It’s a bit of a mantra of mine that we need to stop apologising and learn to love the ever-changing, unpredictable weather of this Atlantic island of ours. But even I need reminding sometimes. On a rain-drenched week in England’s Lake District, we passed a local who must have seen our miserable faces and admonished us with a broad Cumbrian: “Sunshine don’t fill t’Lakes up”.
At a B&B out on the west coast of Ireland, our hosts lifted our spirits, inviting us to enjoy the “lovely soft morning” when the mist covered the view. We Brits in tourism should follow suit and learn a new and unapologetic vocabulary – verbal and visual – to celebrate the virtues of our own temperate clime.