Ceremonies of the Day
I’m sitting in a peaceful retreat, the Greek Arch by Ramsgate Harbour. An old brick arch, now renovated – but it’s like a cave. I’ve taken some time out to cool down from the oppressive heat and to have some quiet, writing time. There’s a lovely fresco in here, a Greek island scene. Most areas of wall show bare bricks though, subtly weathered with white. Coming here is a kind of ceremony that marks the half-way mark, before the walk back to Broadstairs. The tea is good too and came in a pot. In the winter, when I took my own children here, we had hot chocolate.
Really, my intention was to write about the walk along the coast from Broadstairs to Ramsgate, yet things have a way of diverging… The group of international students I have walked with, who are now wandering around Ramsgate (visiting their favourites, Poundland and the sweet shop, I guess), have opted to return by foot too. Perhaps on the way back I’ll go back to my childhood and get a slushy drink from the shack farther along the harbour (though not a blue one).
So what else is special about walking to Ramsgate? Today it has been the sweet scent of jasmine in the rather neglected gardens (aroma like a drug), the water which was aquamarine earlier but ever-changing, the black flint striking ribbons through the white chalk cliffs. This chalk is made from the bones of sea creatures from the Cretaceous era, compressed with time. I do not know why the flint here is so dark, nor why it looks like it contains many galaxies (the latter an observation by Fred). Again, people believe that it is formed from sea creatures (probably gelatinous ones), their liquified remains having seeped into the layers between the chalk and then hardened over time, but there’s still doubt.
Walking back we will go via the King George VI Memorial Park, still lush and shady when many grassy areas in Thanet are golden and dry, due to many weeks without rain. Here there is also a small and eccentric glass-house which houses succulent plants. Last time we visited, there was a tall agave – a plate of glass had been taken out of the roof allowing it to bloom. I guess it has gone now, as it gave its life force to the flower.
Transformation and Freedom
Thanet is quite urban, sometimes suffocating, frustrating, and right now pretty bad-tempered (especially on the road). There are fields scattered here and there, but the coast is this island’s heaven, a place where you can escape, gain perspective and feel *’deep time’. You can feel freedom when on the pale-golden sand beaches beside the transforming landscape of sea. Freedom through time and place. On some days you can also see the cliffs of France in dazzling clarity.
*The book I’m reading is The Pebbles on the Beach by Clarence Ellis. Here, I’m learning more about the cliffs I mention in this post. Robert MacFarlane has written the foreword, where he describes ‘deep time’ as ‘the aeons of earth history stretching dizzingly away from the present’.