100 seconds of solitude

It’s a beautiful day, I expect.

Hunzi and I stroll in the warm late-October sunshine along the shingle barrier above Tân-y-bwlch, Aberystwyth’s undeveloped south town beach, as far as the point; and look back along the great, windswept curve of the mile-long bay towards the distant pastel-painted houses under the castle, the sea politely but insistently breaking over the shiny, smooth grey rocks below, humped like basking seals at low tide.

In the distance are two tiny figures on the beach. Otherwise, there is no-one. It is a moment of unexpected solitude.

Within a minute or so, a hiker appears: sixtyish, androgynous, striding manfully along with her backpack. Two walkers in red cagoules break cover on the far hillside, Pen Dinas, heading up the track towards the monument. Horses whinny in the paddock as a car pulls up next to the ramshackle collection of tin sheds on the other side of the river; and is soon joined by another. The voices of the occupants carry indistinctly over the dark and greasy river still turbid from yesterday’s rain. More figures emerge from the car park at the start of the beach walk. A couple are half-lying close together on the shingle bar, lost in conversation.

It looks uncomfortable, there on the piled grey stones in the Autumn sunshine. Irrational too, as it’s one of those days when the pebbles are all down at the other end, invitingly exposing the sandy beach. The grey volcanic stones move around constantly, milled by the tide, and have been found miles up the coast, according to the old Welsh farmer in the battered blue Land-Rover, who shares ownership of this entire landscape with HM the Queen, much of the foreshore and all of the low-lying sheep pasture for hundreds of acres behind. He comes every evening with his old blue-eyed dog and his binoculars, to watch for dolphins he says.

Above us, the jet trails heading out towards the Irish coast sensed somewhere beyond the horizon have been combed into jagged streamers by high-altitude winds. Daily Express headlines all week have been warning of the ‘storm of the century’, that threatens in the fevered imagination of an editor obsessed with terrifying his few remaining readers with dire but seldom confirmed weather warnings, to wipe out all life here on Sunday night.

Is there life on Sunday night? I think we should be told.

phone shots oct 13 178Crocodiles, hippos and bears chase one another across Tân-y-bwlch beach