After thirty-five years living in the same house, one would expect regret seeing a house emptied of all its memories. Whereas I think we were more concerned about keeping ourselves safe as our lovely movers didn’t seem at all concerned about Covid. Apart from making numerous cups of tea, we huddled in out conservatory by an open door with cold drizzle painting the windows, on our two remaining chairs as maskless young men kept demanding answers to their questions. ‘Is this going or do you realise that there’s a bolt missing from this?’ As the house emptied, I only saw a shell. What had been our lovely home became an empty space, one which the new owner will make her own and it will become unrecognisable with new paint and new furniture.
Close neighbours brought cards and one a bottle of wine, regretting our departure but it was only when we were dropping off keys to the agent, that I allowed myself to feel sad. We enjoyed living in our seaside town with all its many conveniences; a ten minute walk to an excellent butchers, the post office, a chemist and some good pubs; fifty yards to a flat promenade and a walk into town with sea views to brighten our way. Just lately though, we regretted the hordes on the promenade and the constant dodging of bikes, joggers and families and we retreated to the beach. How sad is that? What should bring pleasure now brought a threat as the local infections skyrocketed after Christmas.
Fours hours drive further north, we have returned to the East Coast that we left fifty years ago, albeit further south. We can see our grandchildren again, even if we have to social distance and can’t be in the same house, but they are close by. On our third day, we had snow, rarely seen in Sussex. But the fourth day brought us cold sunshine and we wrapped up well to explore our new coast. What struck me was the lack of seagulls, crows cawing yes, but no shrieking gulls. In fact, on the dunes the only sound was the occasional sing-song calling of dog owners to their wayward hounds, ‘Charlie, here now.’ An otherwise empty wilderness.
Of course it’s not a wilderness. The wide dunes are covered in grasses, lichen and moss, and hidden in the undulating dunes are hundreds of seal pups a bit further to the north. Normally on winter’s weekend, a line of people and avid photographers would be walking to view the seals. In lockdown, the beach is deserted but for a few local stalwarts. The sand is soft and wide, no shingle hiding the beach, no rockpools for the grandchildren to delve in. The lone cafe was taken down to stop it falling into the sea and is yet to be replaced. It feels a safe space to wait out this pandemic. This idea was not on our minds when we began to think of moving but now as I look at daily rates of infections – this place is low down – and we are thankful for that. Another few days and we will put aside the fear that we had placed ourselves in danger on moving day and can look forward to spring and planting vegetables and fruit trees. The next chapter of our lives will begin to unfold.