Although I’m not a fan of summer, the summer solstice – the turning from spring to summer – has always awakened something akin to spiritual within me.
Ten years ago, Lovely Hubby and I went to Stonehenge. The weather was cloudy and the sun was not expected to show; we didn’t see a sunset, but we caught a glimpse of the sunrise. The crowd cheered, the drummers drummed, and songs and chants filled the air. It gives me goosebumps just remembering it.
Obviously Stonehenge was closed this year to visitors, but English Heritage did a livestream on Facebook. But I still wouldn’t have gone. I’m walking a tightrope of doing things I love but being aware that memories (no matter how wonderful) can knock me off. And so, I decided to spend the summer solstice on the Essex coast.
I spent Saturday afternoon at Frinton-on-Sea. Memories of sunny days with the children made me smile as I watched families picnic and splash in the water. Frinton is a beautiful, old fashioned, genteel sort of town. Years ago someone wanted to open a fish and chip shop and the residents complained so mightily (they wanted day trippers to go home at teatime) that the application was refused.
Clare Mackintosh did a book event at the Lawn Tennis Club several years ago. Lovely Mum and Lovely Daughter came with me and we had a marvellous time. Clare is so entertaining and we laughed until tears ran down our faces. We still talk about her tale of how she wanted to inject a bit of excitement into some of the statements she took when she was in the police force (‘Are you sure you only walked down the street? Would you consider it to have been more of a sashay, perhaps?’).
Lovely Hubby and I visited Frinton one summer’s evening after work and swam in the sea. We were the only people there – which was probably because there was a freezing wind and the sea wasn’t much warmer. It was bracing – and we were grateful for the car’s heater all the way home.
On Saturday evening I drove inland to find a high spot to watch the sun set. It was a bit of a non-event as there were too many clouds. But the sky was beautiful and the peace was soothing.
The next morning I was back in Frinton. I thought the view of the sunrise would be best from the cliff top but I couldn’t resist the call of the sea; I could hear it’s waves brushing against the sandy shore. Molly went crazy, running round and round in circles and then splashed into the waves. I couldn’t resist. Shoes and socks off, jeans rolled up, I followed her in. The water was like a bath, beautifully warm from all the hot weather we’ve been having. I wished I brought my swimming costume but made do with getting my jeans soaking wet.
The sky was cloudy; rain was forecast for 5am and I hoped I might just get a glimpse of the sun. Red lights shining from the windfarm on the horizon gradually dulled as the sky became lighter. A streak of blue amongst the clouds lifted my spirits and urged the sun on.
A concentrated orange glow began to appear from the sea behind the pier just along the beach at Walton on the Naize. I could see the struts of the pier and as I watched, the glow thickened into a fiery ball. Steadily it rose above the pier. The sky was on fire and the waves surged against my legs. The sun held for a moment before it was shrouded by white, whispery clouds. And it was gone.
I walked back to Jesamine, bare-footed and high. As we reached the top of the path the sun had moved quickly through the cloud and was shining again. Now sparkling and yellow it had lost its magic and I turned my back on it to drive home.