It's different by the sea. Out here on the rugged edges of the green interior, you come face to face with something wilder, vaster, more primordial.
I lived in London for 20 years and escaped here last summer. It immediately struck me that this liminal stretch I now call home had its own distinct sound-world.
The first thing you notice are the squarks of the seagulls. When you imagine the sound of birds, you imagine the birdsong of the countryside, sweet melodic lilts and trills filling up the fecund silence with music. Seagulls don't sound like that. Seagulls sound like the Jeremy Kyle contestants of the bird kingdom, always full of aggro at 3 in the morning, keeping you up all night.
The very first night here, when we'd finally decided to stop unpacking boxes and lay down, we heard hurried feet run across the ceiling. Shit, we thought, we've moved into a haunted house. We were spooked out by this unsettled scarpering to and fro for three nights running, until we realised there was a baby seagull trapped on our roof. We phoned the RSPB in a panic. They asked if we'd just moved down from London (locals are used to this happening from time to time), and told me under no circumstances to feed the bird, so I kept quiet about the chunks of Warburton's white sliced I'd been giving it every couple of hours.
But these are just small details against an altogether more profound backdrop: the sounds of the vasty deep herself. Along the prom, on my walk home from our shop every evening, half of my view will be taken up by the familiar, human scale world - stuccoed terraces, chippies and traffic lights - and the other half will be taken up by that flat, endless sea stretching out forever in space and time, and above it, watching from eternity, the pantheon of the constellations. Living by the seaside, you cannot help but take on a more cosmic perspective. The sounds here are similarly primordial: a million tonnes of churning sea, a vast muffled juggernaut of white noise, reverberating along the hills that rise up the bending bay, an enormous natural amphitheatre, a giant shell to your ear that stretches all the way to the horizon.
And lying in the darkness of the bedroom some nights, when the wind's right, everything here roars, the air itself roars like the beginning of the world, the roar of the world emerging from the cosmic void ...
That is on the wild unsettled nights. When the weather is gentler, the sound of the sea fades back to a whispered "shh", like a mother to her baby, the slow rhythm of calm waves lap, lap, lapping the beach, breaking on the sands, beckoning you from your bedroom window to the shores of sleep.
Words by Michael Smith (who lives in Hastings)
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