Still feeling fragile, having returned from a weekend in Cornwall, where I attended the stag party of an old school friend. I'd become rather bored of the usual uninspired stag cliches of go-karting, paintballing and despoiling eastern european cities, so it was a pleasant change to go coasteering. I spent the summers of my adolescence throwing myself off cornish cliffs for free, but apparently now it has a name they can charge you for the privilege.
Anyway it was actually great fun and I would recommend it to anyone who is struggling for an idea of something to do for a stag weekend. We spent the day exploring the cliffs around Polzeath, and leaping into the murky green water - even though I've been doing it for years, there's still something edgy about the cliffs and the deep green water and grasping bladderwrack that lurks in my primordial cortex. I love the sea, yet also fear it. Betjeman, the local sage, captured that very same feeling of fear and wonder in this poem about Polzeath:
These clumps of sea-pink withered brown,
The breezy cliff, the awkward stile,
The sandy path that takes me down.
To crackling layers of broken slate
Where black and flat sea-woodlice crawl
And isolated rock pools wait
Wash from the highest tides of all.
I know the roughly blasted track
That skirts a small and smelly bay
And over squelching bladderwrack
Leads to the beach at Greenaway.
Down on the shingle safe at last
I hear the slowly dragging roar
As mighty rollers mount to cast
Small coal and seaweed on the shore,
And spurting far as it can reach
The shooting surf comes hissing round
To heave a line along the beach
Of cowries waiting to be found.
Tide after tide by night and day
The breakers battle with the land
And rounded smooth along the bay
The faithful rocks protecting stand.
But in a dream the other night
I saw this coastline from the sea
And felt the breakers plunging white
Their weight of waters over me.
There were the stile, the turf, the shore,
The safety line of shingle beach
With every stroke I struck the more
The backwash sucked me out of reach.
Back into what a water-world
Of waving weed and waiting claws?
Of writhing tentacles uncurled
To drag me to what dreadful jaws?