I wrote this post over a month ago, but never actually shared it. I hope reading about summer in early October doesn’t upset you.
Every once in a while, I come into work, look around me and think, I need to book a trip right now, or I will start chewing up my desk.
My trusted tools in that moment are the Google search for day trips from London and Trainline; during the most recent of those moments, they delivered me a promotional return offer for Whitstable.
On Saturday 11th August, my alarm went off at 5.20am. I didn’t think my body would be too thrilled about waking up at my regular hour, but as soon as I opened the curtains and saw the garden soaked in sunlight, leaving early felt like a great idea again. I left on the 8.25am train from St Pancras, armed with nothing but a journal, a book and a coffee.
The first thing I always notice when not in London is the air.
The difference is less striking now that I live in the leafy north, but wherever you leave from in the city, getting off the train or plane on the other end is always a little shock to the system. Whitstable was a symphony of smells right from the beginning: the slim streets that had that comfortable, clean smell of a small community (I don’t know how to describe it properly, but the village my grandparents lived in smelled like this: established and content, like laundry and gardens and the absence of litter), the smoke of a fire that seemed to be burning somewhere, and the salty, fresh smell of the sea. Then, further towards the harbour, fried fish.
I’d arrived early enough to come to an almost empty beach. The sun was out, the sky and sea battling out the fight for the deepest blue; small dogs zooming across the pebbles on their first walk of the day, chasing after tennis balls too large for them to hold on to; birds, everywhere. A little girl in a yellow dress stood on her garden wall overlooking the beach, singing her heart out along to the pop song blasting from the phone in her hand. A few houses further up a teenager sat on the same wall singing Lorde’s Royals, guitar case open next to her.