Absolutely glorious day today if you look at it through glass. The sun is falling over the sea now, I’m back indoors and my feet are jammed under a radiator. Bright sunlight, clear skies and a wind from Hel herself.
We drove to Saltdene and managed about seven minutes on the undercliff before we had been stripped to the bone by ice and forced back to the Audi. Thankfully there’s a good heating system in there.
A day’s walking commuted to a day’s driving. I wasn’t going to pass up on such a glorious day, but time outside had to be minimised and time inside is only possible at home. Car time. We drove to Lewes. I didn’t really know Lewes, and frankly I still don’t because everything is closed. We looked at how we weren’t able to get into the castle, marveled at streets full of antique shops that were locked, and eventually found a walled garden where we were able to sit for a while and imagine Spring, with the sun on our face and the wall protecting us from the worst of this katabatic wind, and the squirrels frolicking. Peace for a moment. Just a couple of people and an abundance of living things.
We bought a coffee through the window of a shop, and spun over to the little village where Virginia Woolf walked to her end. A little cottage in a sweet village full of scowling people. A beautiful garden by a pretty church. She filled her pockets with stones and took herself to The Ouse. Fast flowing, deep and sharply cold. Poor spirit. Down she went. Her old house is closed, of course, but maintained by live-in caretakers who clocked us peering over the wall like apple-scrumping Victorian schoolchildren.
We found a church that was open. Most of the churches are still open which is a comfort. Empty as ever, but at least we can drop a prayer and a penny in the pot. Say what you like about the church, at least it’s not the state.
You don’t have to go far in this area to find something beautiful. With these expensive and twee towns, these retirement enclaves and with the South Downs and the many ancient sites mingled with stone vestiges of the Norman duke’s profound and irreversible smash of conquest into the old ways here. I can’t be in the countryside in this area without thinking of Paul Kingsnorth’s desperate and wonderful book “The Wake” where he imagines a man whose world is turned around by the conquest – written in an approximated lost language:
“aefry ember of hope gan lic the embers of a fyr brocen in the daegs beginnan brocen by men other than us. hope falls harder when the end is cwic hope falls harder when in the daegs before the storm the stillness of the age was writen in the songs of men so it is when a world ends who is thu i can not cnaw but i will tell thu this thing be waery of the storm be most waery when there is no storm in sight”