“Do you know anything about this building?” This is Lou, asking a lone dog walker. We are on a quiet stretch of stoney beach near Pett. There’s a half built villa with incredible aspect that looks like it should be in Malibu. Palm trees in the garden. Next to it is a smaller more modest stone home flying the Union flag proud, also looking out on the huge sea.
“Do I know anything? Oof you’ve asked the wrong question there. ‘ow long you got? I know everything about it. I don’t wanna bore you though.” He’s walking his spaniel. He has two balls on the go in case he loses one. His thrower has been patched and repatched with gaffer tape. Here, by the sign saying “No dogs on the beach before 30th September” – this is where he walks his dog every day. He has got all the gossip. And he’s on his own, so there’s nobody to roll their eyes and tell him to leave the poor people alone.
“The house with a flag? Bloke that lives there, he’s 92. Used to live in the big house. His parents built it but he moved to the little one next door – downsized. Sold the big one to the current owners. He’s a player, he is. Likes the ladies. He’s got a flag for every country in the world. When he’s gonna bring a lady home, he flies that country’s flag. And he’s 92. Still going.
Anyway yeah so the big place – the current owners, I mean they got property all over the world. Got a house in Richmond Park. This is just a beach house to them but about a year ago there’s flooding, a bit of structural damage… So they pulled the whole place down. Got to fix it, but maybe some changes at the same time. Kept all the stones so it’ll look just the same. There was people whose job it was to scrape all the concrete off of them. Store them in vans. New place is gonna have the same footprint and all but they’ve dug thirty foot down now. Swimming pool and that going into the basement. Round here – this was all soil one day. Then the next day, no soil. One hundred and eighty seven truckloads of soil they pulled up and it all got taken out of there so they can stick God knows what under it. Cinema room? Games room? I dunno. Swimming pool. You name it. 3 million they’ve spent doing it. But, you know, the back stairwell up round the cliff there – that’s theirs but it’s the only way you can get up to a caravan up the top of that cliff there and you know who lives there? It’s that Derren Brown. He lives up there in a caravan. He’s got use of the stairwell for like 800 thousand. And the cliff’s falling down. Used to be all caves up there – smugglers caves and that where they’d take their stuff, bring it through, did it for ages must’ve done and I remember those caves. Right there they were, and I said to myself ‘if them caves are ever gone then that’s it, you know, that’s it for us’. But the caves are gone and we’re still ‘ere. I seen a big chunk go down myself, got it on video. ‘Fffffffff-lipping ‘eck,’ you hear me say at the end of the video. Caught myself just in time remembered I was on the video sound. Said flipping ‘eck but you know what I meant. Just happened to be there at the time, far enough away, saw it starting. Great big chunk came off.”
I like this guy. While he’s jamming with Lou and unfolding his accumulated daily local knowledge I’m watching his spaniel chewing up bits of wood with alarming voracity. It’s a happy dog with a happy keeper.
I’m willing to take some of his info with a pinch of salt but he’s invested in this and all of his numbers are very specific. He loves this stretch of beach. And his imprecations about how foolish it might be to go anywhere near the foot of the cliff – they land very well because I just had a wee in the gorse there and now I’m feeling stupid. I could’ve had a rock on my head.
I did do a bit of “work”. I sent a self tape. They’re coming easier now, but maybe that’s because I’ve got ace friends to help and I took the time to make sure my selected scenes were relatively fluent. But yeah, mostly a day just walking on beaches. A lovely day for it as well. Lucky me.