Gylly and Me

Here’s something from the archives with a beachy theme and variable weather conditions – sort of appropriate for the August this year’s meteorology has served us I thought? It’s a series of snapshots of my relationship with my local beach during my time as an undergraduate several years ago now in Falmouth. Perhaps I should do a sequel some time? I’ve even managed to dig out some actual snapshots to go with. Comments and suggestions welcome as always.

I gravitated towards the beach for reassurance: not so much for the comfort of the familiar, but for the solidarity gleaned from feeling that familiarity with the place was imminent. I looked forward to learning what those rocks were, why there was so much seaweed, and why the sand made the soles of my feet so white that my pasty skin looked tanned in comparison.

DSCF0017Skirting the edge of the land the sea wall’s top lip curls back on itself to rebound the sea’s excess energy in a storm. Annie and I hop the railings, taking the wall-top ledge as our own private walkway, the dog we walk on loan trots on ahead, mapping his doggy holiday memories in seaside smells.


The wind was up: in a big way. That normally sheltered beach was taking a battering. Surfers made heavy weather of the messy swell. Black-headed gulls, white-capped in their winter plumage, floated in huge numbers or picked over the wet shore after each receding breaker.

Gylly Beach (3)Our holiday resolution is to sea swim every day. Even after a week of hesitant submergings into the chill we’re no faster at immersing ourselves.

DSCF1155The funny looks we got carrying tinfoil lidded plates to the beach soon turned to envy as we sat on the sand and dug in to forkfuls of steaming pasta, fresh cooked for our evening meal. Now that was an unsung benefit of living within walking distance of the sea.

Picture 002Swimming in the rain: it’s as though the sea’s being refilled. On land you’d get soaked by this rain in a matter of moments, but once you’re in the sea the paltry tirade of drips seems absurdly insignificant compared to the oceanic well that surrounds you.

35 11.07.06 L.digitata(1) 75mThat summer I spent more time on the beach than I did at home, or so it seemed at the time. I had my ecological monitoring down to a fine art, arriving daily armed with quadrats and tape measure, leaving the text books behind as familiarity with my subject matter rendered them unnecessary. Children watched with interest, too shy to question why I was counting up the algae growing in each sample square. I skipped the formalities and took over a bristlestar on my palm for them to look at, its five arm-legs tickling and alien. It was at once strange and beautiful, graceful underwater, at home where we are forced to spectate at a distance.

‘No, take it again, David wasn’t ready, Merryn’s pulling a face and Matt look’s like he’s going for a poo.’
‘Ok go again, we’re ready now.’
‘3…2…1… Jump everyone!’

2007.06.13 041

This one goes out to the ones I love
This one goes out to the ones I’ve left behind
A simple prop to occupy my time
This one goes out to the ones I love

2006.06.29 Annie's Graduation (33)We kicked off our shoes and got white dust from the quartzy sand on our clean feet, incongruously dirty compared to our posh dresses. Strawberries. Sunburnt shoulders. A little swill of sand grains at the bottom of the bucks fizz. Even in our bohemian take on posh we’ve still got our feet on the ground, or, at better still, on the beach.

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2014.05.08 (19) GyllyCoastlining 10.1: FalmouthAt Gyllyngvase Beach I go down onto the sand. I tread the intertidal sand that’s genuinely washed in and out by the sea. It’s too dark to see my footprints but the invisible reality is that they’re all over this beach. Though hardly the nicest beach in Cornwall, or even my favourite within Falmouth, it’s loaded with memories.


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