On a late summer’s day I took the train to Margate, a town close to the south-eastern tip of the UK. I was in Margate to visit Tate Contemporary to see an exhibition of Piet Mondrian. A post about the gallery and the exhibition must wait until another day.
I was also going to see the sea; for the first time this year. As I stepped off the train into warm hazy sunshine I felt a keen sense of anticipation. It took me back over thirty years to a time when we would be driving, with our two small children, towards the sea – on holiday or perhaps just on a day out – and four sets of eyes would be searching eagerly for that first sight of the sea. And someone would suddenly call out: ‘I saw it first’. I feel drawn to the sea: there’s something very special about looking out to sea, breathing in the smells, listening to the gentle wash of the waves, and gazing at that distant horizon.
A short walk from the station and there it was. A quiet sea that merged almost imperceptibly into the sky. The light was soft, the sea washed against the sand – ripples, not waves. It was a minimalist scene. I stood, lost in thought, and noticed a figure strolling the tide line, periodically stopping. A lady in a red top, white shorts, white bag. I waited patiently and eventually she crept into my frame.
Two hours later I was walking back to the station with a card full of unexpected images. It was mid-week in mid September. The kids were back in school, the tourists had gone. The cafes and pubs were quiet, the promenade was deserted except for an occasional walker. The beach was empty. I looked for am image to sum up that ‘season’s over’ feeling. I found it in the deck chair attendant, waiting patiently, without a single customer.