Birling Gap yesterday. I left my camera in the car so I will tell you. I carried a washbasket (containing wetsuits, towels and dry clothes: a selection), a picnic bag, an additional picnic bag, two net-on-sticks and a large bag of wood down to the beach. This is a climb. Fortunately there are stairs. We found a hole in the bottom of the cliff and we distributed blankets and I made a fire with the wood. The kids went down to the water with their nets. The sea is milky with churned chalk at Birling Gap. Strangely, this makes it appear warm. We cooked our lunch which included asparagus from our friends’ garden and strawberries from a shop.
Pascal was complaining of a headache. He often complains of headache and I am not sure whether he really has a headache or if it is his way of saying he is tired or bored. He lay down on the rocks (there was no sand) and he dozed. I propped him up occasionally and made him drink water. I made a little nest for him in a tiny corner of shade near the cliffs and he slept. He was wearing his usual summer outfit of long trousers, socks and school shoes and a long-sleeved top. He hates to wear shorts, the only way we can persuade him to wear shorts is to have him dress up as a cartoon character who wears shorts. At the moment that is Diego. Yesterday he did not want to be Diego.
All afternoon I thought he would rally and join his mates and brothers but he didn’t.
The cliffs at Birling Gap are white and cut through with layers of flint which show like lines on writing paper. They frighten me. At the top of the cliffs there are stone walls and the foundations of houses so you can see how neat and also how pitiless the erosion has been. If I had my camera I would have taken a photo of a triangle of bricks which peeks out over the top of the chalk cliff against the sky. The bricks were the underside of a house once. Every day they peek a tiny little bit more, those bricks, over the beach a long way below.
When the tide goes out you can walk away from the cliffs and appreciate the suddenness of the coastline there. There is no gradation, no blending of land, vegetation, sand then water. There is just the slice of cliff against the deepest blue of the sky. Deep because the sun is behind you now out there with the water at your back. And yesterday at the base of the towering dazzle of cliff, a thread of smoke came out of the beach where we had cooked our lunch and behind that, the bundle of towels and a hat against the foot of the cliff was Pascal.
It was difficult to get him to wake up and walk back to the car.
On the way home he twice sat forward in his seat saying “Oh no! Oh no!” Twice I stopped the car and did not quite make it round to open his door in time for him to vomit. Twice he managed to get his head out, though. Twice, strangers offered help. It’s not too difficult getting vomit off the outside of a car.
When I went to bed last night he was whimpering in his sleep. He whimpers loudly.
He went to school today. He was up at 6am watering the garden.
I have no idea what he is ever thinking. He has not mentioned being sick, he complained about not getting an ice-cream and he is asking when he can see his friends again.