Interview Alex Reece
I've just recently moved to Hastings. Like many people, I spent half my life in London, and have been drawn back to the place where I'm from. It's such a beautiful part of the world.
If you throw a stone from Pett Level Beach (just outside Hastings), you'll hit a Cooke – there's loads of us. My father was a real old countryman, and his father was a shepherd on Romney Marsh, just behind Pett Level. I remember going to the beach with my grandmother when I was young, and I always thought that the bits of worn glass that you find were emeralds and diamonds, and she would indulge me in these fantasies.
A lot of my happiest memories are from by the sea. I recall my father making me a shrimping net. He had a big net and I had a little one. We'd go shrimping at low tide, and I would go in his wake. I also remember going on trips to Camber and running around in the dunes.
Why did I move back? The honest answer is my father died. I had to spend a lot of time down here because he was very, very ill. He was suffering from a form of dementia. As my father lost his memories, I just wanted to be here amongst this place more and more.
I love wild swimming – I'd like to swim in the sea all year round. I moved to Hastings in February, and it was a bit cold to go in then, but I'm going to get myself one of those swimming wetsuits. I really like running by the coast, along the front, and then you can dive into the sea.
I'm a writer now, and my book (The Unexpected Truth About Animals), is about how we've got animals wrong. Bats are one of the misunderstood animals in my book, because everyone thinks they're evil, but actually they're one of the most altruistic animals on the planet.
I think I'm definitely more mellow now, having moved to the coast. There's something incredibly soothing about staring at the sea. It's a sort of meditation, and you can lose yourself in the vastness and beauty of it. It's good for the soul.
The Unexpected Truth About Animals by Lucy Cooke is out now (Black Swan, £8.99).