This month our columnist Martin Dorey is waiting for the calm to descend and for the beaches to be empty as autumn approaches.
Ah September, how sweet you are! We have been waiting for you. Here on the coast, September cannot come soon enough. This is the time of year when our summer visitors begin to leave to go back to school or work and our temporary residents lock up their second homes until half term. It’s almost as if you can feel the town sighing in collective relief. We got through another season. It was fun. We survived.
September is the time we make hay while the sun is still shining and the sea is the warmest it will be all year. There is no time for dithering. Winter will come around soon enough and then we’ll be hunkering down as stroppy days come rattling in from the sea, leaves swirl in alleyways, storms shake the windows, the ocean churns.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the buzz of summer, the long beach days, swims across the bay, surf life-saving championships, festivals on the castle lawns, drinks at the Crooklets Café and coffees at Rosie’s, laughter, sunshine and smiles. I like the fact that Bude changes in the summer as holidaymakers choose us for their holidaymaking. We are lucky to have them. But there is something about September that’s really special. It’s the time when we, as permanent residents of a coastal town, feel like we get our town back.
If that sounds selfish, maybe it is. But living in a coastal town isn’t always straightforward. Things change all the time (and yet sometimes not at all). We have to adapt constantly as the ebb and flow of the season makes life different from one month to the next. Can’t get into a restaurant? Of course, silly me, I forgot, it’s half term!!! Life isn’t worse, because it’s good to have outside influences, just different. We live in perpetual motion with the tides, winds and shifting sands. People come and go. The state of flux brings lots of benefits.
Of course there are times when it’s infuriating to be stuck behind a caravan on the A39, to see disposable barbecues melting bins or the aftermath of parties on the beach. It can be mildly irritating to be unable to find a seat in the pub. And it can be a bit of a pain when people drive the wrong way down a one way street, drive too fast in a 20mph zone or think it’s okay to drive their 4×4 on the beach (they always get stuck).
But that’s all part and parcel of living in a coastal town and, yes, it’s not a joke. It does happen. They call it silly season. You learn to adapt, to seek out the places only locals know and to keep your head down until September brings blessed relief.
And then…oh, what a month! There’s a calmness to September that you don’t find at any other time of the year. It happens almost overnight as the seasons start to shift and change. The holiday frenzy is spent and the autumn drifts in, still wearing its summer frock for one last hurrah. Birds gather on the wires. The kids go back to uni. The seasonal workers start to make travel plans. The tide comes in and goes out again. When I go to the shops I recognise faces again. I stop and chat about the weather, bands at the pub, community events and, of course, the surf. There is always a new storm on the horizon, blowing the shifting sands in ever changing patterns.
My hometown belongs to me again.
For more columns by Martin Dorey, check out how he talks beach safety.