Even in January you can usually rely on someone else being at the beach. Rarely it will be another swimmer, most times it will be someone dog walking. The chance of meeting someone of course jumps massively on a sunny day such as this. But the beach is empty. Plenty of footprints and paw prints but the full sweep of St Mary’s Bay is deserted.
I prefer to swim near the steps. Not because it is near the steps but the beach is sandy so you can get in the water without getting damaged and 50 yards off shore is Mussel Rock, which is a handy marker to swim around. On a very low spring tide you can walk out to it, the water is not deep. Today however I am heading for the far end of the beach where the high cliff will shelter me from the northerly breeze and where for the moment at least the sunshine has not yet been cut off behind the hillside. It is however much rockier.
In the shelter of the cliff and in the sunshine you could almost believe it was May and not January. Almost. The first touch of the water quickly dispels that idea and the caution involved in picking my way over slippery boulders unseen below the water only draws out the torture. I much prefer to just jump right in rather than this edging.
Catspaws skitter over the water but as they pass the surface clears and my toes float into view. The patch of still water grows around me and the water loses its grey tone and turns bottle green. Beyond the spreading circle out to sea is Durl Rock, only 1/2 a mile away, but a tricky swim with strange currents, I have done it a couple of times one way or there and back. Even today from the calm of my growing pond I can see waves bursting on the rock, I am better off where I am, but now I come to think of it I would be better off wrapped in a towel.
I am brushing the sand from between my toes when the first raindrop makes a dark splat on the grey rock beside me. I look up, there is no cloud, but then a wall of grey sweeps over the cliff top. Raindrops dot the rock and the dry spots shrink and vanish by the time I lace my shoes. What’s this? Snow! It is snowing, a full on blizzard and I have to lean into it as I slog back along the beach. Maybe this was why I had it to myself.