Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘surf

Walking The Dog 11

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The lights on Portland are warming up orange in the distance. Everywhere there’s a gunmetal grey murk with a few billowing black threats. It is cold, chilling cold and the wind is biting and penetrating.  This is the very nub of dusk and here we are back on the beach after a break of over a week.

It’s been a tough week, travelling everywhere, bad news about my Dad, a disastrous episode with my car.  Saturday morning in the valley was a welcome relief.  The ground was very very wet but the sun shone strong and as we hit the toughest part of the trek up the mountain a ginger blur up the near-vertical slope, the dogs in pursuit, the healthiest, most muscly fox I’ve ever seen.  And on top, two bobbing, weaving white backsides of deer escaping towards Dorchester.

I’m in the little red Citroen loan car from The Cartshed, generously offered as “you’re welcome to put your dogs in there” and I knew I had an appropriate stick stored in the garden.  Now I’m slipping and sliding down the grass bank to the beach while Capone and Carla tumble, fight and slither through the shingle to the water.

At high tide a three foot windblown chop is breaking 20 yards out but the undertow is ready to pull Capone capwav2right back under the next one.  Once, twice, three times he is wiped out, thumped in the face and chest with icy white water.  He ploughs on like a Chieftan tank, shaken but not stirred and reaches the stick at the very crest.

Around he comes, half drowned, half propelled by another wave, he disappears underneath a crashing cauldron of surf and then he’s back, Carla already grabbing the stick from him.  His fierce but playful growl penetrates all of nature’s noise.  They scamper away up the beach carrying the stick together and turn to the most satisfying tussle and chew while I give them a few moments to rest.

Carla is no fool and although I throw her a little twig while Capone is busy she frolicks into the shallowest surf but thinks better of it and turns back.  It’s much more fun to wait for Capone to go in, do the work and intercept him on the way back.

Man Of The Match - Andy Powell

Man Of The Match - Andy Powell

What more perfect end to a day when Wales have almost beaten the South Africans in Cardiff and shown enormous promise, invention and the usual courage.

In these conditions I have to be careful how much I push him because he would try and try, keep going back, ignoring the cold and the shortness of breath and the sucking, churning, remorseless waves.  He tackles the surf like a second row forward and nothing stands in his way.capwav11

He wants nothing more than another chance.  He would die for me in that seething, heaving water.

This connection with my animals, my countryside, my sea, my sky, my wind is my salvation.  When we understand what matters, who matters, whatever happens, then contentment comes a little easier.

Life makes a little more sense.

capwav32

Walking The Dog 6

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So in the fourth week of July, summer has finally decided to show its face and very welcome it is too.  But not for Capone.  When God invented dog he forgot the sweat glands and made do with a long, long tongue and a predilection to pant – sometimes very noisily.

In fact, Capone is far from the worst or loudest in this department although it does seem to be something that particularly afflicts Staffs and similar breeds.  I sat in the vets the other day and this poor animal sounded like it was being slowly strangled, gagging and panting as if on the point of death.

You have to be so careful when you leave them in the car in this weather.  Tescos provides very little shaded parking and even with two front windows left wide open, I have to be in and out in a flash.  The only alternative is to tie him to the hitching post outside (you know, where the cowboys tie up their horses) but Capone, being the superstar that he is, attracts so much attention, so many “oohs” and “aahs” that it can take twenty minutes to break out of the conversations and escape.

Other than the arrival of summer, there is some truly momentous news to impart.  Capone has a friend, a companion, a permanent partner.  She arrived just a few weeks ago and has the same provenance as him, rescued by special forces extraction from the hellhole known as West London.  Only nine months old, she too had spent her life locked in some grotty flat for twenty-three and a half hours a day, released only for a short walk to the fag shop and back.

Allow me to introduce you to Carla.  Yes, if President Sarkozy can have one so can I and she struts and preens and prances as any good supermodel should.

On arrival Capone thought I’d finally found him the teenage sex slave that we’ve both been hoping for but being a gentleman he soon relented and has given her a warm and loving welcome.  It has to be said that this is not always entirely deserved for she can be a right little bitch at times – and I am moderating my language as much as possible within the bounds of accuracy.

After a few weeks proper exercise with a little discipline and training she has developed into a delightful member of the family.  All credit has to go to Capone for his wonderful temperament, forbearance and patience.  Even when they are both exhausted from a lengthy walk, the exuberance of youth still causes her to clamp his leg in her jaws, chew on his cheek or plant her nether regions in his face in the hope of a little playtime.  They playfight and tumble, chase each other and fight endlessly over sticks but they are now firm friends.

At first, when the obligatory rich tea biscuits were handed out, Carla would snatch, grab and my fingers would be in great danger.  Now she accepts these sweetmeats with all the delicacy and elegance of Madame Sarkozy taking a spoonful of foie gras.

Capone has taught Carla to swim.  At first she would try to jump on his back, then after a few frantic paddles she would panic and return to shore.  To Capone’s consternation she has now become a faster swimmer than him and she delights in letting him set off then plunging in and overtaking him to retrieve the stick first.

There is a remedy for this which has to be applied regularly.  It involves a trip to the end of Hayling Island, out of the calm waters of Chichester harbour, to where the surf thunders in and for my best boy and girl, the waves are twice or three times their height.

Here Capone’s great bravery and strength triumphs.  He will go out through anything, rising and falling in the swell, capturing the stick and returning to the shore through the white water and massive undertow where a frantic, near hysterical Carla promptly steals it from him while he recovers.

Just like a woman – but she is our little girl.

Capone has a good laugh as Carla gets her first real swimming lesson

Capone has a good laugh as Carla gets her first real swimming lesson

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall And My Future

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I have become an immense fan of Hugh’s recently.  River Cottage was always a programme that I enjoyed but with the assistance of the marvellous torrent site (forget the iPlayer) www.thebox.bz   he has become an obsession.

If I need a little relaxation, a little soothing, noone does it better than Hugh.  It is, perhaps, ironic, that he shares the name of my younger brother who is the most sour, miserable character, for Mr F-W always lifts my spirits and inspires me towards a gentler life and to chop my onions, crush my garlic and delicately simmer my vegetables.

I confess that I do not always hold entirely true to his philosophy.  My pungent tomato soup tonight was nurtured from my homegrown coriander but the remaining ingredients were Tesco’s onions, garlic and tinned tomatoes and it tasted bloody marvellous.

It looks as if Emsworth is to see the back of me shortly – credit crunch, buy-to-let mortgage, landlord’s wife is pregnant – and I am inspired towards Dorset.  My clifftop writer’s retreat, above the crashing surf, my dogs, my garden, etc, etc.  Protest not! I am paid to dream and to chronicle my ambition and that is where it now lies.

This very week I am travelling west (as every young man should) and hoping that my nirvana is ahead.  I have set my sights betwen Lyme Regis and Swanage and somewhere there I intend to find my new home.

Walking The Dog 4

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Walking The Dog 4

 

Oh joy! Some real weather returns to crown the long bank holiday weekend and end the tedious republic of sunshine.  Capone has to be dragged from the house because although he will plunge into an icy sea in the depths of winter, a little gentle drizzle is enough to deter him from leaving his lap of luxury inside.

 

So the riot act is read.  The beast is told that there is no room for runts in this regiment and with hanging head and screwed up eyes we venture into the rain.  Our normal cut through to the foreshore, where we usually hop over a gently dribbling stream, is transformed into a four foot deep raging torrent so we have to turn and take the long way round.  The lead has to be reapplied twice before he finally takes the hint and then the full glory of Chichester harbour opens up in front of us.

 

The rain doesn’t just come down in sheets. It is like unravelling great bales of sailmaker’s cloth.  The wind takes it and flaunts it and slaps you in the face. Already my trousers are soaking to the knees but now Capone’s tail is up.  There’s a job to be done.  The fat, snotty-nosed kids and their even fatter mothers have gone from the beach.  The inflatable kayaks are back in the garage and high water beckons for the boards with their storm sails and the bold knights of the sea who will skim the waves and charge the surf.  This is the glory of battle with the elements.  Courage and determination and persistence and rain and wind, even if, alas, no sleet and snow.

 

Summer has some advantages for only in full leaf can the trees deposit an extra six or seven gallons with each gust.  The gulls soar. The rooks rise and fall and the odd saturated pigeon flutters from the branches.

 

There is not another soul to be seen until out of the woods comes a solitary figure in wellies and a barbour but still in his summer shorts.  Behind him plods his aging, morose labrador not yet encouraged to arms, still believing in the misinformation that it is calm and sun and quiet that leads to happiness.

 

Across the fields the barley shoots that have been reaching for the sun droop and sag under the weight of water but you can almost hear their roots sucking the moisture, preparing themselves with the energy to burst upwards once again when the skies clear.  Nature has its own intelligence, far cleverer than the sophistication of man, far smarter than our short term, pleasure seeking easy lives.  The true hedonism is in contrast and struggle.  Only in the darkest hour is the brightest light.  The arid desert is drenched in life-giving rain and inspiration comes when the gloom closes in tightest and grips hardest.


 

The beast understands nothing of this but he knows it all.  At last, puddles are no longer avoided but splashed through.  The spring returns to his step and the tail is held high and proud and wags uncontrollably as the sticks are found and thrown and retrieved.

 

Our route is not cut short by the weather.  In fact, it is extended and though we meet one bedraggled runner and chance upon just one more of the regular dog walkers, this is the best walk in a month.  Returning home for a vigorous towelling and a couple of quadruple espressos puts the seal on the bank holiday.  This is how Mondays were meant to be.

 

Peter Reynolds 26-05-08