Oh Happy Day
A lovely spring day. Hottest of the year. The South Downs and the Seven Sisters in particular called. Taxi driver at Eastbourne who takes me to the beginning of the walk turns out to be a Pakistani. Where have I read about such drivers? I check the back seat for signs, alcopops, the smudge of mascara, discarded under wear, school books,the scratch marks on the upholstery. No signs. WE talk about the weather. A sea mist looks like it may ruin my day. He hasn’t a clue. He tells me it was great yesterday. I tip him 70p.
For 45 minutes my walk is in jeopardy and then as I pass Beachy Head the sun breaks through, the ten miles of cliffs opens up in front and the hinterland stretching to East Dean and way into the Sussex Weald loses its veil.
Of course Beachy Head is one of Britain’s most favoured suicide spots. Around 30 a year make this their last view.I have done this walk at least twenty times and though I am aware of the signs the Christians put up about God’s all powerful forgiving ways and the sad cliff side crosses placed by members of the family, I have yet to see anyone looking like they were about to make the dive of ultimate moral severity.
Until last week. I had seen him for ten minutes as I walked in his direction. He was motionless looking out to the mist covered ocean. Standing much closer than is comfortable to the edge. The five hundred feet drop no cry for help, it’s the real thing. I had to say something.
You are not, are you? Not what? Going to, you know, jump. That’s a dumb question and I’m not going to answer. Well, do you want to talk. About what. About why you are here. Same reason as you. I’m here for a walk. Me too , this is part of my journey.
OK OK its not my business, you do what you want to do I just thought you might want to talk. Piss off, you do gooder. I’ve just stopped for a cigarette and now I get some twat head thinking I’m a jumper. He lit up his cigarette, Rothmans since you ask, and I went on my way. You try.
After the Burling Gap I walked far too close to two ladies from Canada who were very loudly telling of their extremely dull personal lives. I had to stop so they could get out of ear shot, I really did not care about Charley and his hopeless habits and lack of prospects. I wonder if they will see the memorial to their countrymen strafed in 1941 by an Me109 returning from a raid on London.
I chatted briefly to a man from Hong Kong and we compared notes on the antique centre Hollywood Road where I recently I stayed. He couldnt take enough pictures of sea gulls. And then it was Seaford the train , home and beauty.
Just before Lewes the train goes nearby Rodmel (place of red soil) where the Woolfs had their weekend home. Southease where Virginia’s body was found is a halt where the train only stops if you ask the conductor.
On his wife’s Rodmel grave Leonard had inscribed the last lines of her novel The Waves
Against you I fling myself unvanquished and unyielding O Death
The waves broke over the shore.
Oscar Wilde who had every reason to think about suicide said “Society isn’t worth the compliment”. But sometimes your depression is. But for some a cigarette is enough.