Last Sunday we went a little way up the coast with friends to walk by the feet of the dunes at the mouth of the River Ythan. The night before, after some guests went home, we'd slipped out for a walk in the haar, a heavy and cold sea fog that comes ashore on the east coast of Scotland. The fog was so thick that the city and lighthouses all disappeared and our hair grew wet. We walked far out on the spring tide sea floor, and took off our shoes to wade through icy tidal streams. And then to warm up, at home we built a roaring fire, wrapped ourselves in blankets and drank the hottest tea. So it was a surprise that the following day the weather was warm enough to wear the summer clothes that have been hiding at the back of the wardrobe since we moved here. The whole day was a hazy blue dream.
Coming down to the estuary, there were seals basking just across the river and eider ducks everywhere. We stood looking at the few little families of seals clustered by the water's edge, rolling onto their backs and watching little light-grey cubs break away from the others to bump along up the beach. And then we looked further, out towards the sea...
I'd never heard it before, but grey seals, at least when they are in a large group, make an eerie howling cry which sounds like a lonesome wind blowing. Somehow we hadn't noticed them at all at first, and I suppose we really did think all that wailing was just the wind whistling past.
Every now and then there would be another sound, a great rustling and splashing as a huge number of the colony would inexplicably all start shifting down the beach and out to sea, all at once. Though, there were always many who lingered behind, too.
And so we strolled on, drank tea from a flask and ate scones from a bag.
It is so hard to stay indoors these days. There is always the temptation of beaches, light in the sky until eight in the evening, fresh air on bare legs, and the flowers in the branches overhead, with little breezes to make the petals flutter down like snowflakes.
Just now it seems it would be so lovely to stop time for a little while, at least.