black rock ’56

Half Moon Bay Black Rock…Cliffs surrounding sand making and sea making an amphitheatre… An experience whatever the season…A family place for summer days. Colourful beach umbrellas, small tents dotted around, children at play, watched carefully in the water…A baby, at first apprehensive, then delighted as a tiny wave touches bare toes. Safe for a paddle and strong swimmers need to venture out further. Families spend a day there, mum providing lunch, cool drinks and a thermos of tea for the grandparents. Not forgetting the sunscreen. And, of course, a small kiosk there, which sells fish and chips, ice cream and coloured drinks. The seagulls wait ready to dive on a chip which is tossed out by a child.

The beach is not the only scene of activity and pleasure. It is a place to launch boats. And down the steep driveway to the sea come boats to be launched from a ramp into the water. Long patient queues form, waiting for the front trailer to let the boat slip down into the water, and the trailer to be removed and parked. Serious fisherfolk are in the line ready to stay out all night to get a good catch. A small jetty reaches out into the water, a place for a stroll and to look for fish swimming below.

Out on the sea, there is the rather sad rusting shell of the Cerberus, having a life and history of its own, now settling deeper into the mud. Warning signs advise swimmers and craft not to come too close. A flag still flutters above. A special time to be there is at the setting of the sun. A ball of changing colour spreading rays of light skywards as it sinks behind the horizon…Leaving rays of pink, fading, till the stars appear…Then somewhere the moon behind according to its phase. Dotted on the still sea is the fishing boats, twinkling lights indicating their spot, waiting for a catch and a morning return to shore, hopefully with a good result. Lights, point to moored container ships on the horizon, waiting to be loaded. Whatever the time of the year there is always a reason to be at Half Moon Bay. In winter you can sit in the car and watch the waves crashing against the breakwater, and the spray reaching where diners sat to eat their fish and chips in summer…The moods of the sea changing and the clouds threatening.

For recreation and enlightenment, there are walks on the path by the sea, a climb to the winding trail above. There you can stroll along taking time to stop at mini pictures and tributes to great artists who have set in canvas scenes from here, and the bayside around.

In a quite special way, the changing scenes at Half Moon Bay encapsulate the experience of human life. Summer and winter…Family, picnics, sun and sand and sea, the provision of the sea…Holidays, recreation and the need to care for our environmental inheritance…Grey times, sad times, many good times, and newborn life…The need to count our blessings and value our days.

And this perhaps hints at our need for a word of hope…Sometimes in the morning, there is a mist over the sea at Half Moon Bay. From the shore you are not able to see the fishing boats which have been there throughout the night and, on the horizon, the container ships waiting to be loaded. Then the morning sun causes the mist to rise and all is well on the sea.

A Jewish meditation puts it thus:

As the moon sinks on the mountain-edge

The fisherman’s lights flicker

Far out on the dark wide sea

When we think that we alone

Are steering our ships at midnight,

We hear the splash of oars

Far beyond us.

Bill Pugh