There is something subtle yet sudden about the tilt of the season in to Autumn – The quality of the air pressure released from it Summer heaviness, its distinct smell, its stillness, and this stillness along with the light which though bright seems dialed down, as if from now on the midday has been pushed a little way towards the twilight edges. And this is the kind of day I find myself in on the Hythe seafront.
As an edge-land it’s like many places around East Kent in that it is mid shift between an older harder culture of graft and one that seems inspired by the tourist consumer image of beach living. Each has a relationship with the sea, but whereas the former is a working bond, the latter derives pleasure from an enacted illusion. And so, their contrasting signifiers butt up awkwardly against each other – the tar black windowless sheds and the glass fronted apartments, and the bags of tackle, winding gear and smell of old gutted fish which vie with the strollers and cafe culture for attention.
But there are undercurrent shapes infused into the land’s termination at the shifting shale edge such as the D shapes that stand out at regular interval from the parade walk, a sign that there were once iron railings here which were removed when they were needed for the manufacture of ordinance during the war. And further along, my journey is cut short by a temporary fence with a sign that tells me that the land beyond is now a Ministry of Defence firing range. Behind this barrier with its tatty security guard station manned by a burly man in a high vis jacket, I can see two Martellos that look like giant upturned plant pots which were constructed during an earlier period of conflict.
Despite the dreamy stillness of this late August weekend lulling me into a somnambulistic state, the contradictory assertions under-layering the present landscape of lifestyle redevelopment strikes me that our current time is just a short interlude of fanciful repose in an otherwise turbulent setting of violent change.