|Lobster pots, St Abbs harbour|
Coldingham to St. Abbs, Scotland's south east coast.
I'd only just heard about a coastal path from Cockburnspath to Berwick on Tweed. I took the bus to the village of Coldingham and from there walked towards the sea.
Something about the street corner, the way it swept round, with a low wall and trees behind it, brought another image to mind, of another street somewhere. It happens sometimes, but not very often. An immediate and abrupt association. An image in front of me, instantly replaced by another, in memory. But where was this other street? I could see it clearly in my mind's eye but I couldn't place it.
I walked on down the street, the houses ended, fields on one side, a caravan site on the other, then a pedestrian path takes you away from the narrow road, so you can walk with a wall separating you from the traffic which is scant enough, but far more pleasant to walk without having to dodge the occasional car and with a field on the other side, sloping upwards into the blue sky. You are free to think or to dream, without having to be alert to traffic coming round the corner. I was thinking about the street I'd been reminded of.
And then it came to me. It was in Rio, a small town on the southern side of the magnificent bridge spanning the gulf of Corinth. Antirio is on the northern side, just a handful of kilometers from where I was staying, near Nafpaktos. As an alternative to the bridge there's a ferry that crosses the narrow neck of water, and I took this ferry one morning, just for the pleasure of it. I then walked into Rio, which may once have been a thriving and separate small town but is now virtually joined up to the suburbs of Patras.
I wandered around for a while, and that's when I saw that other street corner with a low wall and trees behind it, branching off from the main road heading for Patras, a much more pleasant option, to walk through a residential area, before making my way back underneath the huge pillars of the bridge and across the empty parking lot to reach the ferry that would take me back to Antirio, with its two streets, a cluster of small shops, a café, bakery, a post office.
|North coast of gulf of Corinth, from the ferry|
|Close up of the Rio-Antirio bridge, from the ferry|
I see from these pictures that it was a grey and cloudy morning. Yet I'm fairly certain that the sky cleared and the sun came out when I was in Rio, for that's how I see it in my mind's eye, a sunny day and a street lined with fig and eucalyptus trees.
And this morning too, I am heading to the sea, to the coast, and it's a warm day, the sky a cloudless blue. And I soon reach the sea, and it too, is deep blue and clear and the impression of similarity with the sea around the west coast of Greece, the Aegean, merging into the Ionian, continues. The bay with the fine sand, the colour of the water, all continues this association. It must be the sunshine I think.
I walk along the path marked as the coastal route to St. Abbs, a village with a tiny harbour and bay.
Seagulls swarm on the rocks, and fly around the harbour bay, swooping low and casting great shadows.
I've been here before, when I was very young but it doesn't look familiar. I just remember that we went out in the lifeboat and I didn't want to go, I was afraid of the water afraid the boat would sink. My father assured me that the lifeboat could not sink. I was persuaded but I still felt uneasy. Now, I trust boats in the same way that I trust airplanes. There is really no point in thinking about it, you are held in the hand of some great being that keeps the boat afloat or the airplane airborne in an impossible way, but it stays there and that's just how it is. But if I'm swimming in the sea I barely go out of my depth. Oceans are powerful and unpredictable. I will worship at their shores but I like to feel solidity under my feet.
The path continues up a series of steps, and looking out over the houses, there are more seagulls perched on chimneypots, basking in the sunshine.
Out of the village the path leaves the houses behind, skirts the edge of a field then finds the clifftops again, studded with primroses, overlooking a bay edged with red cliffs.
The path goes much further but I'm running out of time. I came here on impulse and I need to retrace my steps to Coldingham to catch the bus. I'd like to come back one day when I have more time. But will the coves and bay, will the clifftops and deep blue sea still have a camouflage cast to them, interwoven with a shimmer of Greece, a glitter of the Ionian?