Friday, October 29, 1982

Wet leaves

I went to Marliss Bay and Aleborough with Lindsey. I was nervous when we set off, unsure of myself and too conscious of my silences.

We caught the 10.54 train from the University and as we passed through quaint and cliffy Wickbourne where we caught first glimpses of the grey sea we were glued excitedly to the window like two children. Lindsey was quiet and sweetly smiling in green and black.

We pulled into Marliss Bay and caught glimpses of black windows and the ugly backs of tall dark buildings crisscrossed with pipes and gutters. We stopped at a Wimpy for a cheeseburger and then tried to get into the castle, but it was closed for the winter season, so we clambered down over slippery rocks worn smooth by countless feet to a wide and pebbly beach which was completely desolate save for an excavator dredging mud and a sewer outlet flooding into the sea.

We tramped along towards the pier, marveling at the crappiness of the grey seafront with its buildings overshadowed by cliffs, pausing only to do the desolate beach thing of throwing pebbles into the sea. The pier was depressing too, filled with dingy side-rooms devoted to bingo or pinball machines, huddles of old ladies, fat long haired bingo master, and crappy gift shops full of tasteless postcards that made us laugh. We were going to get a bus to Aleborough to go see the battlefield but it would have taken ages, so Lindsey suggested we get the train instead; it was only 68p for a day return.

We bought maps and a booklet on the Battle of Aleborough at the station and by the time we got to St. Michael’s church and turned down a lane towards the battlefield itself it was late afternoon. The air had a peculiarly autumnal smell of wet leaves and the tang of winter.

The battlefield is just like it was on May 12, 844. The grass was very muddy and we got blathered as we wandered from place to place, looking at our position in relation to the battlefield with the help of the map. It was getting dark so we wandered back up towards the church which loomed stark on the skyline, pausing at the marker erected in memory of two Wessex earls, Aethelric and Cynwith, which is near a fenced off spot where they fell in battle: this was unromantically covered by black plastic sheets.

The train journey back took hours, mainly because we messed up the times for our connection. I could see a woman across from us giving us penetrating looks, as though we were runaways or something, probably because we were covered in mud. Lindsey thought it funny.

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