Sitting here at my table I look out of my window and see a telegraph pole, tall house walls of cream and grey, with pink and white around their windows, (bright on a sunny day, dark through the winter) and above the slate roofs a few inches of sky.
Although there are days when the sea roke sweeps in and there are no views at all; days when I look out of my window and can’t see the top of the multi-storey carpark or the houses on the first rise to the south of the town; days when I stay home; if it’s fine I go out, and three minutes’ walk takes me down to the harbour and then the world opens up.
As I climb the steep path from the harbour to the cliff tops I can see across the Solway to the Scottish coast. Walking through the wild flower meadow and on the path past the Haig Mining Museum the view across the sea changes from moment to moment. But further on my view’s restricted again as the track becomes the old waggon way with seven foot high banks.
And when I’ve reached my usual turning point and the distant St Bees Head lighthouse is behind me I return along the cliff edge below the sloping fields with views of the harbour and the coast stretching north towards Workington.
But no matter how many times I take this walk the familiar views are never quite the same.
As I top the rise beyond the Candlestick I look out to the south west to see if the Isle of Man is there. It moves, it comes and goes. I swear it does. Some days the horizon is straight and blank, sometimes there’s a vague grey shadow, and just last week the top of Snaefell was clear and bright in the morning, but sank away in the late afternoon.
It’s understandable that islands might move about, but not that the coast of Scotland would move to and fro. But there are days when it vanishes too. The sky comes down to the sea and no sign can be seen of the hills of Dumfries and Galloway. On other occasions they’re close and clear – even their white-painted farmhouses stand out against the fields, and cars can be seen driving along the roads. Then the turbines of the Robin Rigg windfarm, set in the estuary between Scotland and Cumbria, shine out like a modern piece of sculpture.
In the summer the grasses growing on the high bank of the waggon way make an ever moving pattern against the light; cream, orange or mauve, silver-grey and even black, they defy our expectations that grass should always be green. On the return path through the broad swathe of set-aside the farmer has left at the cliff edge, the coral red of sorrel stands up among tall meadow buttercups and the delicate pink of ragged robin.
Blue butterflies hover around the furry, pale yellow kidney vetch, Painted Ladies sun themselves on the path, and if I’m lucky I might see a stonechat on the fence posts or goldfinches on the bushes or the thistles.
Just beyond the cliff edge the sea changes colour from silver to green to blue, and the horizon, like Scotland, moves nearer or slips away. At low tide the cormorants gather on the offshore rocks to dry their wings, the gulls hover around returning fishing boats, hoping for scraps, and a deep ‘Groink, groink’ overhead makes me stop to watch the ravens from the cliffs as they play in the wind.
The sky itself is endlessly fascinating. The swirling high altitude winds create wonderful and astonishing cloud patterns, trailing and twisting in all directions. But the best skies are the Solway’s renowned sunsets. From palest pink and green to deep orange, purple and red, the sky transforms itself into wondrous fantasy landscapes, with hills, valleys and cloud castles enough to inspire me with a dozen new stories; and on a clear night while the horizon and the sea hold on to the last memory of the sunset I’ve seen the moon, Jupiter and Venus shining above me in a deep purple sky.