There are sometimes days in winter when it never really gets light. Low, dark grey cloud hangs over everything, and even though its well after midday, the murk looks like it’s not going to lift again. We’ve had this weather for the last few days, the roads are damp, cars are dirty, and there’s a distinct feel of gloom in the air. The beach is the best place in this kind of weather. There’s virtually no wind, the sea is grey and calm, and I can’t see very far offshore, but the gentle waves washing onto the sand lifts the spirit as I crunch over the thousands of shells littering the tide line.
At Blackpill, the children’s paddling pool is fenced off for winter cleaning, or is it because of one of those imponderable health and safety regulations. In any event it’s empty of water, there’s nobody doing any work, and it seems to be doing nobody any harm. A couple of hundred yards towards Mumbles, a young man with a telescope watches the waders and gulls in the very poor light as they gradually creep closer with the tide, and I stop to chat. He’s a postgraduate student from the University, studying the decline in birds in the bay. I try to tell him what it was like decades ago, and wonder if he really believes me – such is the change I’ve noticed in my lifetime.
As the murk descends even more, and darkness falls, cheery festive lights appear in windows in the shops and houses at Mumbles. Away from the beach the spirit of Christmas is in full swing in the busy village, alive with shoppers eager to get those last minute essentials for the days ahead. Shopping is not my forte, and I prefer not to linger, so I head back along the peaceful shore to the sound off waders feeding on the invisible mud.