A Sea Change...
It's heads down while walking the Gower coastal path
PEOPLE AND RELATIONSHIPS
It was our first morning on the Gower coast, an area we know well. In spite of the heavy rain and snowfall that we have experienced since arriving in the U.K. this day was full of promise, and we decided to tackle our favourite local walk that morning while the sun was shining. Golfers were traversing the fairway as we crossed the course on the edge of the cliffs that overlook Caswell Bay. We descended the cliff , through densely flowering gorse. A horse rider was crossing the wet sands below us, while out at sea I spotted shiny black seals , bobbing in the waves, which were then transformed into surfers as they rose to catch a wave. When we reached the bottom we turned away from Caswell to follow the coastal path up and around the headland towards Langland Bay. Rock pigeons and gulls soared and wheeled over the surf, while in the distance we spotted the Devon coast. This is a popular walk, not far from the city, and we passed a number of people, young and old, walking sedately or jogging past us. This was indeed a perfect day for us all. But something had changed since the last time we had walked here, and it was beginning to make us feel uncomfortable. As people passed by, they looked away, or continued in earnest conversation with their partner , as if we were not there. Where were the friendly greetings, the warm Welsh accents, the smiles and the laughter that we were so accustomed to? And where were the customary greetings that pass between all fellow walkers? This path had once seemed the friendliest of all.
"Ni merde ni bonjour."
A very elderly French neighbour of ours once gave us his impression of the hunters who had taken possession of the local chateau near his house to store their meat. "Bah," he uttered, they give you "ni merde ni bonjour." For reasons of delicacy, I will not translate this, but suffice it to say that our neighbour and the hunters did not get along, and no greetings were ever exchanged. Well, that is how it felt to us as we passed our fellow walkers today. Surely, I thought, if I initiate a greeting, it will be reciprocated. Alas , it was almost exclusively heads down all the way, and barely a smile in sight. What, I wonder has caused this 'sea change'? Could it possibly be Covid that has changed the nature of human interaction?
We reached Langland Bay, a popular spot for dog walkers between October and April. A group of school children in royal blue uniforms were scouring the rocks, while dogs of all shapes, sizes and colours cavorted over the wet sands. A row of benches and palm trees followed the sweep of the cove, while above them were rows of pretty green wooden beach huts
The 'Happy Bench.'
But what was this? We spotted a notice stuck to one of the benches. This is what it said...
"Why don't I try it out?" I suggested . Our son wanted to investigate the nearby tennis courts, so J. and B. left me alone to settle down on one side of the bench, leaving the notice in full view. Perhaps people would greet me at last. Alas , I was about to be sorely disappointed. If anything, all the people who passed me by seemed intent on looking in the opposite direction. For the ten minutes that I sat alone on that bench, there was not a single smile or greeting exchanged.
While I sat alone on the bench , looking out to sea , I could see dogs racing gleefully over the sands, retrieving balls, and cavorting with newly made friends. What larks!
Isn't it sad that we humans don't seem capable of having half as much fun!