Making my way back to South Marine Terrace from my workplace beside the pier. It was only five o’ clock, but the weather was savage: bitter and aspic. Before me, in the just-still light; I had a vision of a brackish, bitter, black-grey sea. Adder waves broke like Furies against the promenade. Looking out of my window now, I can see that the waves breaking on the shore in the premature darkness that the thick storm-clouds have brought, are approaching two metres in height. Crashing white horses are gurgling and frothing up the beach. This is the opposite of the sea when it is calm and in repose, now the ocean is wrathful, navy-black; full of angry movement. The empty flag poles (the reasons for the hasty removal of the flags are all too obvious now), are bobbing about impotently, rooted to the cement. The sea has turned a glossy metallic blue, the sky above is showing an effect I rarely see: a glorious trefoilate sunset of honeycomb yellow, cool blue and magenta shades, obscured by reams of ominously dark clouds. This is a terrible evening, full of black and stormy energies and edges.
Not Sea-Snow: Prose Poem
Not sea foam, not sky snow, but sea snow. Unfettered from the champing mouths of angry horses, dashed upon pebbled beaches, flitting up to my window. Melting like rain on the glass of streaky window pane. How many hours have I spent looking out across this other world that I can and cannot know? Sea snow is a curious envoy.
This is the first night of peace I have known since November 6th. It is ironic that Guy Fawkes – an evening during which the night skies of Aberystwyth sparkled and glinted with fireworks and the unpoliced shores of south beach pullulated with the smoke of large bonfires – was a calm night in comparison. Since then the element of air has been wracking such havoc across Wales this November, that the scale of the damage to the human and natural world is difficult to quantify. In the two-week long tempest two named storms, first Storm Abigail and then Storm Barney, singed the Welsh coastline, in the days between there has been torrential rain and food warnings issued. Storm Abigail, heralding winds of up to 60 mph, seemed placid in comparison to the harrowing 85 mph winds that Storm Barney brought with it, denoted by yellow and amber weather alerts from the met office. A strange end to the calm, beautiful October weather which preceded it, with pristine skies, shimmering seas and nectarine sunsets. It was not an Indian summer but a Greek one, the coastline over Wales suddenly reminded a Mediterranean colleague at work of his native island of Rhodes. If October was the nectarine and the rose then November has been a vengeful octopus: with television satellite images displaying swirling tendrils of blue and green emanating from an inky green body, a morbid creature leaving 7,500 homes without power.
As I had a friend down to stay, I was out there in it with him: out in the buffeting winds in the storm-ravaged coastal town of Borth. The quick walk along the promenade between the car park and The Victoria was almost impossible to complete, we had to lunge into the wind like astronauts ploughing through a zero gravity atmosphere, gales blasting our faces and whipping back our hair. We were facing down a wall of wind.
Storms have their picturesque sides: the sea, whipped up into a savage storm frenzy has been flipping snow-like foam towards my window. Impromptu jelly-like pore kingdoms of sea foam have taken up a semi-permanent wobbling residence on the promenade, and veils of pebble and sediment have been thrown up and across the iconic Aberystwyth promenade (pity the poor wretch who parks his car on the Aberystwyth promenade overnight during a storm!) The waves have pitched themselves against the beach groynes and promenade flanks with such ferocity, that it was at times invitingly good fun to dash underneath them, playing chase with salty water, ‘high-fiving’ waves. Great clouds of sea mist, thrown like fish-nets over and against the column of the nearby harbour lighthouse, made the resilient edifice a more dramatic sight than ever.
Yet I feel exhausted. I don’t know if that’s because I have got on with my life regardless, taking on wind, waves and rain with no more thought than the twinge of my waterproof coat. I can honestly say that the violent storms have brushed more than sand and sea shingle about. Everyone’s exhausted; the heightened weather has heightened everything else: every experience of staying indoors, every instance of leaving. Its been an ordeal for many, not just me: I’ve heard stories of rocking cars on roads, Sarah at Noddfa Dawel struggling to save her treehouse and chimney stack, and I can only imagine what the residents of Borth must of endured: the keepers of those magical houses with back gardens overlooking the Borth bay facing the onslaught of the sea, catching sight of the battered revetments in the distance.
You see I’m not writing an entry about weather, I’m writing an entry about an extreme weather event. This is Wales in the climate change era.