The 1.5 train ride from London was the longest train ride of my life. When you’re an ocean dweller and it’s always played such a significant role in your life, living in a concrete jungle just can’t compare. Seeing the landscapes roll past the window and become ever increasingly coastal; with the odd dotting of tussock, and the drying saltiness of the landscape…
I could tell we were getting close.
On a daily basis I long to be a salty sea dog again. To have that wild ratty hair that comes with days on the sea and sun kissed skin that tells tales of the long summer days. To dive under those waves that sway with the tide and find the quiet silty stillness below.
Whitstable is not quite home, but a welcome sight on a sticky English summer’s day. Still sharing the commonality of beaches globally, with scantily clad white bodies lounging on her shores, popsicles [ice lollys] melting down the arms of nearby children, and birds plump with their daily scavenge of chips.
But today, its point of difference is that the people gather for one thing, and one thing only… Oysters! Whitstable is famed throughout the region for it’s oysters and other culinary delights and annually this is celebrated through the “Whitstable Oyster Festival”.
As an established fishing port, still widely utilized to this day, the local fishermen of Whitstable would hold annual ceremonies of thanksgiving for both the success of their harvest, and the success of another season’s survival as mere humans, on a brutal and unforgiving sea. And being the practical men that they were, this celebration was always held in the summer months so not to disturb their prime harvest season.
And I’m thankful.
The sun was so hot that our clothing was becoming imprinted on our pale winter skin and our hair was slicked back like a 1960’s movie. Men fought long and hard to open the barnacle encrusted treasure chests, banging, forcing, slicing, repeat; being very careful to remove any sly pearly gift that was hidden among the flesh of the oysters.
But luckily for me as I took that first silky mouthful a small ‘rock’ plagued my pleasure; and joy behold, a Pearl! My gift from Poseidon himself [or perhaps he was angry which is why I was cursed with the stomach from hell the following Monday?!]… either way…
Little quaint houses and fishermen’s huts dotted the weathered sea path [you can rent them for £75 a night] and the masses gathered and queued to taste the seas harvest. Seats were a sought after commodity and we commandeered and guarded our posse like pirates. Armed with boxes of lobster, scampi, prawns and chips there was no need to move other than for the hourly journey to the Prosecco truck for a wee fizzy treat or Aperol Spritz.
While lacking in swimming gear my friends weren’t lacking in spirit and proceeded to splash and ‘frolick’ in the silty swampy water. I wouldn’t write home about its visibility but it’s rumored to offer a good mud scrub and perfume…
After a long hot day in the sun, all that was left was a long sleep on the train back to London. A deep salty happy sleep!