We went to Horsey Gap to see the seals. Along with pretty much every other person in Norfolk, or so it seemed. Christ, it was mobbed. The slowest part was just inching down the track into the car park, and then following the traipsing hordes up onto the dunes, where you're securely held back by constantly having to sidestep family groups, and are, in any case about half a mile from the seals. Compared to Winterton or Blakeney Point, both of which have utterly captivated us all over the years, this was decidedly underwhelming.
The Girl expressed this most openly, by sulking and trudging and saying 'when can we just GO?' because that always improves a situation, and makes everyone in the vicinity radiate patience and joy. But not too long after this, both Mum & I conceded she had a point and began the walk back to the car, our route taking us past that familiar Norfolk landmark, a coastal pillbox. Usually rubbish strewn, graffitied, left to moulder away in the landscape, smelling of wee. This one was no exception.
But maybe it was. Built as a solid, squat, defensive structure, over 70 years on the Norfolk coast had done its work, and the outer shell had been weathered and beaten into submission, revealing the structure beneath, which again, faced with the elements had begun to buckle and corrode, facing outwards like an offensive weapon, not the protective construction it was once supposed to offer.
Sharp, curling, cruel little spikes rippling metal, perfectly placed to take out the eye of some unwary seal porn enthusiast, or catch on your coat, or scrape the legs of those children whose parents thought it would be a perfect #makingmemories photo opportunity and had hefted their offspring up onto the roof of the pillbox without quite formulating a plan as to how to get them down again (clue: not easily). Prongs really, to hack into delicate flesh, to catch and harm. The hurt beneath the benevolence, the steel beneath the outer skin. That which is its strength and support is also that which damages.
'Well now' I thought to myself. 'there's a HANDY METAPHOR. That something that from a distance looks blunt and solid has been so ravaged by time and passing circumstance that when viewed up close proves to have scars and open wounds that are in themselves capable of wounding. But you have to be close enough to see that, to feel that. That's the only way it will touch you, or you touch it, although everything in you screeches 'noli mi tangere'. Or in my case JESUS CHRIST THE GIRL DON'T PUT YOUR FACE THERE EVEN AS A JOKE.' Not that I'm anxious or anything.
But it is a handy metaphor. We hurt the ones to whom we are closest, or those we touch. We let them in, or let them near, and they see us in our weather, eroded state, the cracks showing, spikes and all. And that it why it hurts, and that is why sometimes we are cautious – because we fear being hurt again. And that's also why sometimes it's so familiar that we forget the danger of not approaching things as delicately as we should. We assume familiarity equals safety.
You just know I'm going to end this with some other kind of clunking great metaphor, don't you? Yep. Because having tested if a certain prong was indeed at a level certain to take her eye out, The Girl turned to me and said scornfully 'It's totally blunt Mum. Not sharp at all. It just looks like it should be.'