August has whirled by, hardly a breath between the blowing rain and the dry panic of the harvest. Combines throw their cones of dust over the fields pulling in the barley and wheat, sucking out what remains of the stored sun. We’ve been busy, fitting holidays in, our emigrant family visited from Eastern Europe and nearer home. Friends came from the fringes of capital too. In the past week we managed to fit in a couple of wanders along the coast. I like weather and I don’t particularly care for heat, an overrated and soul-sapping energy. We had light and wind and moisture so we put one foot in front of the other and walked on.
The second opportunity was with a very old friend who comes from Sheringham originally but has lived elsewhere for the best part of thirty years. He’s hit that point where the pull of home, the gravity of the formative years has built a yearning to go back and look at some of the things that made him. We ended up in the town centre eating chips in the whirl of tourists. We walked the length of the North beach past the Ispolen under its shifting shroud of sand, then further up to where the glacial twists flatten out and you can scramble up the cliff. Here he remembers a crashed German bomber engine on the beach and a Victorian brass propeller both exposed then covered again by the tide. In turn I pointed the things he’d missed, the surge damage to the Promenade and the shops, the change that continue to mark time in the town. Then he spotted a piece of graffiti near the lifeboat house, marked in faded paint on the wall stands Shuck, a curious inchmark in time, still here, still always remembered and present.
He’s been following the Black Dog Tales posts because he comes from here and he gets exactly what portion of the soul it grows from. We both remember walking down through Roman Camp as teenagers heading to the Village Inn or back from it in a haze of Abbott Ale. He lived here closer than me to the heart of one of the tales. He lived with the dog and its ways and can remember at an even younger age the pull of the story, the delicious and very real fear of an encounter in the dark lanes if you chanced to be late home. Neither of us can remember where we first heard of Shuck, parents, school, old fellows in the villages and towns? the folklore passed forwards, backwards and sideways. He remembers the same story as me; two owners, a shipwreck nearby, both lost, and the eternal damnation of the dog, ever faithful to both walking from Overstrand to Sheringham and back forever. Sad and hangdog, and mingled in something older, the red eyes bringing death in a year, ‘Oude Rogen Ouden’, The chain dragging along the road the ‘Tchen Al Tchinne’. where time and place turn to soup and the story is always and never the same for an instant.