A Day of Change and Constancy

Far from the crowded pavements of London, I woke to watch the sun rising over the ancient cliffs and timeless shores round Lyme Bay in Dorset.

Walking along the promenade at Lyme Regis, usually so noisy with the scrape of cafe tables and chairs being set out for the day’s customers, the silence was profound. The deep silence I normally associate with waking on Christmas Day marks out today as something special.

The Unusually Quiet Promenade

The cafes are closed and the promenade and beach are quiet. Not quite deserted: one group of people have taken over a beachside table. Its white cloth topped with union flags, they enjoy a patriotic English breakfast cooked on a portable grill.

The local swimming club enjoy their daily meet; earlier today, perhaps, before returning home to watch the only Queen they’ve ever known being laid to rest. Dogs are still being walked, as dogs must be, however great the national pageantry about to unfold.

In the harbour, fishing boats bob gently on the high tide, shifting thoughtfully on this unusual day, freed from their usual risky voyages.

And, all the time, the gentle susurration of the waves ebbing from the shore. Later, the tide will turn and come in again, then go out again and so it will continue, as we so fervently hope our monarchy will.

I’m privileged to be in this beautiful place on this special day. Yesterday evening I joined locals and other holidaymakers in a candlelit act of remembrance on the seafront. Pillar candles surrounded a picture of our late Queen Elizabeth as everyone lit a tealight before we joined in the national two minute silence. As we stood, heads bowed, the silence was broken only by the continuous lapping of the waves on the shore. A powerful reminder that some things are unchangeable and that, even after the most violent of storms, some things just continue without our intervention.

Watching the television coverage of Her Majesty’s funeral, because of my poor hearing, I sometimes struggled to hear the words of the service yet I heard the ebb and flow of the waves coming through the open door of our seafront holiday apartment throughout.

Though the crowds of day visitors were smaller today, there were many families on the beach throughout the funeral. I wonder how many of the children were building sandcastles, castles in remembrance of the Queen?

When the two minute silence was held I glanced out of the window and it seemed as though a number of adults in the sea, paddling with children, stood still for a short time. Perhaps it was coincidence or perhaps they were following the service on a phone but it was a fleeting, yet powerful image.

By mid afternoon, there were many more people walking along the promenade, keen as I was, to get some fresh sea air after hours watching television coverage.

By late afternoon, with the television coverage finished and the sky increasingly overcast, I walked along the promenade again. The day visitors were packing up to leave the beach and head home, dogs were still being walked and an air of calm hung over the town as the tide began its next return to shore.

Tomorrow the cafes and shops will be open again, work or holidays will be resumed and the tide will still flow in again and out again. A reign has ended and another begun and yet we have continuity.

In years to come, I’ll remember staying at this place – which is so special to me – when Queen Elizabeth’s funeral was held and, in particular, the soothing and supremely reassuring music of the sea which accompanied this historic day.

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