Home away from Home

Dr Martens are really great shoes for climbing around rockpools. The sun reflected off their black patent, water lapping at the soles as I climbed out to the edge of a particular jagged piece of what once was part of the cliff face. As the salty air filled my lungs and stung my cheeks, I looked out across the estuary and out to sea, and felt that sinking feeling of “I wish this was home.”

Growing up in London is no bad thing. Arguably, I wouldn’t be who I now am without the constant stream of inspiration and pressure to create that bubbles up like an overflowing pan on a hob; or would I? I’m never really sure how man-made I am, whether I grew from salt and earth or whether instead I am sculpted from London’s rush and underground grime, mixed with perhaps a bit of leaflet from an exhibition I went to. It’s hard to separate myself from my experiences of the city, or to either imagine myself separate from it, as if it were somehow linked to me in more ways than simply situational. It’s not like I enjoy its pollution, it’s population, it’s stress or its size – but simultaneously I can’t imagine a life without the hustle and bustle, a life without a thousand possibilities waiting around every corner, just waiting for you to choose one.

Back on the beach, I check my phone, and the lack of signal doesn’t bother me. The only person I generally need to contact is here, so it doesn’t really matter. Back in the city, surrounded by everyone I’ve ever known, the words “NO SERVICE” are somehow heavy and laden with anxiety; it is strange how in a place so populated and filled with familiar faces, I feel the need to communicate via phone more than I do on a beach, miles and miles away from home. The rocks are beautiful colours, greys and moonstone whites intercepted with rings and patterns of pink, like the Himalayan salt they have in healthy cafes in Shoreditch. I think about wrapping the rocks in wire and wearing them, but decide they look happier altogether on the sand.

I wonder how many beaches I will visit, how many rockpools I’ll explore, how many seas I will swim in, until London doesn’t seem so necessary to me. It’s definitely close; the clammy crowd of commuter’s bodies don’t seem to prevent me getting off the train so much now, whether that’s because they’ve noticed I want to get off or whether I have simply got better at weaving through them, I don’t know. I feel this ache to be away from it all more than ever, but as much as I want to go, I can’t quite imagine the sensation of being there yet. Perhaps that’s because I have never lived anywhere else, so the image is nothing more than a mirage in my head. Or perhaps it’s because there’s a little more I have to do in London before I can leave. Maybe there are people I haven’t met yet or work I haven’t made. The city is not a sickness, but rather a sibling; we share a life of memories, and a bond that can’t be completely forgotten or ignored, but ultimately, we are individuals who can and will take our own paths. Wherever mine leads, I know it involves the sea; it also undoubtedly involves a train station, to take me home when I need it.

Words and images: Ellie Connor-Phillips | @elliecp