It's not often that I have that dream nowadays, but I did last night.
In the dream, I'm in a place I don't know. The girl I love is there as well, but I'm alone. In her presence, more alone than alone. We're not strangers, no longer lovers, now just friends with a history. We act out surreal dream scenarios, but these scenes are tainted by a feeling that crushes me, almost impossible to bear. The girl I love moves through this dreamscape effortlessly, but, in her company, I'm slowly dying. She's a reminder of what we once had and have no more.
The dream always ends the same way. I'm leaning against a large glass window. Outside, it's raining. The world is ending. I'm by myself. The girl I love steps behind me, puts a hand on my shoulder and turns me round to face her. 'Chris, what do you want?' she says.
'It's you I want. It's what we had. Can't you feel it? Can't you feel it? I love you.' The words I should say. But I don't. I look at her, a desperate plea in my eyes, and just say, 'Nothing.'
I wake in the middleland between sleep and real life. Although the dream's gone, the feeling remains. It takes me a few moments to realise she's still there. Then the feeling subsides, different feelings take its place. I turn on my side, reach with blind eyes, and bring her close to me.
I'd given up almost everything to go to Africa, and came back to nearly nothing. Subconsciously, I must have known that I was at the fork of important paths. One path led me back to the respectable, but deeply unsatisfying, salaried life I'd left behind for these few recent months. The other led me to unpredictability, financial hardship and potential disaster. Of course, there was only one way I could go.
The resignation letter was surprisingly easy to write. Pushing the envelope into a postbox on Lumley Road, the words of a headteacher I'd recently worked for nudged themselves into hearing. 'Another year Chris, and you'll be Deputy Head material.' Turning and heading up the street, hands deep in pockets, I left those words and a previous life behind.
There wasn't a great deal of choice in the estate agent's window, but finding somewhere to live was a priority. I'd rented my flat in Boston on a long lease to a mature French student, and the thought of staying any longer in my Mum's spare room just didn't feel right. There were a few dodgy flats in Skegness, a couple of nice, but too expensive, bungalows in Chapel-St-Leonards, and that was about it. I mulled about in the cold for a bit, then decided to go inside to see if anything else was on offer. Five minutes later, a smart man in a suit was taking a sheet of A4 from a file and sliding it across a desk, almost in apology.
'Well, there's this. Just on the market. Haven't even got the keys yet.'
I took it. Looked it over. A picture of a dreary wooden chalet. An address. '6, Lakeside, Anderby Creek.' I thanked him, took the sheet, told him I'd have a look and be back in tomorrow. As I left, I already knew I'd found a home.
Anderby Creek has always captivated me. A tiny, edgelands hamlet, it consists of thirteen houses and one shed sitting high on the dunes. Behind these dwellings - one of the most beautiful and iconic beachfronts in Lincolnshire - stands a pleasingly ramshackle collection of bungalows, huts and small, family-owned caravan sites.
Down a dirt road, left from Sea Road, there's a small crescent of wooden buildings, situated around a large lake. Designed by Derbyshire achitect, Vic Hallam, these 'Anderby Chalets' were built in 1959, having been designed to provide afordable, but luxurious, holiday accommodation. A phenomenon of its time, the 'Anderby Chalet' design proved enormously popular, with orders arriving from all over the country. Over 200 were sited in Devon and Cornwall and a large number were exported to Germany.
It was drizzling as I rode onto Lakeside that February afternoon in 1998. I found number 6 in the far left corner of the crescent. With its peeling paint, dirty windows and knee high grass, it was easily the most delapidated of the dwellings in view. I leant my bike against the front of the chalet and walked round the property, peering inside through each window I came across. Threadbare carpets, brown and orange '70's wallpaper, the hue of mould in room corners. I'd fallen in love.
Before starting the long ride back to Skegness and the estate agent's office, I'd pushed my bike the short distance to the top of Sea Road, abandoned it by the tea-shop, closed for the winter, and walked over the beach to the sea. I stared out to the horizon for a long time, and then turned a half-circle to face the row of houses looking out from the dunes. The sun was low in the sky, and dark clouds were gathering. For a moment it seemed as if the earth was flat - that if I turned around again, I'd find not sea, but a sheer plunge into an abyss of nothingness. I'd found the edge of the world. As I walked back to my bicycle, I knew I was in the right place.
I went back to The Creek today. Driving home from an afternoon on the water, I parked up the van on Sea Road and spent an hour exploring the past and pondering the future. I strolled onto Lakeside, pointing out to Lightning the place his Mum and I first called home. We looked in on The Creek Club, where I'd taken Tammy on so many of our early dates. We walked past the tea-shop, closed for the winter, and onto the beach. We spent some minutes on The Cloud Bar, idly watching the sky, pointing out imaginary landscapes, dragons and demons. Then, as Lightning took off down a narrow path through the scrub of the dunes, I walked back to the sea, to the same spot I'd stood at nearly fifteen years ago. The edge of the world. I stared out to the horizon for a long time. Small, lazy waves welcomed me back.
I remembered my earliest childhood visits, blackberry picking or just playing on the beach. I remembered endless runs over countless years, across the sand, looking up to that row of houses that symbolise so much to me.
I turned, lost in thought, to face them again. Anderby Creek. I thought of the two years I lived at Number 6, Lakeside. Losing everything, but finding something. I thought of my darkest night, the stranger who saved me, and the girl I always knew I'd find.
And then, from deep within, last night's dream reappeared, but now it made sense.
Is it possible to love a place? A beautiful place made special with memories you'll never forget? A beautiful place made precious by its gifting of a second chance?
I stood in the middleland between remembrance and real life, and cast my mind to what might become. This wild, desolate place is perfect as it is. I can't afford to lose it.
My dream always ends the same way. There's things I should do and words I should say, but I do nothing, say, 'Nothing.'
As Lightning burst from the dunes towards me, arms outstretched, a huge smile on his face, it was then that I understood I could do nothing no longer.
* * * * * *
The Tritton Knoll development, proposed by energy company RWE, will see over 300 wind turbines built off the shore of Lincolnshire. It will be the largest project of its kind in the world.
The electricity cables will come ashore at Anderby Creek. Initial underground 1km 'cable corridors' have been revealed from Anderby Creek to Ingoldmells, Skegness, Wainfleet -St-Mary, Sibsey, and onto Bicker Fen, where a national grid substation the size of thirty football pitches will be constructed.
Announcing plans on the 2nd February, project manager for Tritton Knoll, Jacob Hain, said:
' I think people now realise this type of infrastructure has to happen to deliver renewable energy as we cannot be reliant on home energy. It will create hundreds of jobs in the UK and generate billions of pounds into the region.'
Anderby Parish Council's chairman, Coun. Carole Mason has expressed her grave concerns about the proposed onshore connection point. She said:
' We can't believe they want to bring the cables on shore through the Coastal Country Park - lots of families come to Anderby every year to enjoy the peace and quiet, the sea and sandy beaches and I don't think people realise the impact this will have.
If these developers have their way, Lincolnshire will become an industrial nightmare.'
Lincolnshire County Council’s environmental scrutiny committee chairman Coun Colin Davie, said: 'Despite making our position clear over many months, RWE have chosen to ignore the county council and proceed with these totally unacceptable proposals.
We have made it clear that any proposal to bring cables and an intermediate substation to the east Lincolnshire coast would meet with our opposition - it now meets with our full and formal objection.'