When I'm affecting my urban cool mode, I tell rural types that I only like to see the countryside through double glazing because I know it teases. Except that they look at me witheringly and uncomprehendingly. By then it's too late to say that we once bought a coastguard house on top of a cliff in Dorset, without electricity or running water ten years later. That big blotch in the picture represents the row of seven grimly but solidly built dwellings that look so out of place on the footpath that we frequently met the gaze of walkers down the other end of a pair of binoculars, leaning against our wall. The painter Augustus John once stayed there but so did some IRA bombers on the run, before our time. For many years there was an old rowing boat parked outside, confiscated from smugglers pour encourager les autres. The story goes that they were made to carry it up there (where the coastguards made it unseaworthy) - no mean feat up 500 ft of precipitous smugglers' path. Thomas Hardy's short story The Distracted Preacher is a rollicking tale of the Revenue men versus the smugglers who took this very route.
I have just returned from staying nearby for a couple of days and much regret that we didn't get to walk up there. The first day it was shrouded in mist; the second day I fell to painting it instead. And then I fancied myself attempting The Diary of An English Country Lady with a sketch of some bois trouvé. I found it in on a lush secret path from the beach, the trees dripping and glistening after the rain. I was taken by the radioactive green of the lichen and the alien fungus growing out of it. I wish I could pretend I wasn't in the East End of London as I write this or that I won't be back to compulsively drawing shoes now. (I am such a poseur.)