(somewhere high on the south coast near an ocean of blue, James’ references are stupidly obscure…)
Last week I went to Bexhill, as quite a few of you probably realised by the fact that those four photos got more likes and views than anything I’ve written with words in like five months, which I must admit unsettles me slightly, that on a writing blog photos are the more popular medium. Regardless, one thing I didn’t capture with my phone – because of a lack of light and the social weirdness of this all – were the Weird Cliff People Of Bexhill.
First, you must realise that, without making unfair generalisations, Bexhill is a town of older people: it’s a sleepy, relaxed town right on the coast, with a nice art gallery and a good few coffee shops and ice cream places. There’s also no obvious nightlife to speak of; I know central London isn’t the best comparison, but you can hardly move for shitty clubs and dingy underground bars playing The Smiths at two in the morning here in Camden. So imagine my surprise when I saw that Bexhillians were not only active after the gallery closing time of 8pm, but that they were doing interesting things!
One of the Weird Cliff People Of Bexhill – so-called because all these oddities took place on Galley Hill and the surrounding cliffs, just beyond the edge of Bexhill – was a young man sitting in his car, with the lights turned down enough to be relatively inconspicuous, but bright enough that someone looking for the car would notice it without too much trouble. And I don’t want to presume too much here, because a man sitting alone on a cliff in a car with electronic music slowly pumping out of his radio could be doing any number of things, but I think I stumbled across the Bexhill dogging scene completely by accident. I didn’t realise this likelihood until my walk back home, when I passed the still-alone man in his car, which made the few seconds I walked past his door that little more awkward.
Then there were the two people atop the cliffs themselves, a young man and woman. I didn’t even realise they were living creatures because it was pitch black, and the only light came from my phone’s torch, which I shone on them relentlessly trying to determine just how big those rocks really were; then the bloke turned around and I realised my intrusiveness. But while the first Weird Cliff Person Of Bexhill can be linked to other, more mainstream variants of secretive midnight double-lives (i.e. dogging), these two can’t be – they sat at the edge of the cliff, simply talking to each other. Sure, they might have had sex later, or had just finished banging in the most romantic of places, atop a big rock, but the fact that the woman called me over as I walked back past them has confused me no end.
They had to be doing something generic enough for them to think a total stranger would want to be interested in joining them, so it could have been drugs, or planning a series of gruesome murders across the rural south coast, or playing a particularly competitive game of Battleship, to the extent that they needed an audience to validate their daring, endlessly complex moves. But I simply don’t know.
And that’s why I’m calling these folks ‘weird’: not because being awake at night is inherently strange – I myself was walking around at like eleven for God’s sake – but because I simply don’t know what they were doing, and don’t have the information to make a judgement. But don’t think I’m dismissing a thing I don’t know as being in some way odd or wrong – normality is boring, weirdness is human, and apparently found on cliffs beside sleepy seaside towns.