Lee-on-the-Solent

Safe Haven

by Jessica Miller

My limbs are screaming as I peddle away on my bicycle, my heart racing quicker for every turn of the wheels. This wasn’t planned, and perhaps not such a good idea after a long day at work, but the winter air is cooling and I’m not ready to go home yet.

A few days ago, I strolled down the same road with George, and he pointed to the sign up ahead:

“Lee-on-the-Solent?”

“Yeah, we call it The Solent, or Lee on Solent though – it’s too wordy otherwise. It leads to the river’s mouth, then the sea.”

We moved on, laughing and smiling, but the words and the place still lingered. How long had it been since my last visit?

Lee on Solent was, and still is, a safe haven.

It was a place to go when the world caved in, when school work was suffocating and home was too much. Those years were frightening and lonely, the shingled slops and the blue waters of the Solent the only remedy for someone so lost. I often hear people complain that living in England is claustrophobic, that they would rather live in some vast land than be trapped on an overpopulated island, surrounded by water. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Looking out over the water serves as a reminder – that the world is out there and it is waiting for you. There is always hope.

There are good memories here too; a place to browse vintage shops with Beth (Hidden Treasures is the best place to go); for birthday ice creams with Jenny, driving around in her car with the music on full blast; hearty meals in The Osborne View for Dad’s birthday – it’s a beautiful restaurant looking over the water, and my god do they have the most fantastic fish dishes.

I’m not after hope today, only the familiarity of the river and a certain fish and chip shop, Smart’s Fish Bar. Clambering off my bike, I rush in before my stomach starts rumbling too loudly. The white paint around the door frame is chipping slightly, the counter a little more worn than it was before, but it’s the same, bubbly woman that greets me.

“Hello love, what can we get for ya?”

“A portion of chips, medium please.”

“Right you are.” She says it with a smile.

Fast forward five minutes, and I’m sitting on shells and weathered glass, a new lighter in my pocket after popping into the newsagent’s – my other ones have almost run out now, I have too many candles to light. Ships and ferries sail by; their lights shine bright against the red-struck sky.

“Red sky at night, shepherds’ delight,” I mumble, sinking into my coat and burying my face into my scarf, trying to keep warm.  You can smell the salt in the air from here – it untangles the string of worries in my head. For once, there is so much to look forward to, so many adventures to come.

solentseagulls

            Editor: Malin Lillevold

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