The ball speeds down the steep, tarmac road, Bill flying excitedly after it. At the bottom we pass the tea chalet, open year round, in all weathers, serving promenade walkers with warming drinks or cooling ice-creams. The eastern sky is welcoming, intensely blue; in the west it’s dark, slate grey. I opt to walk westwards, with the white cliffs to our right and the sea, rough in response to the coming storm, rising and falling on our left. The tide is going out leaving a stretch of gleaming sand streaked through with dark grains and imprinted with Bill’s paw prints where she’s galloped across with a wet patter. This sound joins the layered symphony created by the hum of the sea beyond the reef where waves boom as they crash onto the rocks. At my feet fresh water from the cliffs trickles through the stones and as the rain starts to fall, it pings off of the wet sand leaving tiny indentations. At the end of a groyne a deep pool of pale, sea-green water catches Bill unawares, slowing her down as she plunges through. Undeterred she gathers the ball, returning it to me as I, child-like, splash through the pool in my wellington boots. We’re not alone on this bleak afternoon. A woman with her springer spaniel has reached the rocks ahead of us, whilst a family behind is engrossed, searching in rock pools and a young couple near the shoreline help each other over the slippery rocks where the fronds of green seaweed swept across the smoothed surfaces looks like wisps of fine hair combed over a bald man’s pate. On the shore line sea gulls hover in a queue, dipping down in turn to peck at the sand for food before rising up again. We move on. The reef’s protection wanes as the wind rushes around the head where the murky sea is dirty with sand that’s been churned up by the powerful waves and currents. Further out I can see these waves, tall, topped with white foam. Moving inwards the rocks look as a strange volcanic planet, grey, furrowed with deep ruts. I take care walking so as not to turn an ankle. Bill touches the ball in my hand with her nose, nagging at me to play but with barnacles, limpets and periwinkles clinging to the rocks it’s not safe here. I tell her so. I decide we’ll turn back. We’d really like to stay a bit longer but it’s getting dark and the weather is starting to close in. Walking past the Sugar Lump the wind drops. Although we can still hear the sea, there’s an eerie silence like humanity has deserted us. Back near the tea chalet signs of life show again in the wet sand as it mirrors an upside down image of South Cliff Tower, windows now lit against the darkening sky. As the sun goes down, we wend our way back up the tarmac path and towards the warmth of home.