The Start

The year has just begun. Now I have come to Belle Tout lighthouse on the south coast of England, in the South Downs National Park, on the edge of a four hundred foot drop down a sheer white chalk cliff face, to make a start. There is a novel to finish, set in this place. The Light Keeper, it is called at the moment. I also want to engage more fully with the tower and the landscape around it, because they fascinate me. This is such a beautiful place, but a deadly one too. I love it for its beauty, as many others do who come here to walk and look and marvel. I fear the drop, which is a good thing. Life is full of danger, but here we see it fully and clearly, with its face pressed up against the glory of creation. The car drops me at the bottom of Belle Tout hill (more about that name later, but for now let me say it is pronounced “bell towt” or “bell toot” but never “bell too”. And it isn’t French, despite what many people think). The lighthouse is owned by David and Barbara Shaw, who have spent a fortune to rescue it from ruin and restore it to a beautiful condition. Someone has seen me from the tower and come down in his car, stopping on the slope on the metal track and winding down the window to say, “Are you Cole Moreton?” That depends who is asking. He’s a big, strong looking man in his Sixties, with a firm handshake and a commanding presence. The lighthouse is currently full of his friends, having a house party. They have been very generous in allowing me to join them. They are also going out to dinner tonight, leaving me all alone in the building. I’m looking forward to seeing how that feels.