Monday, April 12, 2010
I love this picture of Beachy Head, not just because it's unusual to get such a shining, azure day that sparkles on the chalk in England, but because it reminds me of youthful irresponsibility.
Beachy Head is big and it's brash. it's the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain; it's like the white cliffs of Dover on acid.
And the lighthouse nestling at the foot of the cliff like a twist of seaside rock, a perfect afterthought of a little light house, completes the composition and makes the scale of this 530 ft. high beast apparent.
If Beachy Head had a personality it would be a large, raw boned Cockney fellow. He doesn't hail from Dorset or the gentle shales of East Anglia, but prefers the gaudy pleasures and amusements of Brighton.
I think of Michael Caine, in Alfie - or maybe even Get Carter.
Because like Jack Carter, Beachy Head has a sinister side. Since the 1600s the chalky rocks tumbled at the foot of this great behemonth have been stained with the blood of jumpers, making it Britain's most popular suicide spot and the third most popular place in the world to jump.
It seems jumpers are keen to make a spectacle and their mark on a landmark. Rather than a concrete car park in Basildon they would rather free fall from the magnificent heights of Beachy Head or from the world's number one suicide spot, the graceful span of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Today the railings at the top of the sea cliff are festooned with signs giving the Samaritans helpline number. It hasn't helped much.
But most of us are content to gaze on Beachy Head as a style icon and a cheeky chip of old Britain.
It's no conicidence that the Mod scooter goes crashing to the ground off Beachy Head at the end of the film Quadrophenia.
If it was off a hillside in Swindon, it just wouldn't have been the same.