I must be one of the few people who still use CDs for what they were intended and not turned them into coasters or wind chimes.  

During lockdown, I’ve dug out a few discs that haven’t seen the light of day for years and played them on an ancient portable CD player that’s provided the background music to many a picnic.   

One disc that came out of hibernation is Michael Nyman’s soundtrack to the 1993 Oscar winning film, The Piano. 

Listening to it again after all this time, I found myself thinking not of the New Zealand landscape of the movie but of the cliff tops at Bempton.  Funny that. 

The streams of notes played by Ada, the film’s lead character, seem to reflect the movement of the waves beneath the cliffs and brought to mind hours spent on the viewpoints gazing at the North Sea. 

Often this is in the hope of seeing a dolphin break the surface and seemingly smile at those watching.  (Even during these unsettling days, I can’t imagine a dolphin ever looking sad). 

More often still it’s to simply gaze at the hundreds and thousands of seabirds wheeling on currents of air or soaring up before swooping down to take their place on the chalk ledges of Seabird City.

There are reflective passages too in the CD’s 20 or so tracks. These bring back memories of mist falling and fields disappearing from sight. Then each footstep becomes an adventure and your sense of direction is dictated by a bird’s cry or the thud of the incoming tide - something that can happen in June as well as in November.

Deep pounding swirls of notes throughout the piece suggest the famous ‘Bempton Breeze’.  Sometimes cruel, sometimes caressing.  The wind on the tops is as likely to slap you in the face with a shout of ‘Take that, you blaggard’ as it is to catch its fingers in your hair with the rough gentleness of a cat licking a kitten.

Lyrical and emotional, each strand of music somehow captures the mood of the cliffs and it soaks into you like the warmth from hugging a hot water bottle.  At times you feel blessed to have witnessed such sights and the next desolate with the sense of loss...albeit only temporary.

One of our RSPB volunteers, Sooty, recently said about missing the cliffs that you don’t really appreciate what you have until it’s taken away.  And so it would seem.  Roll on the end of lockdown when we can all safely return to this special place.  Until then, The Piano will continue to play.

Anonymous