At night, from my upstairs window, I can see the flashing light of the SW Scroby buoy. Throughout the hours of darkness its green eye blinks unwaveringly every 2.5 seconds. To my right – partially obscured this evening by the superstructure of a wind farm service vessel – is the next buoy in the chain marking the edge of the channel formed by Yarmouth Roads and Gorleston Roads: the W Corton buoy. The W Corton buoy has a green light too, but it’s easy to tell them apart. Instead of SW Scroby’s regular pulse, W Corton flashes three times in bursts ten seconds apart.
Beyond the channel lie the shifting hazards of Scroby and Corton Sands. Maritime charts of these waters carry a warning. Charted depths are not to be trusted. A 2011 survey revealed that waters whose charted depths were 12 m were now showing a drying height of 0.3m. Or to put it another way, where there ought to have been enough water to take the 148,000 tonnes of the Queen Mary 2 a foot of dry sand was showing above the waves.
The view was a surprise. At ground level the tiny terraced house looks out on to the blank brick wall of an industrial unit. The street narrows to 6’6″ at the far end but here is just wide enough to take a line of parked cars straddling the narrow pavement and pressing against the chain link fence. At first floor level you are above the corrugated asbestos of the adjacent roof. From here you can see the river and the quayside that makes up part of the port of Great Yarmouth. At times it’s lined with service and general cargo vessels, at others it’s deserted. Beyond the quay are warehouses, South Denes Road, and finally, the sea. I can watch waves breaking on Scroby Sands and the occasional vessel making its way into the Outer Harbour.
This was my new world. Or at least the portion visible from the window of what inevitably became my study.
This, I remember thinking, this is going to be ok.