Generally speaking I don’t like old stuff. I prefer things like “Cadillac all shiny and new” and clothing that hasn’t the dubious charm of a well-worn Harris tweed jacket. But I acknowledge there is a case to be made for a patina.
Patina isn’t necessarily oxidation or corrosion. It might be an endearing gloss or sheen. A classic example is the polish of fine wooden furniture or the tarnished face of a sailor. Patina frequently imparts a favourable impression. The etymology of the word affords an insight:
“greenish film on old bronze,” 1748, from French patine (18c.), from Italian patina, perhaps from Latin patina “dish, pan”, on the notion of encrustation on ancient bronze dishes. Sense of “refinement, cultural sophistication” first recorded 1933.
Patina isn’t therefore just an acquired change of a surface through age and exposure; it is a mark of distinction. I liken the transition to the effect of a rollicking Ocean and a strong, balmy southern breeze. Such was the veneer imparted today to our Maritime roost. Inexplicably I have always been drawn to a riotous Ocean and a forceful wind racing across the strand. Granted a headwind on the beach can be a serious impediment to bicycle travel (as indeed it was for me today) but, like the punishment of exercise, it has its compensating Spartan reward.
In fact my conditioning to this particular model of experience arose during the night last night. I regularly sleep with my patio door wide-open (though screened of course). All night I was aware of the particularly high wind which was churning the Ocean beyond the sand dunes not far from my second-storey perch. For a landlubber such as myself it required a degree of precision to decipher the swooshing sound of the sea and to distinguish its modulating waves from mere arboreal commotion. In the murkiness of the dark and the distortion of my sleep I was without certainty of either its origin or effect. The din was nonetheless soothing, even mesmerizing.
When I awoke this morning there was an added feature to the nocturnal disturbance. Through the diaphanous drapes I could see that the sea was green not blue; and that it was white-capped. When I say “green” perhaps a better description would be jade, oddly a softer hue of green in spite of its turbulent evolution. It is this very contrariety which epitomizes the fruition of a tempestuous day at the beach, the natural blend of weathered and worn, the mixture of violence and serenity. As much as I adore a languorous day at the beach – a day of brilliant sunshine and sizzling heat – the indolence does not compete with the furry of waves and a buffeting wind. It is a reminder of nature’s vitality and it similarly inspires activity and confrontation. Stormy weather is a well-known metaphor for change. Today’s atmospheric changes heralded nothing more than unusually warm winds apparently without the addition of rain. The heat was accompanied by a haze along the shoreline, bestowing an ethereal nature to the distant view. The effect of the blustery salt sea air could be felt on my skin and in my hair.