Leigh-on-sea, Essex. A cold and clear-skied November afternoon. The tide was in when we walked along the sea-front; when out, it would withdraw by a good mile or so. Across the blue was Kent, picked out in navy towers against the horizon; to the east the Thames Estuary stretched wider and wider until its mouth gaped into the North Sea. The water that day was still, apart from a bobbing buoy mimicking a bird diving for insects. A lone paddleboarder cut a smooth and steady path between the boats, crossed only once by a returning sailboat from the other direction. To our left were railway tracks, and behind them the sunset hit the large houses that faced on to the sea. We walked east towards Westcliff, the mouth and the night, while behind us the sun sank lower with red and gold.