Pandemic Pondering #104

Desolate is a word that it is tough to love, but, love it, I do.

Boardwalk at Dungeness

Growing up I knew it as a descriptive word for geographic or meteorological phenomena. There is no coincidence that the flat lands of East Anglia and the sea mists that roll in off the North Sea are as much a memory of my early summers as sun drenched bucket and spade days on beaches.

When people enquired after a day out on the Essex coast my parents would describe a mist- harmed, beach day as ” all a bit desolate ” but I had had a great time so I never realised the negative connotation. My excuse for finding a sad word, not sad.

Battersea Power Station

I’ve jogged through life not really associating desolate with bleakness. The French word désolée = sorry, has also been a victim of my false up- beatedness about this family of words.

It is only with adulthood and an understanding of mental ill health or depression that the gravity of the word desolate has anchored itself in my mind . A person who is missing and possibly at risk of suicide is described as ‘ desolate’,when being discussed.

Looking towards Devon, River Tamar, Cornwall

In Pandemic Pondering #101. I described the desolate story of a World War One, casualty.

I used the word deliberately and advisedly because of the circumstance of his death.

Have I rehabilitated the word in my mind. Is it now properly recalibrated to the sad end of my word spectrum.

Pill Creek, Saltash

If I’m honest, not entirely. I still find pleasure in places that could well be described as desolate or bleak and more curiously they make me happy.

Condensation in a sweaty gym, St Mellion

3 thoughts on “Pandemic Pondering #104

  1. Ah Dungeness! I recognised it immediately. It’s one of my most favourite places. I also love places that could be described as bleak or desolate. You have me pondering now: I think I associate ‘desolate’ with destruction amd misery rather than with bleakness. I shall think on this some more …


    1. I’m sure my confusion is just misunderstanding as a child and I’ve never really been able to correct it. My parents were probably seeking a warmish day with a compliant child so they could read books and newspapers. A sea fog meant adventures and some cliff scrambling. I would have had a great day but they would have described it as desolate.
      I love the Kent coast , the esturine mud clinging to my feet as I wade out for a swim.
      I could finish on- call in central London and be on Whitstable beach to sleep off the nights labours by 11 if it was a sunny day.


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