Dover Needs Its Kafka

The weather forecast was clearly for sun. There was a big yellow sun gif to make sure the message was clear. S – u – n. By the time I had come down the Western Heights and was making my way to Shakespeare Beach, it was difficult to know where the sky mist ended and the sea mist began, and that wasn’t helped by the fine drizzle.

‘A bit rough’, a man with a dog said.
‘It was supposed to be sunny’, I said, pointing to the thick grey drizzle, my words blown away by a strong gust of wind.
‘They would be better off with a blackboard and chalk and piece of seaweed’, he suggests.

But sometimes the grey and drizzle and wind and the rain are needed. Not just for the contrast, but for the agriculture and for the sea and for the changes in light and colour this produces, so that familiar walks take on unexpected hues and tones.

I walked up the Western Heights and looked out over the Channel. Busy, misty, dangerous. It is easily forgotten that the safety is only created by endless training of seafarers and sophisticated navigation systems, satellites, geo-positioning systems, intricate procedures of warnings and alarms.

The castle itself dominates the town. Just as it did in the book of the name by Franz Kafka. The Wikipedia entry states, ‘The Castle is often understood to be about alienation, unresponsive bureaucracy, the frustration of trying to conduct business with non-transparent, seemingly arbitrary controlling systems, and the futile pursuit of an unobtainable goal’. This is a very prescient way to describe the disgraceful implementation of Universal Credit, which in Dover, as in many other places is having a rotten impact on people and increasing their general immiseration. One wonders what Kafka would have made of such a thing, and what will happen if a Kafka-esque writer emerges in Dover to explain this modern phenomena of an old woe of desperate people being plunged further into poverty by the ineptitude of mindless officials and politicians with big ideas about the poor.

The Western Heights is foreboding today, and well it might be. This is militarism, an untold cruelty to the soldiers who served here, the brick and mortar defence against possible invasion. A detention centre, a place to imprison people, symbolic of un-freedoms. These places hide the terror of the chains, executions, solitary confinement. It is a half wild place now, paths allow the coastal walkers to navigate through, barbed wire and thick brambles impose their own restrictions.

All those wars over trade. And it all ends up with trade again. Which seems to lead to more wars. It is a very peculiar economic system.

I walk down to Shakespeare Beach enjoying the elemental storm of the sea. The sea gives a sense of freedom, not just to travel, but just by being there. I like the juxtaposition of the warning sign and the graffiti.


Within ten minutes I have collected a full purple bin liner of plastics and all the other stuff you can see to the right of that bag. I wished I had taken more bin liners with me because there was plenty more plastic to pick up.



As I left the beach, the sun broke through the clouds somewhere out in the Channel and cut a silver shard into the grey waters.