The last day of September. A strong westerly wind and a darkening sky mean that I have the beach to myself. Up above, I can see a solitary figure trying to light a cigarette outside the hotel. He could be the thin man; if he begins to assemble a telescopic rifle I am in trouble. I can never walk on a deserted seashore out of season without thinking of the closing scene of ‘Get Carter’. Michael Caine, black mac and shotgun, laid low by the sniper’s bullet and the incoming tide engulfing his prone form. But this is genteel, well-heeled Cooden and not the black sands of Blackhall Beach, shifting slag into the sea from the Durham coalfields. As I get closer, the smoker is wrapping himself up in a coat retrieved from a car with a “Love Europe, Hate the EU” sticker. I need not have worried, only my sensibilities were at risk; the biggest threat here is from latent xenophobia.