A Childhood Away

Not to put to fine a point on it I don’t particularly like returning to the town I grew up in – no longer home by default as it contains nothing with which I associate homeliness. The town is a grim one to live in. However today I managed to remember one of the simple things I’d forgotten I loved. The beach was ‘closed’ where I got onto it, but residents were exemplifying perfectly how you can’t close a public beach no matter how hard you try, they shall come and they shall occupy, ‘tis their beach after all.

The thing I’d forgotten I loved was a winter beach. I missed the silvery-ness of it, the steely grey-blue melting into icy-white. I missed the paleness of the sun, the low delicate oval seeming to reflect the light and texture of the water rather than vice versa. There is an almost mist which hangs over the whole sea front, very fine like gossamer, everything is slightly smudged by it, slightly bleached of colour, softened, even the few people who are scattered across it. The not-quite-mist seems to ooze silence. The water dances in the strangeness of the light, the white of the breaking waves on the shoreline seems denser than usual, smoother, creamy. And the smell I had forgotten, lost in miles of city traffic and damp pavements and fresh frost smell, fast food smell, alcohol smell; I had forgotten the tang of the seaweed, the salt in the air, the irrepressible childhood of it all. Every time I smell the sea I hear the gulls, even if there aren’t any.

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