Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Instead, my last few months have been meted out in a rhythm of food, essays, sleep and choosing outfits for sixth form (oh yes, that last one is just as important!) My inner metronome currently ticks away through word counts and Latin vocab lists, with only the occasional beat reserved for personal writing. I do love my new sixth form college though, despite the limits it has put on my free time.
To recall the sense of summer for a minute, here are some mermaid themed photos – styled with a vintage green dress and hair made curly by salty seawater swimming. My mum took them in a beautiful little village on the Welsh Coast called Llangrannog. The sand under my bare (and I must say rather cold) feet was steeped in recollections. A sprawling set of houses is fronted by a cove encircled in rocks like protective arms. It was the place that my family and our very good friends holidayed every year when I was considerably younger. This summer was the first time I had returned since.
It’s odd re-visiting locations that make up childhood memories. Sometimes the disappointment can be overwhelming – perhaps we would rather keep recollections untainted and free of new experience. On the other hand, I left Llangrannog this year loving it more than ever. I stayed with the same family friends in the same cottage we always used to rent. There was a new kitchen, but the apples in the garden tasted the same. Hairline cracks in the front room showed where I had once inadvertently pulled down the curtain rail and a large chunk of the wall with it (in my defence I was being a “brave explorer”). But my friend Esme (she of the backbone brooch) and I no longer discussed our barbies’ attire, but instead how early we could drag ourselves out of bed to complete a sunrise-over-sea shoot.
The various rooms and furniture in the cottage felt smaller. However, the height hierarchy among ‘the kids’ has remained roughly the same. We re-created a snapshot of me, Esme and our respective younger siblings taken 8 years ago, perching on the wall in ascending height order outside a cafe that serves ice creams tasting of summer. The original photo is blue-tacked in our kitchen at home, with our gap-toothed grins and ice-cream smeared faces offset with faintly tacky t-shirts and jelly sandals. This time I was wearing vintage culottes and a cable knit jumper.
Nevertheless, being teenagers has not hardened us to the delights of childish activities. As the sun melted over the waves on the day we arrived, Esme and I decided the smartest thing to do would be to paddle. This jumping over waves turned into fully-clothed swimming, until our hands and feet were thoroughly chilled. We emerged to eat hot chips, with our wet hair leaving pools in the sand.
Aside from trying to give ourselves colds, and the occasional bout of excited dolphin spotting, our families also re-trod in the echoes of clumping wellies. A journey to the nearby headland, which I recalled as a trek worthy of Scott and a team of husky dogs, was reduced to little more than a stroll with pit stops for handfuls of blackberries. The location reminded me very much of Sylvia Plath’s poem ‘Blackberrying’:
“Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries.
Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly,
A blackberry alley, going down in hooks and a sea, somewhere at the end of it, heaving”.
Like the blackberries, my time spent revisiting various places and moments of the past was almost always sweet. The only sour note was a result of coming face to face (well, foot to fin) with a weaver fish – a spiny little beast that loves to hide under the sand on the British coast line and sting people’s unsuspecting toes with a venom that feels ten times worse than that of an angry wasp. Although they are technically harmless, neither my purple, swollen foot nor I were very happy – especially not when faced with the prospect of immersing my foot in near-boiling hot water to draw out the painful poison.
Yet, two hours later and I was back with my family and friends scrabbling around with spades to build an intricate system of moats and sand walls. Our aim was to keep back the tide for as long as possible, but as King Canute could have told you, the water shall always win.
I also recently wrote a guest post for the wonderful and warm-hearted Bella of Citizen Rosebud. I was thrilled when she asked me as I have so much respect for her and her work. You can see my musings on buying vintage here.