We’re back from a long weekendish in Somerset – part of our plan to have a series of mini-breaks this summer in order to burn up the days off work we owe ourselves. It was more of an active break than the one the weekend before, and we did plenty of walking, photographing and, indeed, driving. Most of our destinations were places Anna spent formative childhood holidays, which added an extra dimension to our enjoyment. ‘Refreshed’ would be the word … here’s to the next break, since we intend not to have our noses back against the grindstone for too long…
I have been thinking about summer. Whenever the sun comes out, it gets me thinking. It reminds me of all those long summers of childhood. When you had six weeks off school, which when you’re small seems like an eternity. Whenever the sun shines and glows hot, it makes me think of those summer days. Was it warmer back then? It feels to me like it was. I feel different during summer. I feel like me, all the summers of me, come together. I now realise, when I think about it, how special summers were, and how lucky we were to have them.
When we were little, my brother Joe and I, we would finish the last day of school and then drive to the sea with our parents. We would stay in Somerset. Most summers were spent in Blue Anchor Bay, in a caravan at the Beeches. When we were older (quite into our teens) we upgraded to spending summers in a cottage close to Porlock Weir.
To us, these summers seemed magical. We never wanted them to end. We would always arrive on a Saturday afternoon, driving along a winding coastal path until the sea came into view. Then we’d stop to catch a breath of the air and to hear the familiar sounds of the sea calling and children playing.
We must have walked miles up and down Blue Anchor beach. It has gold sand which is always wet, due to the constant rolling back and forth of the tide. You can go down to the beach early in the morning, when the tide is just receding, and be the first to tread the smooth sand. As the mist across the ocean lifts you can see over to Wales. There are lots of rocks and pools on the beach, slimy with seaweed and full of life. I have scars on my knees from falling into these jagged pools. At night, the sun sets over the sea, and the waves become angry, lashing at the sea wall. People fish in the dark and others meander along the Bay, or go to the pub. You can see planes landing at Cardiff and the lights of Barry Island fairground.
During the summer, Joe and I had so much freedom. We used to share a little room in the caravan, and get up in the night to watch rabbits playing. Every morning we’d wake to the sound of the two swings on the park, and run outside to play. We’d swim as soon as the air was warm enough to heat the little outdoor pool at the park. An old man used to come to close it at 6.30pm, but often left us to play for longer. We’d walk back bare-footed on the hot pebble path. We used to eat ham and salad suppers on a plastic patio set, looking out over the sea. Every year we’d make friends, write to them until November, and then they’d be lost until the following summer.
When I was older, we stayed in Porlock. We’d spend our evenings eating chips by the Weir. We walked for miles over Exmoor. But still, every summer, I went back to Blue Anchor beach. I decided what subjects to take, who my best friend was, where to go to University, who to date, what to do after University, all on that beach. I also used to promise it that I’d come back every year, that I’d never forget it.
But it’s been four years since I spent a summer there now. And nearly three years since I saw my beach. It comforts me to know that it’s still there. I can go back whenever I want to. I know that, when I arrive, early in the morning, the mist will be rolling back. It will smell the same. The beach front shop will still be the same. Children will be running on the sand. All my summer selves will be rolled into one, and I’ll be me again.