30 April 2011

Going Home

We took her home to the Haven where she was born and spent her idyllic childhood.

All her life she loved to revisit the north coast cove with its sandy beach and high cliffs.  As a child she swam there in the summer after school.  The boys changed on one side of the beach and the girls on the other, and afterwards they left their costumes and towels on the rocks where they would dry in the sun, ready for the children to return the next day.  It was more than 70 years ago.

There was tension and anxiety as we pulled into the car park at teatime on that unseasonably warm April afternoon.  Holidaymakers swam and played and barbequed, oblivious to our disquiet.

Her son and daughter-in-law, daughter and son-in-law, two granddaughters and a cousin/friend – the five of us discussed the weather, the view, the parking charges, avoiding each others’ eyes, shuffling our feet, feeling chilly despite the warm sunshine.

Slowly we mounted the cliff path.  We stopped to admire the view and take photos of the light glinting on the water; we mocked the surfers with their wetsuits, calling them soft although none of us would have ventured into the water at this time of year.

Rounding the headland known as Highcliff, the wind blowing gently at our backs, we decided that this was the place.  Taking the container from it’s carrier bag, her daughter opened it and poured the contents out, spilling some on the cliff edge and letting the breeze take the rest out to the bay where the sea twinkled in sympathy.

Not wanting to leave, we sat on a bench and talked about nothing much.  The granddaughters paddled bravely.  We agreed to come back soon, and resolved to swim in the sea this very summer, in her memory.

Later, at a mediocre pub on the way home, we ate, talked and drank too much, then returned home to try and get back to normal; a new and strange normality without our Grandma, Mum, Winifred…

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