‘Beachcombing’

In all the weeks we were there, the sea never came in to the same place. Never brought the same debris with it. By the end I realised that if it washed up, it had to float, and that’s how you knew it was worth nothing.

It was that in-between kind of weather, when the wind’s not cold but boy, you can feel it, sometimes biting, or caressing, or suffocating, or all three at once, depending which way you turned. When a jacket’s too much, but you occasionally wish you’d brought it. At every step, the shingle fell away exhaustingly underfoot. I never wore the right shoes. My hamstrings feel tight at the memory of it.

It brought up seaweed, repulsive leathery pustules tangled with disposable forks, a cracked biro sheath, torn sanitary towels. Rotting crab claws and fleshy remains, coated with lethargic flies. The whole place had a smell like the insides of a briny creature, spilling out its history, all of itself onto the grit.

I came home from those days with my hands clammy with salt, feeling ravenously hungry for childhood comfort food.  I lived on cheese, toast and tiny tins of spaghetti letters, and miraculously managed not to succumb to scurvy. Would I go back now? Only if you asked. And isn’t it strange, to go back to an awful place like that, day after day, time after time?