Saturday, May 2, 2009

The older I get, the more my childhood seems to be like another country. I have the photos to prove I've been there, the crystal-clear memories that allow me to recreate whole days down to the smell and the fabric on the lounge cushions. But I can never go back there, and I will always want to, if only for a few minutes, until the day I die.
The place I really long for is my grandmother's house at Lennox Head, and when I say it was on the beach I mean the front yard was sand. It's not there any more, there's a row of millionaires' beach pads where the nasturtiums used to be, but then I'm not 5 any more either, unless I really concentrate. Then I'm back there, summer holidays, long walks on the beach with the dogs every morning and afternoon, classical music on the radio, storms at sea, Enid Blyton books, pumice stones in the shower, wooden floorboards dusted with sand, shells and driftwood drying on the timber deck. The smell of old books and seagrass matting. The calm.
We've just spent a few days on the south coast, somewhere I had never been before. I found a B&B on the internet and booked it because it looked beautiful and something about it felt right. And because they had a labrador and two cats - the clincher. We have a labrador named Sunday, and I figured we'd be missing him so it might be nice to have another one around as a stand-in. She was chocolate. Her name? Sundae. Universal sign number one, you might say. Turned out this little B&B was probably the closest thing I'll ever get to revisiting my grandmother's beach house, and thus my own childhood. The bookshelves were packed, the matting was seagrass. Shells and driftwood on every flat surface. And calm.
We walked on Hyams Beach on a beautiful sunny day, and I could have kept walking for hours. I only wished I'd had a labrador or two with me. That would have made it beyond perfect. But I was revelling anyway in the knowledge that sometimes roads lead you somewhere you've never been before, and it's as though you never left.

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