The story is based on my childhood holidays.
‘Yes, we spent a fortnight at the seaside every year when I was young. Mum and Dad hired a chalet in a tiny village on the Norfolk coast. It was called "My Shanty" – a green, wooden building, nestling among the sand-dunes.’
‘What did you do all day?’
‘I was on the beach. I don’t know what I did – I still hadn’t learnt to swim. But I wasn’t bored. The expanse of sand was enough. I liked hunting for seashells: cockles, mussels, whelks, razor shells. I was excited when I found a belemnite – you know, those brown, bullet-shaped fossils. Then I paddled, of course. I loved squelching on seaweed in the shallow water. And I remember the nights – lying in bed, looking out to sea at the lightships flashing in the darkness. It was another world.’
‘Have you ever been back?’
‘Yes, a few years ago. I walked along the shore from the nearest town, but I couldn’t find the exact location. The village has disappeared - it’s just part of the town now. And the sand-dunes have gone too – all eroded. I saw some chalets, but they were further inland. They looked old, though I suppose I’m older than they are.’
‘You must have felt sad.’
‘I did. But the beach is still there. I convinced myself that I’d chosen the spot where my parents pitched the windbreak. Then I did what I couldn’t do all those years ago: I went for a swim.’