To my Mum, my brother Tom, and to pebbly beaches everywhere.
Mum gave me a little grey box. It smelled of things it had shared a shelf with. Wax, clothes waiting for repair.
Inside, the pebble was nested in musty fragile tissue. Smooth, yellowish, criss-crossed by a red line, like string wrapping a parcel. I brushed its surface with a finger.
I was climbing the sea terraces, head down. Searching. School shorts on, and a home-knitted emerald jumper. Red plastic sandals, strap digging in, rusty salt coating the buckle. A breeze lifting the fly-shoals from blackened seaweed. Goosebumps spreading over my legs. Salt-rot scent in my nose. Holiday smell. Rusty canisters and bits of plastic, weapons from an obscure sea battle.
Tom and I heaving boulders to the sea.
“Don’t give yourselves a hernia, you two!”
Carefully constructing pebble towers. Then standing a few yards back throwing stones, handfuls at time, frantically, to topple them.
“What have I told you, don’t throw stones when Tom’s in front of you!”
Uncle Dermot showing us how to skim small pebbles, hard, at an oblique angle onto the beach, so that they ricocheted, wildly and unpredictably. We liked that.
“Have you seen that woman with the pram down there? Be careful, please!”
That was forty years ago. But am I too grown up to hurl pebbles around on a cold beach?
No! And its better now - for I am far too grown up for anyone to tell me to be careful where or how I am throwing them.