Summer sojourn, two

Monday 29th August 2011

FRET, they call it: a mist that skulks in off the North Sea, too soggy for company. You have to expect the odd spot of rain along that coast – every third day or so, according to the Met Office. But this wasn’t the sea fretting, more a full-bucketed lamentation. My sister and I were drenched.

Didn’t stop us, mind. We’d come to build a sand-castle and that’s what we were going to do.

Staithes: caught on countless calendars and easels; with its cobbled streets and square-sterned cobles in the harbour; the village where, aged sixteen, James Cook was apprenticed for a year before moving to nearby Whitby and joining the merchant navy.

Staithes: of bottomless rock pools and dropped ice-creams; of lobster pots, smocked bonnets, and close-shouldered cottages; the seaside anchorage where, as a boy, I’d paddled, skimmed pebbles, plunged off the pier, clambered recklessly over seaweed-wet rocks, and wanted to live forever.

“I’m just going to get something.”

Didn’t that used to be the Post Office? There’s mischief in her look. She’s not one for souvenir plates or pencils.

Christmas too we came here, when we dared the grey, lashing spray of black, sea-serpent tides, when smugglers whispered in the dark of Gun Gutter, when Dad brought out crisps from the Cod & Lobster, and there must have been three ships come sailing in.

The rain has turned nasty, mocking the childishness of our time travel.

Nevertheless, we dig into the wet sand. The beach has but four other determined holiday-makers. There’s a sign now, warning of rock falls. My brother-in-law and niece shelter in a café, leaving us to the nonsense of nostalgia. I flatten the top, plop the up-turned bucket on to the chosen spot, and slowly reveal the shapely edifice.

“Here, bruv.”

There is always one – Or (well, bright yellow), a lion rampant, gules. She’s purchased a pack, but it had to be that one. Even the wooden stick has outlived best-before dates. I plant the flag and we scuttle away, like crabs.

“Fish’n’chips tonight?”

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