(first published in Flash Fiction Press January 5th 2017
A routine visit to the town library with my daughter. My pedagogic overtures rejected, I drift over to a display of new books. A shock: the photo on the dust-jacket of a book about the Channel Islands. It’s Fermain Bay, Guernsey. For years, I carried in my wallet just such a photo, taken from among the headland pines on a day of luminous light, looking down into the narrow sandy bay. On the dust-jacket, I can just make out tiny, scattered deck-chairs, once my summer-long responsibility.
The things you forget. The great Martello Tower, built to dominate the beach and deter Napoleon – forgotten. A mere stone obstacle to be skirted on journeys between my deck-chair store and Ginny’s beach café. An historic monument rubbed out and Ginny’s brown eyes and deft movements given Conservation Area status. The things you remember: our first kiss, when I couldn’t stop my knees trembling; how the smell of the pines gradually gave way to the smell of the sea on morning walks to work; the taste of fresh Guernsey milk. And there’s the bad stuff too: the café break-in when all the fags were stolen and the owner blamed me; my night at the police station – a brief episode, but a lasting after-taste of how it is to be the bewildered outsider, the stranger deemed suddenly to be the enemy. That summer was my passage into adulthood, backlit by the ‘vision splendid’ of childhood, but treading step-by-step into Man’s Estate.
Twenty-odd years have passed since that library visit, just as twenty-odd years had stretched between my Guernsey days and my discovery of the dust-jacket. A strange exercise, to sit and recall the time when the memory of Fermain Bay engulfed me like an incoming tide— the memory of a memory.
◊ ◊ ◊