“My dear, it was simply too, too marvellous ...”
Our neighbours from across the road were back from their trip along the Silk Road. The Avenue community were invited to share a barbeque lunch to welcome them home and give them an opportunity to regale us with their magical moments.
The late autumn afternoon was warm and somnolent and I was guilty of gross inattention. The Rowbotham’s were avid annual itinerants, choosing the more important social destinations, and their enthusiasm was debilitating. At least, it was to me, although there were those among us, unable to afford this mode of travel, who absorbed every word, mentally following closely in the footsteps of privilege.
Tucked into an out-of-the-way shady corner, I slid from half-hearing the conversation, through wondering at a lifestyle that afforded – nay, demanded – three months travel every year, into a review of my own last holiday.
Ten days away from home, a complete break from the daily, weekly, monthly, annual routine. The gift of a friend who wrote that her home was unoccupied, asking if I would like to visit during her absence. It would help to give the appearance of someone being there now and then. I could only take ten days but ten days would suit admirably. Ten days out of three years was surely not too much to take, and if I was careful the major cost would be the journey to and from.
Alice’s home was a cottage nestled amongst other cottages, trees and shrubs, overlooking a narrow strip of beach and a long, wide bay. An extended walk brought me into the shopping area of the village. Apart from the expected supermarket, bakery and post office, there were a number of galleries displaying the work of local artists and craftsmen.
From there it was an easy trudge down a steep hill to the port, the wharf and a number of small enclosed and rocky beaches where there was no swimming but a choice of interests in the shells, seaweeds and small pools.
Largely, the port catered to fishermen. The wharves were lined with seine men and line trawlers, with here and there smaller craft dealing in shellfish, oysters and mussels. The constant activity was both interesting and undemanding.
A retired fisherman stopped to chat, and from him I learned many things about his trade. He spoke of how the drought inland affected the sea as well, causing the fish to retire further from the land. He spoke of the crabs which can fill the nets and drag a trawler down and drown it. He spoke of the lunar influences, the tricks of the tides, and of many of the difficulties and rewards of the life of a trawler-man.
While I sat in the forecourt of a local cafe, soaking up the sea air, the sun and a large mug of coffee, I was joined by a couple lately arrived from overseas. They spoke enthusiastically of where they had been already, and where they hoped yet to go. Their plans encompassed many miles and a great diversity of places to visit. They were retired and this was their dream holiday.
I spent a day in a marine park where they identified many of the things I had seen on the small enclosed beaches and it was safe to handle the live creatures in the water tanks. There were sand tables of shells, skeletons, dried weeds and varieties of beach debris, and a staff member to identify items and answer questions.
On Sunday I visited an old church. Built early in the history of the area, high on the hill, southward it overlooked the port, and to the east the open sea. The old carved pulpit remained although it was no longer used, a modern congregation sang the new choruses, but the encouragement of the Word of God remained true. Their prayer was that “all the ministers who served there should freely and fearlessly proclaim the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
An afternoon spent strolling the aisles of the local graveyard highlighted many of the local names and events scattered through the town. This was my last afternoon before packing the car and driving home.
A quiet farewell, a little sad, yet holding the essence of ten days spent in a different world.
That was my holiday. I won’t go back, but I will carry it forever in my heart.
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