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April 26, 2004

With the sun on my skin

Memory is synaesthetic. Sights, sounds, smells, sensations – all can prompt the sudden and unexpected recall of an old memory, musty, frayed around the edges and long since consigned to the dustbin of your mind, or so you thought.

Prising myself away from my desk a few weeks ago, I walked the 15 minutes to our nearest corner shop. The sky was a crisp blue, clouds sculled across it like fluffy white boats on a mill-pond sea. It was definitely a spring day, one that might in a few weeks metamorphose into summer, but for the moment it remained a pupa of a day, fat with possibilities but not yet ready to take wing.

That specific combination of the warm sunlight on my skin and the chill the air still held, itself a memory of winter, brought unexpectedly to mind childhood holidays in Cornwall.

Each Easter, my parents would take me and my brother to The Lizard for a couple of weeks, always staying at the Gwendreath Farm Caravan Park. No matter how things changed around us, our yearly holidays would remain a constant, as reliable as the great, graceful dishes at Goonhilly Earth Station that signalled we were close to our destination.

Often, the weather would keep us in the caravan, watching the sea fog roll in, listening to the distant mournful moan of the Lizard lighthouse foghorn, soulfully shooing boats away from the vengeful rocks of the peninsular that forms the southern-most tip of Britain.

Sometimes we’d be lucky, Cornwall’s maritime climate blessing us with sunshine and days on the beach, yet there would always be that nip in the air, a reminder that the weather could change faster than I could get out of my swimsuit and into something warmer.

Our Easter holiday ritual heralded for me the beginning of the end of the school year. Once I got back from Cornwall, the summer term would begin and it would be hardly any time at all before lunchtimes could be spent lying on the grass, contemplating maybe playing tennis tomorrow (although I never got much past the contemplation stage). Then, with indecent haste, exams and hayfever would be upon us, followed smartly by two months off.

My life no longer changes so reliably with the seasons. Easter is no longer a marker of the long summer to come, but instead a reminder that the year is disappearing too fast. I no longer dread June as the month of exams, but instead find myself hoping that I might clear enough off my to-do list that I can guiltlessly take the opportunity afforded by a few sunny days to lounge about in my sarong with a bottle of Pimms and a bowl of strawberries.

The chances of finding eight whole weeks to do nothing except what I want to do have dwindled to nothing - I almost can’t imagine it. I have a hard time imagining even two weeks off. But if I concentrate on the feeling of sun on my face, on that sensation, then there I am again with the sand under my feet, the salt in my nostrils and the squabbling of hungry gulls wheeling above me.

For just a moment, I can remember what it was like when there was nothing to do but explore.


Posted by Suw Charman at 02:39 AM in Adventures | Permalink


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