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Thursday, 4 August 2011

Summer Idyll with Weapon of Mass Destruction.

This is one of a series of blog posts under the heading of #100blogfest.

After war reduced our city home to rubble, we lived in a converted wooden railway wagon, perched on cliffs overlooking the sea on the coast of East Yorkshire. A paraffin hurricane lamp lit the main room where our parents slept after we were in bed; candles illuminated the rest. Oil in drums fired the cooker. There was no electricity, and therefore no TV. It was heaven.
Our makeshift home on its metal wheels stood two paces from the cliff edge. A mile north lay a shallow ravine guarded by tank traps; though we had no idea what they were. Over a dozen huge rough concrete cubes wedged lopsidedly in soft yellow sand: giant sugar lumps forming a playground for fantasies of every kind. My big brother could scale the lowest blocks without help. The rest of us needed hands below or above; both in my case.
Long evenings in May, June and early July were our favourite times. The beach was ours until summer holidays brought day-trippers with soft-soled feet and skin that reddened under sun. No shoes for us. We walked the beach to school and swam in surf until winter turned the blue-brown sea grey.
Even at that age, I tended to the studious and would take a library book with me. I’d rest my back against a tilted block of sun-warmed concrete and lose myself in words. Sometimes I read alone: often I relayed printed words to those who gathered round to listen. And my imagination led our games of make-believe as I transformed the monstrous blocks into pirate galleon, tree house, warship, fort or forest as the play required. 
One bright soft day of rippling on-shore winds, a sphere of black corroded metal washed in on gentle waves, its rusting spikes menacing. There was enough of the sinister in that orb to make us wary. But my brother, defender of the gang, saw it off with a long bare stick of driftwood and pushed it back out to sea.
The tide returned it.
Charlie, the skipper of an ex-army amphibious landing craft, had been at Dunkirk and often regaled us with tales of the landings, as he treated us to free rides in the bay before the summer hordes arrived to pay their fares. He seemed to come from nowhere that day, long white mane flowing behind him. He grabbed my brother’s stick and pushed him away.
‘Leave it! Get away from ‘ere, all o’ you! Bugger off. Go on! Or you’ll not ride Duck again!’
Charlie never raised his voice or shouted. This rage was alarming in a man respected for his gentle ways. But his threat to stop our rides in his DUKW was enough to make us leave, puzzling at his strange behaviour. Later, describing the scene to parents and learning their alarm, we understood how kind Charlie had been to chase us off.
Next day, we occupied the cliff top and watched soldiers build walls of sand around the mine, whilst one brave man fastened wires to its bulk. The explosion, even at that distance, hurt our ears. It scooped a crater big enough for us to hide in, till the sea invaded and removed all trace.
These blogs are all about fun and sharing. Thank you for reading a ‘#100blogfest’ blog. Please follow this link to find the next blog in the series:


Rachel Brooks said...

I loved to read and play at the beach as a kid too. It must have been exciting to live right on the beach. I'm very lucky that I only live about 10 minutes away from the beach now.

Thanks for being a part of #100blogfest, Stuart. I'm really enjoying the fun! said...

That part of my life, indeed my whole childhood, was pretty idyllic. I live within a 30 minute drive of the same coast now, but I miss the sea on my doorstep. Still,maybe when I retire...