After a night in London, we went back down to the south coast to spend some time with Nana and Grandad Bob – effectively ending our journey where it began. After a month with Gran and Grandad it only seemed fair that we spent some time with them, too, and I don’t think that any of us were that keen to get back home anyway.
On one of the first days we were there we all went to the beach, where Nana had a beach hut. Somehow, although 1982 boasted one of the worst summers on record, we somehow hit a hot spell when we returned, hot enough at least to spend a day or two lying on a stoney beach. As car space was a bit limited, I was volunteered to be the one who cycled the three miles or so from the house to the seafront at Sompting. That was an interesting experience and I was surprised at how much I ached after riding a bike for the first time that year, despite having done so pretty much every day for the previous decade.
That isn’t the story, though. Whilst we were at the beach – and I think we were there for most of the day, I became aware of a girl from a couple of beach huts down looking at me. I was more than a little baffled by this as I couldn’t understand why anyone would be interested in me and convinced myself that it was my dad she was looking at. Shortly after I decided to go for a swim and when I announced this Dad’s comment was that I should take my friend with me. He laughed when I told him what I thought and simply said “You’ll learn”. I did, about twenty five years later.
As I ran down to the sea I shouted to the girl words to the effect of “Fancy a swim?” and she immediately followed. I learned that her name was Alison, that she lived in Croydon and was also down visiting her grandparents. We stayed in the water for quite some time, just talking.
I don’t think we saw each other again after that, other than later that evening when she was walking back from the beach and Dad and I had gone back to the beach hut to retrieve something that had left behind. I clearly liked her enough to put her name and address into my diary and we corresponded with one another for a while after. I can’t remember how it all ended, although I do remember being appalled when she told me that she had carved my name into desk at school. We just didn’t do that sort of thing where I came from!