Unbelted, squirming on the red leather seats
of the Triumph Herald, we played
First to See the Sea, a pencilled line between grey and grey.
Simultaneous shouts and then of course
we quarrelled over who was first.
Our parents sighed.
Dad slewed round country corners. And there it was,
a vast expanse of moving, living water, waves gently
folding and breaking. We drank it all in,
the salt-scented air, the screaming gulls, the
on the beach, the splashes and whoops by the water’s edge.
We fell out of the car, pulling off clothes
over our ruched cotton swimsuits,
grabbing our painted metal buckets, slightly rusted,
and heavy spades. And mum called Wait, without any hope.
They followed, dad’s arms loaded with thin bathroom towels,
and the windbreak, and cream cheese sandwiches
in paper bags.
They claimed a piece of territory
and we set to building, forgetting as we did every year
(but that was so long ago) that this coarse sand
couldn’t make castles. Still, we found treasure – a limpet
a quartz-streaked pebble, a piece of green glass,
We ran into the water throwing our Clarks sandals behind us.
And we screamed at the cold and the seaweed that slinked
around our city-pale ankles. Dared each other to swim but
it wasn’t proper swimming, the water too shallow,
our bellies grazed by shells.
Mum roughly rubbed us dry. We shivered and ate our sandwiches.
The promised ice cream from the van on the promenade
was pocked by sudden raindrops, and the beach stirred with
Families scrambled to pack up, shouting the children in.
Curled together on the back seat, sticky and salty-skinned,
sated with seaside, we slept to the rhythm of the wipers,
clutching the dull treasures that with the sheen of water on
had looked so pretty.
If you have any thoughts about this poem, Jane Pearn would
be pleased to hear them