Sorry, I’m distracted at the moment. House hunting. Practical stuff and writing don’t mix, for me.
So, tomorrow I’m going by train to a seaside town on the far side of the county, and then I’m going to walk across said seaside town to a part of it I’ve never visited before, to view a couple of houses. I am hoping against hope that one of them will turn out to be “the one” as I hate house-hunting with a passion. It is the most draining and solitary business, when all you want is to be feeding cats and writing – to be traipsing here, there and everywhere – to be trying to find places – to be waiting outside houses for estate agents – to be carted round house after house after house. Stone-cladding? Interesting… Oh, I see, quirky layout… I’ll mind the step then… ‘statement’ purple wallpaper with large red flowers? Colourful. When can I go home?
Except of course that it’s not home any more. It’s under offer and somebody – a rather nice man, actually – is keen to move in. Got to get the old skates on. No writing. No wafting about thinking beautiful thoughts. Phone calls, phone calls, phone calls. Houses, houses, houses. More houses. All of them… nasty.
But tomorrow’s town brings back memories. It was where I lived for the first four years after I married Mr Wrong. We moved straight into a rented flat. No honeymoon. The best man gave us a lift from the church and handed us his wedding gift (two giant bath towels) as we got out of the car. He was probably embarrassed to be with us at that point, and glad to be rid. Off home to his Mum.
And that evening we went for a walk. We walked through the town and held hands – something I don’t remember us ever doing again – and we stood at some sort of wrought iron fence at the end of a cobbled street and looked down over the harbour; out over fishing boats to the sea. And I was filled with a sense of destiny and fulfilment – sounds weird now – but I felt safe. I was married. We were married. That was my future sorted.
When I think back, that was our only happy day – the very first one. The following twenty-two years – not so good.
However, I have always kept a fondness for the town. It suited me even if he didn’t. I liked its faded splendour, its shabby grandeur, the fairy lights looped through the trees, the lift going down to the beach from the cliff top; ranks of monstrous Victorian hotels; the art shop where he bought his supplies and the little old man in the fawn raincoat who ran it; the middle-aged shops; the pottery galleries; the library with its wide, brass-railed staircase and unread books; the drunkards after dark; the sea air; the pebbly beach; baby seagulls on the rooftops, brown-speckled and carolling; the grimness of November there; the bombed-out church; the way you could sit on a bench in the town centre and watch the world go by.
So, it will be strange going back. A journey into the past. I will walk past our old third-floor flat and look up at the balcony where I tried and failed to grow tomatoes in a pot, at the fairy lights in the trees, and I will remember the music that swirled around us; our hippie past already lost to us, though we didn’t realise it at the time. Our youth was close at our heels in that seaside town. Tomorrow, maybe I’ll catch the echo of it.