Summers Past

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Summers past

The sickly smell of barley sugar

Mingled with the smell of coach,

That unmistakable hum of upholstery

That squeezed my tummy muscles,

Opening and closing like a fist.

Later, mothers and grandmothers

Brought out apples,

Their rotting sweetness adding

To the overall redolence.

The outbound journey always took so long,

Children’s expectant faces

Stuck to every window,

Wishing they would be there soon.

And we did arrive,

Eventually.

First there was the view from the front of the coach,

Cruising downhill on a street flanked

By hotels and boarding houses,

At the bottom, the sea, grey and choppy,

Veiled by a curtain of British summer rain.

Parked up on the sea front,

We bounced down the giant steps,

Onto the pavement strewn with sand,

Pestering for money to spend at the shop,

For a bucket and spade,

Or a stick with multicoloured plastic sails,

Don Quixote’s elusive windmill

Spinning and fluttering in the Bognor breeze.

Torn between following the fragrance of fish and chips

Or the scent of sand and salt water,

We followed Nan to the beach,

Picked our way through sand castles and windbreaks,

Women wriggling in and out of swimsuits

Under kaleidoscopic towels,

Beach balls and barking dogs,

To a spot she identified as ours,

To while away a few hours

Of low denier drizzle –

We were going to get wet anyway,

Why worry about a bit of rain

When you’re paddling in the sea?

After soggy, gritty egg and cress sandwiches,

And crisps with a twist of salt,

It was off to the arcades,

To the penny falls,

The laughing policeman

And bingo for Nan.

It was over too soon.

Back on the coach,

Bleary-eyed and briny-mouthed,

Heads nodding and swaying

With the washing of waves,

The journey back took no time at all

And the day became a memory

Until next summer.

© Kim M. Russell, 2015

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