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,
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