I’m struggling along, not very productively with my National Novel Writing Month Challenge… In previous years the words have flown from my fingers and onto the page… this year, because I’m writing other things as well, it has been a slow process. I’m attempting to write creatively about my life and my family, not strictly an autobiography, but something looser than that… I’m not sure it is working very well, but I am making progress.
Here I have a rather random and rambly account of going to the seaside, the sea, and shellfish:
The sea, the cold North Sea was about sixty miles away, and when the child was very young the family went by coach or train; it was only later after her grandmother had died that there was a tiny amount of her estate, enough to buy a tiny car.
The sea was always cold, but the family always swam; it was cold, it was bitter, but they didn’t even think about it, running in delight to jump and splash and swim. The water seemed warmer after ten minutes or so, and coming out onto the beach was chilly, to be wrapped in towels, and then to try to drag clothes onto salty, sticky limbs.
The pull and draw of the water, the movement, the embrace, the waves, constant yet inconsistent, digging channels in the sand to the castles’ moats they had built. There were sunny days, warm days, there are photos that show the family squinting into the sun. There were ice-creams and picnics and sticks of rock which were actually eaten. Some beaches were good for cockles and they would drive home with a bucket full.
Their father would soak them then boil them, as his father had done with him when he was a boy. Only the girl would eat them her mother and sister didn’t like or fancy them… but the flavour of cockles is only bettered by winkles.
Not by the sea, but from the sea… winkles… a very distant and vague memory, more like a photograph, a snap-shot, a snap-memory, of her mother’s father; he seemed so tall, so upright, shoulders back, a military man, a proud man, a tragic man… later the girl when grown would want to tell his story, his imagined story, for facts were of her mother and aunts’ memories, would want to tell the story of his disappointed life. But for the moment, the memory is of winkles… a table-cloth, the table at the child’s head height, cups and saucers, white maybe, maybe with a blue rim or pattern, teacups and saucers, and winkles… black blue shiny iridescent, perfect coils of shell. The little trap doors across the mollusc shell’s opening, an operculum, a little lid, fascinated the child. Unlike her sister she wasn’t squeamish and soon learned to use a pink to ‘winkle out’ the tasty morsel, always to be eaten with very thin brown bread and butter.
Who knew that winkles were in actual fact, the common periwinkle , the littorina littorea; periwinkles to her were the blue flowers, and later, no longer a child but hundreds of miles from her family at a polytechnic, a friend would say to her ‘le ciel etait bleu comme une pervenche’, the sky is as blue as a periwinkle. So, winkles, winkles are small edible sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs with gills .