“Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand: Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!”
(Quote by Edna St Vincent Millay)
I used to love the sand, back when i was small. I loved nothing better than curling my toes into the sun baked warmth of it, feeling it clinging to my feet as i stood on the shore watching the waves roll in. Watching from afar you would have seen a family, mother setting out a picnic whilst children buried their father in the sand, happily squealing as dad wriggled free and chased them along the beach.
That is what you would have seen, but appearances as we all well know can be very deceptive.
The truth of the matter was my childhood was about as far from happy as you could possibly get despite the chocolate box performances acted out in public by my parents. We, buoyed with relief, were happy for a short time to be free of the miseries and play along with the scenario and enjoy being carefree for a while.
But all performances eventually come to an end and behind the scenes the highs of the show are obliterated by the normal everyday humdrum that runs inbetween, a crashing low that comes far more frequently than those few happy moments.
Rolling time forward and once again upon a beach i stand. This time there is no curling of toes nor shrieking of children’s laughter. No parents with picnics or to chase me along the sand as i scream with abandon. This time i am alone. And yet a familiar sense of relief, my long lost friend, flitting in and out of my 16 year old life far less frequently than i would have desired.
As once so many years before i stand and watch the waves rushing towards the shore, creeping ever closer to my rather improperly shod feet and sigh, for this is now home.
How many of us have excitedly declared we should love to be free and sleep upon a beach and live a life so without care? And for a night that illusion was so for me but a beach in April is no place to call home and so very cold as most of you cannot imagine. No dream filled sleep lulled by the sound of the waves, instead a bone aching inclemency that dominates your waking thoughts. Thoughts only relieved by the intermittent awareness of a gnawing hunger that you know you have no hope of easing until morning.
Sand once so soft beneath your feet makes for a most uncomfortable pillow, the radiant warmth long since faded with the setting of the sun.
Morning whilst welcome for its warmth brings little relief, hurrying furtively into beach front conveniences for the best efforts of cleanliness that i could manage, for I always had such a distaste for being unkempt as to drive me in search of a bath. Ultimate shame in having to beg from those happy tourists aghast to find their idyll disturbed by such a sight. For sunshine strolls upon the sand are not a scenario often coupled with that of a child pleading for change. But to this, as with all other things, i became accustomed and if my sense of shame faded a little as the need to survive superseded all else my awareness of my situation did not.
Days filled with endless walking, nose pressed longingly against the window panes of shops selling all manner of colourful confectionary. The waft of seaside sustenance floating merrily on the breeze, so enticing for those with the means to indulge yet so frequently i was not. The sun sparkled appeal of coastal scenery quickly fades when seen so constantly and from a less than idealistic point of view, making days stretch out endlessly. Nothing changes. Day after day remains the same like some nightmarish groundhog day not so amusing when you are the one on such an endless wheel.
Yes my castle in the sand was not so much a castle after all but for some weeks i was to call it home and be thankful for it. Until one day a hand reached out and opened the door and i stood upon a beach and waved my refuge goodbye. Even now encountering a beach at sunset small memories will creep in and remind me that it is not always such a paradise as it may seem.
Such a lifetime away yet i cannot stand,
The feeling of my feet in sand.