When I was a child it was different. At night I lay in my bed looking out through the window. Back then there were four triangles of space between the smaller houses then, enabling an expansive view of the North Sea. Sometimes I read late into the night – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes or various ghost stories of Britain – but other times it was the lull of the sea that sent me to sleep, not the words on the pages.
Between the houses I tracked the ships as they journeyed – where to? I could only guess – their lights winking as they went. From left to right; north to south. I thought of fishermen, cruise ships, the North Sea oil workers. On some nights I could clearly hear the crashing of the waves.
Tonight the sound of the crashing waves carries through my window; although my bedroom has been downstairs for some time now as getting up the stairs is almost impossible because of the arthritis. The bedroom of my childhood – small and long, with only enough room for a single bed and a chest of drawers – is upstairs, up a steep flight of worn pine stairs. Only memories sleep there now.
I still relate Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes to those long enjoyable, solitary nights in that room.
The electric lamp, with its plastic base broken, would nestle quite warmly in the covers. There had been two instances I recall when I, overtaken by sleep, had awoken to the bed sheets kindling to fire! My mother – perhaps too busy with two other children – never did ask what the black charred hole in my quilt cover was. Anyway, having reading light was essential then as it is now. It just wasn’t a safe method I employed.
I switch off the reading light that clips onto my headboard. The room is at once swallowed by the dark night. I lay there for a while, listening to the soft snores of my old dog, Poppy. We’re both old ladies now.
Gradually the familiar shapes of the wardrobe, dressing table, and drawers take on their outlines.
I nestle down under the covers, willing my cold feet to warm. The book I was reading earlier, drops with a muffled thud on the thick rug. My dog partially wakes to curl up anew into the curve of my back. She settles.
I sigh. Not much is the same now.
When I was a child it was different. Most of the houses were bungalows on my road. Simple, two or three bedroomed abodes – shingle-faced, pointy-roofed, a bulging bay window either side of the front door – quite similar to those bungalows of 1930s England.
My sister and I holding our mother’s hands, marvelling at the tidy flower beds afronting each house, on our way to and from school. Mum chatting to our neighbours over the roses and daffadils, sweet williams and pansies.
Those types of houses are no more, even if they would be legal they’d be laughed at: Why squandor the space with that outdated building?
My own home is the last original two storied house – where I was born, raised, and lived my entire life. I suppose they are waiting for me to die. They won’t have long to wait. I just hope and pray that I won’t be leaving my old girl behind.
In the heat of the August night my window is ajar and I concentrate on the sounds of the waves, rolling and crashing.
Rolling and crashing.
Rolling and crashing.
These days they are louder as the sea is closer. Fortunately, unlike other areas of Britain, we are not prone to flooding because of living on elevated ground – ground that was reinforced thirty years ago. We were losing so much of our land back then that the current government was forced into doing something properly constructive, instead of just talking the talk of pointless politicians lining their own pockets.
Binoculars are a good solid invention. Their popularity exceeds that of the past.
There’s a woman, in her forties, who lives opposite, who I’m quite friendly with. Marty is her name. We got talking one day after I happened to look up and spot her balcony flowers. They are one of the rarest flowers, she has them every spring through to the autumn. They’re red like the old post boxes, geraniums if I remember correctly. Of course the busybodies look down on those kinds of flowers, the ones that are purely decorative and not much interest for the bees. I cannot remember when the government initiatives began – they seem to have always been here. This serious one relating to the conservation of bees supports and pushes towards the growth of wildflowers or weeds. Such a U-turn from when I was a young woman when people poisoned their dandelions and daisies. That is humanity for you: we swing one way, and then all across to the other way; with no approach to balance.
I don’t worry too much about my dog because Marty said she’d give her a home with her if I were to go first.
It’s ironic – and I laugh at this – if that is to be then Poppy will be afforded a far better view of the North Sea than I ever had in my childhood. A bird’s eye view. Twenty floors up.
When I was a child it was different.
Writing prompt: When I was a child it was different.
Writing inspiration: Over-development (housing) on the coast, with a view to the near future. Life.
What’s a Chi Tale?: A short story or verse (under a 1,000 words) with doggy references.
Copyright Faith McCord 2016
Story and artwork belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide rights.