My father never came on holiday with us nor did he ever take us on holiday. We always went on holiday with my Mum and sometimes my Grandmother came too. I have lovely memories of a holiday in Crail, a small fishing village on the east coast of Scotland so when I was on my Round Scotland Trip to Put Myself Back Together Again I decided to visit Crail.
I had been to see my brother Peter and his partner Claire in Auchterarder and had said to him that I was thinking I might go to Crail just to see what it was like now and to remember the holiday. I would have been nine, Peter four and Philip maybe about nine months and that was one of the holidays that Nana came on with us. I remember so much about that holiday. To be with just my Mum, Nana and Peter and Philip and without my father was a joy and a freedom.
I left Peter’s in the morning and drove towards the east coast down through St Andrews and then I began seeing the signs for Crail. I started to have a mixture of feelings. My brother Philip had died in 2002 so I knew seeing Crail and remembering this holiday was going to be difficult. Philip had just been a baby in 1955 and thinking about that started me thinking about how much I had loved him and how much I missed him. The end of his life was so sad.
I found a little hotel and booked in. Then I set off to find the harbour and the beach and hopefully the little street our guest house had been on but as many of the streets looked very similar I didn’t hold my breath! I knew that we could walk down the street and there were some steps leading to a path that ran beside the sea and that before we got to the steps there was a street to the right that led to the harbour. Eventually I found the street and tried to recognise the house but I couldn’t. I walked down towards the steps and it was just as I had remembered except there weren’t as many steps as I’d thought but that’s always the way isn’t it. Everything seemed bigger and longer and more of when we were young!
I thought I might go down the steps first and walk along the path. Between the path and the sea there were rocks and I had a sudden image of Peter and me climbing on them and Mum calling for us to be careful. In the distance I could see another beach but I decided not to go right along but to make my way back up the steps and look at the smaller beach near the harbour. I climbed up the steps and sat on a bench about halfway up and looked out at the sea. This place was so full of memories and I cried for all that was lost. My Mum, Nana and Philip are dead now and the missing is terrible.
I finished going up the steps and walked towards the harbour. There was the little beach and the steep hill behind it. The sea was dark blue and the perfect horizon with the paler blue sky sitting on top of the sea. The sand was not fine but not very coarse and there were some rocks. I remember us climbing on them as well and playing in the sand. There were sandwiches for lunch, juice and flasks of tea, an apple and biscuits. The sun sparkled on the water the way it would have done sixty years ago. The waves will have made the same sound as they made now. So much the same, so much changed in my life.
I was a little girl who was being abused by her father and yet I could play on the beach and swim in the sea and laugh with joy. My Mum was also being abused and she could laugh and care for us and take us on holiday to Crail full of sun, sea and love. How did she do this? She was loved by my Nana and Pappy and grew up safe and loved. This gave her, I think, a base and a strength to ‘deal’ with what lay ahead. She was so strong and loving. She kept me alive. But then she would say I kept her alive.
I bought myself a beautiful little coffee cup with a thistle design from the Crail Pottery and a wee jug to match to remind me of it all. I am so glad I went to Crail and felt all that I felt. I’m glad that I had all those memories even though some of them were sad. This was what this Trip had been about. I was gathering up bits of myself trying to stick them all back together in a new arrangement. Time for change.
I walk down the narrow road
between the neat pastel-painted cottages
down to the harbour and the small crescent beach
We run down the road and onto the beach
me and Peter excited impatient
Come on Mummy come on Nana
Philip in his pram clapping shouting
I step onto the sand
I walk to the edge of the sea
and stand looking out
I turn and look back
Peter and I run down to the sea
screaming we run in and out
I turn and look back
Philip sits on a towel
waving and shouting
I want to run to that baby
put my arms round him
whisper ‘it’s all right Philip
I’ll protect you
I won’t let him hurt you’
I turn and look back
through the shimmer
Philip stands leaning against the rock
waving and laughing
I whisper ‘I’m sorry’
If I went back there would be two brothers
leaning against that rock
I’d stand alone at the sea
I wish I could talk with you both again
Right into the night
I want to play our music and drink the wine
And share our stories
And talk of that time