As part of National Novel Writing Month, (#NaNoWriMo) I've set myself the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel (1700 words a day), consisting of short stories about my memories of primary school. Just so that you know, all names of people have been changed unless they are publically known. Each story is based on my own memory, so may not be an exact representation of events, especially since I am writing this over 40 years after things happened! But I hope you will enjoy each story all the same, and that perhaps it will spark your own memories of life at primary school.
One of our favourite beaches, and the one that we went to the most, was called Kimmeridge Bay. It didn't have sand like normal beaches and it wasn't crowded like the other beaches. Best of all, you could go there at any time of the day and because the rock pools were made from black shale, that smelled strongly of petrol, it was always warm and sheltered from the wind.
We would mostly go here after school on really hot summer days, but sometimes we went on weekends. Dad would drive the car, smoking a cigarette, me and him singing to pop songs on the car radio, and window rolled down, his arm dangling outside. He always looked so cool.
Normally if it was a hot day, dad would stop off somewhere and buy a can of Lilt, and whenever I cleaned out his car for pocket money I would always find sticky, crushed Lilt cans, with their big ring pulls on top that were sharp. It was his favourite drink on a hot day, that or a can of Quatro but you didn't see that for sale in many places. Mum liked a can of shandy, and if I asked her nicely she sometimes let me have a sip too.
The roads to Kimmeridge were narrow, steep, and windy, but the journeys were exciting, especially if we happened to go near to Corfe Castle and the village with its pretty cottages. If dad was driving fast it felt a bit like being on a rollercoaster, especially when we went over the bumps fast and your tummy landed after the rest of you had landed back down on Earth. But we were never scared and we begged dad to find all the bumps that he could so we might feel like we were flying again.
Whenever we got close, things got more serious. Dad would turn down the radio, and wind down the window if it wasn't down already.
Dad would always joke with us that he hoped the lady wasn't there waiting for us on the cliff top road. And time seemed to stop whenever we got near to the little wooden hut, to see if she appeared or not. If no one appeared we all gave a little cheer and it was like winning the lottery and was the start of a great beach session. But sometimes she would appear and we would all become a little deflated. I was sure that the lady was a real life witch. She always appeared from nowhere just when you thought you were home dry and didn't have to pay the toll fee for crossing her section of the road. She looked old, and had a little hunchback, small eyes, and a big stubbly beard. It reminded me of that fairy story where the goats had to trick the troll before crossing the bridge.
Even if she did stop us and make us pay our fee for passing, the feeling of excitement quickly returned as we approached the grass car park on the cliff top and knew that after our long and hot journey we had now arrived. We would park as close to the steep footpath as possible, but not too close for fear of the cliff collapsing when we were on the beach, or dad accidentally driving over the edge. You had to be very careful when you got out of the car, because there was no barricade between you and the cliff edge and it would have been very easy to just walk off the top and onto the rocks below. The cliff was always falling down too. Once we left the car at the top of the cliff, close to a sign with pictures of all the creatures that you could find in the rock pools below, but when we came back to the car at the end of the day, the sign, and the cliff that it was planted into, had disappeared, collapsed onto the beach below! Rumour had it that these cliffs could catch fire on their own too. I wondered if this was something that the witch had organised, for people who hadn't paid the toll for crossing her road?
Mum and dad would grab everything we needed, we would close up the car, and know that when we saw it again, it would be at the other end of the day, like we were coming back in another time zone, one where we would all be tired and the sun would be setting and we would be starting to feel chilly and have sandy grains itching us inside our shoes and clothes.
On the top of the cliff to one side was a mysterious stone tower. I didn't like the top of the cliff very much, because it scared me a bit with that tower as it was all derelict and abandoned and looked like it might just fall into the sea at any moment. I thought maybe a princess would be stolen away and locked in that tower, like Rapunzel was with her long hair. The tower doesn't seem as scary today, because it has been taken apart, stone by stone, and moved away from the edge of the cliff, and all 16,272 stones have been put back together again and now it looks all fancy with its windows and door, and people spend a lot of money to stay in it.
Because it scared me a bit, I never looked at that tower, and instead hurried down to the beach as quickly as I could because it was much nicer down there. But it was a bit tricky to get to the beach below, because you had to walk down big rocks and lots of tiny black gravel, and step over the water that ran down from the cliff as a stream. The path would be slightly different each time, because the cliff and path was always collapsing. The water always smelt very strange so I would try and hold my breath but I usually ran out of air part way down, and had to fill up my lungs again.
At the bottom of the footpath down to the beach, was another not very nice building, but it seemed scary in a different way. I asked my dad about it once, because it seemed weird to just have a small concrete building at the bottom of the path, and I didn't like to look too closely at it because it also seemed to have bots of rubbish in it like plastic drinks bottles and crisp packets and it smelt like wee.
Dad told me that it was a pill box, whatever that meant. So I looked it up a long time later when I was a grown up and I found out that it was a look-out post for the soldiers to sit in during World War Two when they were worried that the enemy might arrive on the beach and invade Britain. It seemed like a strange place to invade because there was nothing there really, only the little wooden hut where the witch lady collected money from people visiting the beach, and an old castle ruins in the village near by.