When I was about 4 years old, my dad got a new job, selling greenhouses for Capability Brown at Haskins Garden Centre in Ferndown. This meant a big move from the Royal County of Berkshire to the south coast county of Dorset, right before I started at school for the first time. There were lots of nice things about the move, firstly we would have a little garden, surrounded by what was called 'the common' - ideal for a tomboy like me to find baby adders and catch lizards. Secondly, as I grew up I learnt a lot about the ground that our housing estate was built on, and it turned out that there were tunnels used by smugglers as well as a druid burial site, and an old gallows.
But best of all, was that we started to go to the seaside on really hot days after school and if we were really lucky then on a weekend or on school holidays. One of my favourite places by the sea was Kimmeridge Bay and to me it was heaven, full of mysteries to be solved and nooks and crannies to be explored. It was the ideal place for making up stories and imagining what life must have been like in other times - important for an only child like me at the time, because I needed to keep myself entertained and not be too bothersome around grownups.
Kimmeridge Bay was the best playground you could want as a child (and as an adult). The cliffs were made from black shale that would collapse in heaps throughout the day to reveal fossils of dinosaurs, and the large rock pools would get warmed by the sun so were never too cold to swim in. Sometimes, we'd have a barbecue and I'd set fire to the oily rocks. Further along the coast there was actually a cliff that would spontaneously catch fire, owing to the high content of 'fossil fuels' within. Just around the headland was an army range, and if I wandered off when the red flags were flying then I might just catch sight of a tank firing. That was where the best rock pools were, and where you could find the biggest crabs and brightly coloured fish and better still, where there were no other people to interrupt your thoughts.
Close by the cliff top there was an old World War II pill box made of concrete that always smelt like wee, and right on the top of the cliff, was an abandoned tower looking as if it might just drop into the sea at any moment. I'm always at my happiest when I'm at the seaside in Britain, and that is why I just LOVE cozy mystery books set by the sea, because it brings back a sense of nostalgia. I'd love to know what your earliest memories are of the seaside, and if you have any favourite beaches in the world.
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