A Sunny Afternoon in Childhood - Paradise Creek
I think fondly sometimes of those eggshell blue days of childhood when there was a spring in everything and an incessant chorus of birds in the trees. The sea was lulled always and the sun went on long into the evening, casting its shadows as I drew trails on the beach, away from my parents, beyond a headland and out of reach. Somewhere amid shifting sands there were sea caves and coral and then the day of mist when we skipped across rocks and drew back at the sight of a crab, monstrous and magnificent in his red enormity.
Then there were the moors, the swathe of heather that blazed purple beyond the tennis court, the lazy thwack of ball on racket and the magnificent moors rolling leagues like the waves on the sea and the serrated rocks.
There was even wonder too in the castle, crumbled and dour that straddled the border between England and Wales and the clear kinking river, a silver blade cutting the forest, ringing on rocks, the sound of the rapids and the half remembered name Bibbling Bridge and babbling brook and those glades where elves could have lived, west of Watersmeet and east of Eden.
Many days had passed before we went back but some of the magic of childhood had drained away. There was the urgent flicking of the numbers on the clock, forms to be filled in, the need to get back before dusk, the to-ing and fro-ing the incessant nagging; the worries that should not be worries.
We went far over the cliffs. Like the opening of a great white curtain Gallantry Bower appeared, a giddy sweep of cliffs and a long drop down to the sea where the spherical rocks ground in the surf. Still we walked down to Mouth Mill, a shuttered up cove and the embrace of sleep came upon us.
I wonder now if the magic has gone for good. The path up the hill and the vanishing point to that hopeful sky reminds me. But I crest the hill to see a heavy concrete plant beside this park reclaimed from asphalt, its rivers newly unchoked. And when I see the 3-year-old I wonder if magic is in his limited vocabulary.
Or has the world moved on a long time ago?