A harbour sits at the edge of a little fishing town. Its high tide, so it is at its best, with fishing boats, small motorboats and a large number of birds, all resting on the surface of the blue-grey water. Behind them sits a small black ship with white and red stripes along the top, and a Tudor rose displayed on the front. Around the harbour, houses and shops stretch up a steep hill and a church steeple can be seen in the distance. The buildings’ many colours reflect clearly in the water, which barely even ripples, despite the cold breeze. On one side of the harbour there is a little white hut with a sign saying “snack bar,” which is bustling with life in the summer, but now stands deserted. People wander about near the buildings carrying their shopping and an old couple walk hand in hand along the break water with their dog. A few schoolgirls stand chatting and a seagull lands gracefully on a statue of Willam of Orange. Huddles of women gather outside a cluster of take-aways. A group of round bellied men stand under a white shelter, mending fishing nets. I blend in as I push a pram away from the harbour.
It has been ten years since I was last here.
I walk through the old town, past the shops on either side of the pedestrianised cobbled street. The shops are not the same. Brixham Bouquet, Bastins, Bizwiki, Breakwater Bisto, Boating Basics, and the bookshop had been replaced with Tescos, Top-shop, Specsavers, Blockbusters and T-mobile, but the big white community hall still stands half way up the street. Young girls clutching their mother’s hands skip through the double doors carrying pink bags of leotards and skirts. Older girls enter in groups, complaining to each other as they go in, and searching their handbags for dancing shoes. I peer through the window at them and my reflection dancers at the back of the large hall. After some time it begins to make conversation with a blonde girl, who is no longer there.
Further up the street I find a church: all locked up, with an over grown garden containing a red “sold” sign. Through the dirty side windows I can just about make out the carpeted hall. The children’s drawings have vanished from the notice boards and so have the stacks of chairs that once wobbled in front of them. The old kitchen stands at the back of the hall, the blinds closed, hiding the rows of sinks and wrongly labelled cupboards. I see myself running riot with seven other young girls, daring each other to smack their hands down on the grand piano when no one is looking. Along the corridor, a large room with a red carpet and a hundred dusty pews sits between its stained glass windows. Another me is slouching on an old, inadequate heater, talking my life away to a brown haired girl in a hat, baggy jeans and black hoody, not unlike my own. And I can see an older boy watching us, who will dance with me one day, when we’ve grown up a little more.
I begin to walk more slowly as the slope becomes a little steeper. I pass a stream that no longer has ducks swimming in it, and then proceed past the small houses and pubs that line the road. I come to a huge set of black iron gates, through which I can see a primary school. There’s a large building behind the playground and a smaller one to the left of it, surrounded by green railings and brightly coloured flowerbeds. On this building a shinny plaque is displayed and though I can’t make it out, I know what it says: “The play ground room, opened 1st October 1994.” The shadows of the children run around the faded markings on the black tarmac. Mine is there with them, inventing secret worlds and magic words between lessons of writing stories and colouring maps of the world. A thin girl with long, thick hair would have been with me, and each Friday afternoon we would leave the playground together and head down to her Dad’s flat to make magic potions and watch The Last Unicorn.
I stand in thought. I just stood for a moment. A stirring movement brings me back to the present. I look down. The beautiful new life is asleep in the pram. I began to push her back down the hill. She has her own memories to make.