I love summer. Everything just feels happier. The days are longer, the temperature is warmer, the skies are blue and there are pretty flowers everywhere. Its the season of summer dresses and sandals, blossom trees and baby animals, we have barbecues and sit in the garden long after the sun has gone in. But mostly its the season of holidays and the thing we look forward to the most about summer.
While there is something wonderful about jetting off to foreign countries, with their sights, different foods and gorgeous weather, there is just something special about beach holidays at home in the UK. Maybe it was all the holidays in the UK as a child and the fond memories I have of my childhood family holidays. I remember playing crazy golf and building huge, tall sandcastles. I remember eating ice creams, sticks of rock (a hard mint stick with the name of the seaside town stamped all the way through it) and fish and chips while sitting on the sea wall, our legs dangling over the side. And while when I go to the beach now, I’ve gone past the fascination with sticks of rocks, there is still nothing better than eating fish and chips on the beach, it somehow tastes so much better with the salty tang of the sea air. I still make sandcastles with my goddaughters, even if I’m way more interested in it than the kids are, I still love to paddle in the sea and I’ll never pass up a chance to play crazy golf.
But there's something so much more relaxed and slower in pace around British UK beach resorts, everyone is so much happier and laidback. It feels less frenetic and like you can finally breathe. Polperro, a tiny seaside town in Cornwall, was the inspiration for the White Cliff Bay series, and has shops which proudly declare they run on Cornish time, which basically means they open and close whenever they want. Shops that are supposed to open at 10, probably won’t bother opening until 11, everything feels so unrushed and that for many tourists is the reason they keep coming back to places like that.
In my latest story, Summer at Rose Island, Darcy moves from London to the sleepy seaside town of White Cliff Bay and I wanted to portray how wonderful it feels to simply stand still for as long as you need, stare at the sea and just step out the rat race for a little while.
Here is the opening scene of the book
An endless world of blue stretched out below Darcy. The sandy seabed lay about ten metres beneath her and she smiled as she saw fish of every colour and size swimming lazily between the rocks and seaweed. Starfish and sunstars littered the seabed and with the sun’s rays penetrating the water and gently caressing their outstretched arms, it was as if they were sunbathing on a tourist-filled beach. Giant stalks of seaweed moved and swayed gently as if they were trees caught in a breeze rather than the constant roll of the waves and the tide. There was something so tranquil and serene about this underwater vista, she could look at it for hours and never get bored.
The fish didn’t have jobs to worry about or bills to pay and she was pretty sure that the starfish didn’t have parents to try to please or, as in her case, constantly disappoint. Life continued here as it always did, an almost worry-free existence where the only dark cloud was when something bigger than you was looking for something to eat.
As she bobbed on top of the waves, her head face down in the water, Darcy could pretend, just for a minute or two, that she was part of this world. A tiny fish in a big pond.
She rolled onto her back and took a deep breath of salty, tangy sea air. The sun shone down on her, glinting off the droplets on her goggles. As the waves lapped over her fingers, she felt a sense of contentment fill her almost like a great sigh of relief. Although she had been in the town only a few hours, she knew that moving from London to White Cliff Bay was the best decision she had ever made.
Her love for the sea had been with her as far back as she could remember but it was here in White Cliff Bay on many childhood holidays staying with her aunt that her love had blossomed. Swimming in the sea every day, she’d spent her evenings reading every non-fiction book about the sea and its wildlife she could get her hands on. Her aunt had taken her scuba diving when she was twelve, opening up a whole other world she had never seen before. The sea was in her blood. Coming back here felt like coming home.
A bark nearby disturbed her tranquil reverie and she moved so she was treading water rather than floating and looked around.
Her beautiful black Labrador, Ben, had come back for her, clearly wondering why she was just floating there, staring at the sky rather than swimming. He shoved his wet nose in her face and, happy that she was OK, he turned and swam off in the direction of the island. Darcy laughed and swam after him.
As Darcy reached the rocks surrounding Rose Island Lighthouse, Ben swam on ahead. He pulled himself out of the water, turned round and started barking at Darcy to hurry up. The sea birds nestled on the rocks took off in a grey cloud, squawking their annoyance at the evil, black dog. Ben clambered over the rocks, wagging his tail as he chased the last few birds away.
‘Leave them be,’ Darcy laughed as she climbed out onto the rocks beside him, she pulled him towards her and tugged playfully on his silky ears. He sat down on her so she could continue her stroking more thoroughly.
‘Oof! Ben, you are not a lap-sized dog. You do not fit on my lap. Do you think you’re a Chihuahua or something? You’re a Labrador and a fat one at that, get off,’ Darcy moaned, half-heartedly trying to push Ben off her. He continued to sit on her lap, wagging his tail in her face.
Darcy pulled her goggles onto her forehead and looked over the golden-crested waves at the tiny town of White Cliff Bay. The late afternoon sun was just starting to make its descent, painting the sky a candyfloss pink. From her position on Rose Island, about three hundred yards out into the bay, she could see almost the whole town in all its glory. The quieter part of Silver Cove where she now lived, the main shops and hodgepodge of cute little houses that cascaded down the steep hills of the main town centre. She smiled. She knew she was going to be happy here. Despite her parents’ misgivings and looks of disapproval when she told them she was packing up all her worldly goods and travelling hundreds of miles from her home to take up a new job, she knew she had made the right decision. It didn’t matter that she didn’t completely know what her new job entailed or that she knew no one down here, this gorgeous little town was going to be a great new chapter in her life.
Everything seemed slower here, more laidback and relaxed; it felt cleaner, safer, but despite this her parents couldn’t understand why Darcy had wanted to leave London with its high-powered jobs, multi-billion-pound companies and the prestige of living and working in the capital. She didn’t want restaurants that stayed open until after midnight or the constant hum of traffic and voices that never seemed to stop no matter what time of day it was. Since she had lost her perfect job a few years before, and moved back to London with her dreams in tatters, she had felt almost claustrophobic, as if the buildings were too close. She had been a face in the crowd that no one cared about. The city had slowly chipped away at her soul until she was no more than another suited drone heading off to work every day. Here it felt like she could finally breathe again.
Part of the problem with her relocation had been her choice of White Cliff Bay itself. A place that was entirely to blame, at least as far as her parents were concerned, for her aunt’s spectacular drop out from society. Aunt Ginny had been a high-paid solicitor in the city until she had sold her house, bought an old-fashioned horse-drawn gypsy caravan to live in and spent the rest of her life living off the sale of the odd painting and homemade jars of jam and apple sauce. She had always been spoken about in hushed tones, if she was spoken about at all, and Darcy strongly suspected she was going to end up that way too. She couldn’t help smiling at the thought.
She leaned back to look at the lighthouse, the sun glinting off the glass at the top. It was a beautiful, old building, painted in traditional red and white colours with the multi-faceted lantern at the top. She had always enjoyed swimming in the sea but this had to be the most picturesque swim she had done in a long time. The lighthouse had been deserted for many years; certainly when she had swum round the island as a child no one had ever lived there. New-fangled technology meant the days of the lighthouse keeper were a thing of the past. So her heart leapt from shock when her eyes cast down the tall tower and she saw a man standing at one of the windows watching her and Ben.
Summer at Rose Island is out now and is available here to buy from Amazon here:
FOLLOW HOLLY MARTIN