I have a number of early memories, but they are mainly in fragments that are hardly worth mentioning – losing a jelly eating competition at my grandad’s Conservative Club’s party, and getting bucked off a small grey pony during my first ever riding lesson. Only snatches of memories, not full length features.
However, there have been places over the years that I have visited and left a piece of my heart in, and these places have created the best memories. Memories that will stay with me forever, and in only a good way. I do still hanker after those places, and dream of them often, of better days when life was so much easier.
When I was a kid, my dad’s parents owned a chalet in Abersoch, North Wales. It was an upmarket affair, four-bedrooms with an en-suite in my grandparents’ room and a jacuzzi bath in the main bathroom. It was situated on the beach front and I remember falling asleep to the sound of the tide kissing the shore just yards away.
I was entranced by the sea and spent hours just staring out onto St. Tudwal’s bay, armed with the binoculars my Grandad kept by the door. I was fascinated by the islands in the bay, one which was home to a small building and a herd of red deer, and other with its lighthouse that blinked late at night. For a time, we had a speedboat and my dad would take us out to speed around the islands and visit the seals on Seal Rock. They were as fascinated with us and we often saw their little heads bobbing in the waves as they ventured closer.
My brother and I were obsessed with dreaming up stories about smugglers and pirates, having devoured Enid Blyton stories and watched The Goonies far too many times. We set off on expeditions to climb Llanbedrog headland, at one end of The Warren beach, and discovered old buildings amongst the rocks. We were convinced there was buried treasure somewhere, or a galleon hidden in a secluded cave. But One Eyed Willy had probably given North Wales a miss in favour of more exotic locations!
We spent every school holiday there, my brother and I, and I remember days filled with beach walks, exploring, rolling down sand dunes, and building sand castles. I taught myself to swim in the sea in Abersoch, and spent many an hour pony-trekking along the beach, cantering through the shallows and hacking along the winding lanes. My favourite riding school put on 2-hour hacks which ended up on the beach outside our chalet, a long stretch of clean sand leading from Abersoch village up to Llanbedrog headland. Here, my Nana would watch and wave from our patio, and I felt like my heart would burst with happiness.
It was all so idyllic. We were privileged children there in Abersoch, without a care in the world, but we took it all for granted, as the young so frequently do. We didn’t realise how lucky we were. I wish we had, because I certainly would have treasured it more at the time, instead of relying on nostalgia.
Back in 2012, I revisited Abersoch with my son, my mother, and my nephew; my first time back since I was 16. We couldn’t afford to stay on The Warren but rented a caravan up on Sarn Bach, a car drive away. We explored areas of the Lleyn Peninsula that I had never known existed, cloistered away as we had been at The Warren. We did manage to spend a few hours on The Warren one day, but it wasn’t the same. Everything had changed since those golden days of our childhood – the supermarket had downscaled, the onsite club had been refurbished. The beach cafe, all concrete steps and ice cream signs, was no longer in use, and had been replaced by a cramped wooden building. And the beach was empty. It was the height of the summer holidays, yet there was hardly a soul in sight.
It just wasn’t the same, which I feel quite sad about. I would love to go back though, and try again. I’m sure I can resurrect that feeling of being at my second home, if I was given more time.
I think I may have to win the lottery first though. I googled chalets to let recently and came across my perfect holiday home to rent – E18. Our old chalet was at E21, three doors down. It seemed like fate! Until I looked at the price.
Not on a part time payroll administrators wage, unfortunately. *sigh*