Wales has a stunning landscape. We have fields so technicolour green that they’ll bruise your eyes. In our village in the west, silver seas occasionally tempt you to drive off the edge of cliffs. Oops. Not again. We have mountains with hues to warm your hands by. The bog at the back of the house bursts with summer-crazed dragonflies. They flit around soft birches, where dark, diamond-stamped adders coil themselves around the trunks’ bottoms. From the bog’s water pits, reeds rise up to meet the world all microphone-boom confident. Buzzards the size of cats sit on fence posts.
So, by urban standards, we don’t really fit in. Even the beach here in the summer doesn’t fill up like the other beaches in the UK. Our beach somehow stays stubborn with petrified forest poking out of the sand. Bottlenose dolphins so huge they look like they must be the steroid-taking ones cruise past our shorelines in the mornings. They blow through their head holes, spraying salty messages before retreating into the fish-rich deeper water for the rest of the day.
We’re lucky. Until you have to find a decent job around these parts. Or access specialist healthcare. Or increasingly, find a good secondary school. Then it’s a case of the big wait. Or the big plunge. Our children grow up and, if they have some sense about them, they leave this place. It’s the no-hopers that stay. The crazy ones. The buzzard-watchers, the adder-lovers. If you love the velvet wind in the sand dunes, the rise and fall of tide, gnarled oak roots and wind-broken branches, then this is the place for you.
A sacrifice is made. In the meantime, sea foam snows, collecting on the windows until there’s no seeing anymore. Storms last all week or two or three. The water voles try to find the holes in the house. Last year they enthusiastically set themselves up in the wall behind our boiler. In the winters we fill our lives with different shades of grey. Until you go to the sand dunes that is, and see the red fox king. He saunters through the sandy silver grass and doesn’t run when he sees a woman and her dog. The dog runs fast though… in the other direction. Well done Fin!
This is the best place for children. They don’t care about the fox. They roam around town on the weekends like their own brand of feral. In the summer they get together and jump off the town jetty into a pink, jellyfish sea.
‘Does it sting?’ I asked Lulu when she came home. She shrugged. ‘A little bit. It’s worth it though.’
She loves the craic our Lu.
Maybe they’ll come back one day. Jack came back. We went away to the turquoise Caribbean and came back again. Tell me – is it bad that I think about them going? Since they haven’t even gone yet?
I hope everything will still be here. Maybe funding will get better. Maybe austerity will pack up her Victorian clothes and be a bitch somewhere else. The news around town since our secondary schools have gone downhill, is that no one wants to move here. Our dentist practice used to have 11, count them, 11 dentists. Now there are three. Doctors choose to locum in our hospital instead of moving to the area. After all; why would you move your children when their old schools aren’t failing like ours is? Duh.
Maybe the dunes will be enough to call them back. The adders still slither and the dragonflies whir. Our mountains are still red and dusky. The sea foam is waiting to wash your hair. Or maybe this is just the sacrifice.