I don't have a good memory. I recall my childhood in brief, unconnected visual snapshots. But all my adult life I've had a memory of being a child, on holiday. It has always been a very strong, but unspecific memory. In my minds eye I see a little shop, set at a slight angle to a rough stone wall. Outside the shop is piled the ephemera of beach holidays - buckets and spades, fishing-nets, sun-beds, etc. Along from the shop there is a gap in the wall where stone steps lead down to a beach, which I can't yet see. There is a drift of sand against the wall. As much as anything it is the smell that I can recall most vividly. Sand mixed with the smell of the sea, sun-warmed stone, hot plastic and vanilla. No one has ever been able to enlighten me about where this was.
The strength of this memory is in the intensity of the feelings it evokes in me still. It is a shortcut to those childhood emotions; the almost unbearable excitement of being at the seaside, with everything that meant - paddling, sand-castles, icecream, scrabbling over rocks and fishing in rock-pools, parental attention, fun.
Last October my husband and I stayed with my sister and her partner in a part of Cornwall that we'd not been back to for many many years. It was my sister, in particular, who wanted to revisit our childhood haunts of Mevagissey, Porth Loonie beach (Caerhayes) and Goran Haven. I didn't dwell on whether I would find the location of this childhood memory, but it returned to me in a rush as we walked down the road from the car park at Goran Haven. Before we even reached the quay it was the smell that hit me, something about the concentration of that seaside, seaweedy ozone smell that funnelled up the lane. And when we reached the front, there was the little shop - shut-up in October - set at an angle to the wall. Sadly the wall has obviously been extensively remodelled to allow vehicle access. But I am absolutely positive that this is the spot.
I don't know why I am telling this to the world - or more likely I'm talking to myself - but it was strangely important to me. And now, in a sense, I'm sad that the memory has been defused.