Sunday, 31 July 2016

The Coastal Path

The Coastal Path

Darren Worrow

“Morning love,” my wife says cheerfully as I open the door, “where have you been?”

“I thought I might take a stroll along the coastal path,” I inform her, “you know, just a stroll.”

“Did you get out of the park?” she asks.

“No, I was tired and turned back at the gate.” I take my shoes off and thank her for the cup of tea she hands me, jiggling on a saucer. I sit at the table and smile at her. She smiles back.

 It’s so nice here on the holiday park, yes it’s a big place, far bigger than we are used to but we enjoy every minute of it. We’ve been here a while now, to be honest it’s such a carefree place I never stop to think just how long; must have been three weeks or more.

Upon my retirement we visited some foreign countries you know, saw a bit of the world. But now, we like coming here, it’s not just for old people, oh no, there’s young and old, a good mix of people. I guess it reminds me of holidays we took when the kids were little; the best days of our lives.

Of course after the accident we couldn’t get around so easy, the thought of sitting on a plane for ages wouldn’t agree with my posture. No, we’re happy here. When we took holidays in such parks, when the children were little, they were always smaller places; you weren’t just a number, the staff got to know you and the other holiday-makers would chat and you made friends.

Here it’s different, such a big place, like a city of caravans. People come and go, you never see the same person twice. I admit it’s not as social but we like it. I’ve done my years of being sociable; we like to keep ourselves to ourselves.

The accident had an effect on us no doubt, times were hard to begin with, you know, getting over the shock, we were lucky to be alive. But we stuck together and came out the end as a very happy couple. It was quickly after that, I cannot even recall when exactly, the man approached us and sold us this caravan. I know he was just a salesman, I’m no fool, but the way he sold it to us, he had real charisma, a really kind, genuine guy; and we got a good deal.

The caravan was lovely, we didn’t even need any decorations or furniture from home; it was all here when we arrived. The salesman made sure we were pampered. Since that day we never looked back, sure the letting agency let us down. They say it’s a recession, I never check the news but the young these days just don’t have the funds for a holiday. I understand; it’s tricky for them to find people to lease it to. It doesn’t matter, I never went into this as an investment; we wanted somewhere familiar we could take a break and being as it’s always free, we stay here for long periods of time. Like I say, I cannot even recall how long we’ve been here!

We have some sandwiches and I pop over to the camp shop. People are coming and going, buying gifts and toys, posing for photos, eating ice cream and playing ball games on the patches between the caravans. It’s nice. I consider stopping off for a beer at the bar, just a half. I do so and as I sit there the barman is the only person who talks to me; it’s okay, I like it this way.

People are watching football on a big screen, playing pool or wandering through on their way to the arcade or one of the big halls where there is entertainment for the children. I can people-watch here to my heart’s content; just the half though, that’s plenty for me and I’m beginning to feel a little lightheaded. I get up to leave and the barman doesn’t even notice; he is busy serving a young couple at the other endo of the bar.

I take a slow, unsteady stroll back to our caravan. My wife smiles, presents me with a simple dinner which we eat in silence. The evening is spent watching the television. We could go to the club but to be honest, I’m not in the mood for the noise. We tend do this, the club is noisy and, well, not for us.

Still we like it here and as the sun sets over the sea we get ready for bed.


It’s the next morning and I’m up before my wife, I used to work early so my body clock is set for this time and doesn’t seem to revert. The sun is rising over the sea again; I give one of those “another day” sighs.

I think I might try and take a stroll along the coastal path today. I often contemplate this, just to get out of the park for a while. Honestly, feels like we’re here so often it’s funny, like nowhere else exists! I just like to see the cliff face and the waves crashing into the rocks below me. You can see the path crossing the cliffs and stretching for miles. It’d be nice to follow it for a little way, to see what is outside the park.

I get my shoes on and pick up my cap. Grasp my walking stick and leave the caravan, my wife still sleeping. She will wake but know I’m out for one of my strolls. I often do but, just as I’m leaving the gates of the park I tend to feel tired and turn back. I used to be quite the rambler but, if it makes me out of breath then it’s not worth continuing.

Today though, as the fresh seaside air hits me and the other campers are still dozing in their caravans, I start my walk. Lovely it is too. I feel exhilarated, as if I can wander for miles and I intend to try this time to make it to the brow of hill I see every morning.

The caravans facing out towards the path and the cliffs beyond are far more luxurious than ours. Some doubled up caravans, with verandas and tables outside. It’s a splendid view to behold and although I envy them a little, I’m content with what we have.

I stroll along and note their curtains are all closed; no one is around but me. I can do this; I can wander free from the park for once. I reach the gate and I’m overcome with determination but also, foolishly, I feel some butterflies in my stomach; don’t know why. I used to walk for miles and I know I can stop and rest before returning if I want. There are benches as far along as I can see.

I clasp my hand on the kissing gate at the very end of the park. The last caravan is adjacent; all that follows is breath-taking countryside, bracken to my left and grass verge on my right, leading down to those steep cliffs. The sun in the distance is rising fast now, turning twilight into day; how can people sleep during these hours? This is the most beautiful time of the day.

With that thought I push the kissing-gate open and smile, here we go. I walk along the path carefully, looking down through most of the beginning. I don’t want to risk losing my step on a stone and tumbling towards the edge but, hey, the risk is worth it, driving me to continue.

I must have been walking this way for five or ten minutes now and I stop to take a look around. I long to see the caravan park in the distance, to know I’m out of there for a while. I love it there, it’s the kind of place we’d wanted to go to when we were young, and now it’s everything we wished for, well, sometimes I admit it gets a bit much. You know; it’s all fine, just, I don’t know; feels like we’re trapped in there. I laugh at the notion and take a deep breath. I stare out to sea and watch the sun’s reflection as ripples in the water; breath-taking.

Although, I note the formation of the cliffs is the same as when I left the kissing-gate some distance away. I cannot be as fast at walking as I used to be! I turn to check my progress and my heart stops. Something here is wrong, definitely wrong. I’m still standing at the edge of the kissing-gate.

I look around, the surroundings are familiar but that is eerie, I mean, knowing that I’ve been walking for ten minutes or more. I should be quarter of a mile along the path.

I touch the gate, as if it’s my imagination.  I nervously giggle as I feel the wooden post under my fingertips. I claim to myself; must be going mad and to prove myself wrong I intend to continue walking.

Now, with more vigour and haste I wander, maybe sprint, as far as a pensioner can. I can see movement in the pattern of the rocks locked in the dry mud path, so I know I am covering ground. But still, when I stop and look behind me, the kissing-gate is still within arm’s reach.

The last caravans on the site sit in the same place, confirming it’s not the gate that is moving with me. It’s as if I’ve not moved at all, although I know I have. This time I wander backwards so I can still gaze at the gate and surroundings; still it is stagnant and gets no smaller to my eye. I look forward, the scenery beyond is so wonderful, so idyllic; I long to be there but it seems, weirdly, unattainable.

But how can this be? Why can I not make progress, as if it is all but a dream, as if this world beyond the park gate is just a picture? Surely not, what kind of game is this? I ponder all this; my arm stretches out into the air. I reach as far as I can until my hand touches something invisible but solid in thin air, it’s indescribable to the touch, moist, maybe, like a wet wall, but sticky too, as my hand is immersing in it. I note, with horror that my hand is indeed melding with the blue sky and I move my arm down though the bracken. Still, it’s not really there, only this sensation of moistness, of sticky, translucent substance, slowly sinking my hand further into it.

Quickly with fear I retract my hand and it comes into view, as if I lifted it out of oily liquid. The image of the bushes and the deep blue sky sticks to it for a fraction of a second and then, it bounces back, like a stick being pulled from molten rubber. I check my hand with amazement, it is fine. I am fine, but, I have to admit, despite seeing some stuff in my life, some really nasty experiences, I never felt as scared.

I took three steps back, through the kissing-gate and back into the park, I raise my arm again and it is as if nothing happened, the air reacted how it should, how it always has, just glides your hand through it. There was no, like what I would deem a force-field, as if the world beyond this point was merely an illusion, but I know, rationally , that is not possible.

I’ve seen enough, I don’t want to think any more about it until I’ve told my wife. We look after each other and she will ease my mind. I had a senior moment she will tell me, and to stop being so silly. I will agree, knowing it’s true. But really, I have to know what it was.

I stop, contemplate going back beyond the gate, I don’t know, to experiment, see if I can pass through it. This sends my imagination wild with theory, can I pass through, what will be there if I do but most importantly, why and how can this be?

Now I’ve thought about it I know I have to go back, I have to have confirmation what just happened was real. I have to test the ideas racing through my mind.

Before I do a sudden voice breaks my wandering mind and snaps me into reality. It is a male voice, strong and abrupt, “morning!” it bellows confidently.

A young man, of average build and height, wearing average clothes, is walking his dog. I was so wrapped up it seems I didn’t even notice him approaching and now, he is opposite me, trying to get through the kissing-gate. He is so close I can smell his breath.

“Oh!” I cry, “You made me jump!”

“Sorry!” he cheerfully jests and he raises his arm towards me, to touch me on the side of the face. I wrench back. “It’s okay!” he cheerfully smirks but I’m not sure I can trust him. I saw a plug in his fingers, like a computer USB cord.

Without warning he lunges at me and inserts the plug into my hearing aid. I struggle for a brief second, then; well, it felt okay. I feel this man is trustworthy, I cannot remember why I flinched; must have just made me jump. I should be getting back to the caravan.


“Morning love,” my wife says cheerfully as I open the door, “where have you been?”

“I thought I might take a stroll along the coastal path,” I inform her, “you know, just a stroll.”

“Did you get out of the park?” she asks.

“No, I was tired and turned back at the gate.” I take my shoes off and thank her for the cup of tea she hands me, jiggling on a saucer. I sit at the table and smile at her. She smiles back.


Sunday, 24 July 2016

Hold the Turkey; it's Santa's first vegan Christmas!!

Santa's First Vegan Christmas  by Robin Raven.
Starting out with the line, “Twas the night before Christmas,” you might be fooled into thinking this children’s book was a run-of-the-mill story of yule. Indeed its charming illustrations of Santa high-fiving a reindeer and the following on pictures of said reindeer frolicking and dancing in the snow-blessed woods might make you feel this is going the way most children’s Christmas books should. But check the title, ingeniously, this is not going to be any normal Christmas.

It’s not just the turkey dinner getting interrogated here, the book, while continuing to charm, brings to question all which may be over commercialised about the season. Dana the reindeer is quite the alternative thinker and convinces Santa to change the issues with Christmas that many may criticise it for; the treatment of all god’s creatures should be respected during the celebrations.

Santa takes heed and attempts to change his ways, setting caged animals free and presenting pets with gifts too. Even the reindeer get promoted to ride in the sleigh rather than pull it! It’s all rather nice and thoughtful and with beautiful illustrations, it’s sure to make your children think about the treatment of animals whilst also enjoying the spirit of Christmas. What a refreshing change from the norm and for this, I recommend it.