Standing on a remote pebble beach, waves lapping and wind whistling around us, Julie was talking to her godson, my husband, about his late mother. “There are so many times when I wish she was here so I could tell her things. I miss her terribly.”
She and her girlfriends (collectively known as ‘The Hens’) have been bringing their children to Branscombe in Devon the same week in July since the 1970’s. When Mr R’s mother sadly passed away 10 years ago, he stopped going to Family Week.
Last weekend was the first time we took Bobble. Apparently, nothing has changed.
The lodges that the Hens prudently bought decades back still sit proudly on their cliff-side plots, the elders, all well into their 70’s, are still waterskiing (in spite of their knee replacements), fisherman John’s orange boat is still parked on the seafront, the Sea Shanty Café still only sells pasties and the legion of kids and grandkids all fall into line…I guess it’s a bit like Christmas in that regard.
Someone described Branscombe as being in a time warp which is pretty accurate, especially considering the very poor phone reception and zero wi-fi to be had for miles. There is nothing to do but play with pebbles, splash about, eat sandwiches and talk. Perfect simplicity.
The neighbouring town of Beer is an utterly charming working fishing village where one goes to buy supplies from shops that look like they belong in a newly gentrified area of South East London, until you realize that Beer hasn’t actually changed since the 1950s, it’s just gone full circle.
Knowing that the Family Week tradition has stood the test of time is inspiring. Nowadays texts and Facebook have made us all rather flakey when it comes to friendships, too busy to see our loved ones, too busy to talk. These ladies have worked at their friendship over the past 5 decades, they make the effort and don’t let ‘life’ get in the way. What could be more important?
Seeing Julie take so much pleasure in getting to know Bobble was both uplifting and heartbreaking. It was as if she was channeling Maureen, my mother in law that I never met. He made an instant connection with his new playmate, sharing real belly ache laughs…“Where are your mummy and daddy?” he asked, as if he was going to invite her back for tea.
I knew what the Hens were thinking; Maureen is missing. How she would have loved him.
We tell Bobble, “Grandma and Grandpa are in the sky, always watching, always with us.” The comforting thing is, in Branscombe, I felt they really were.