Sandystone versus Spain.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Evie is about to leave home; and the country for that matter.She is struggling to accept that her life is changing even if it may be for the best and she knows how much she is going to miss everyone. But what she can't get over is that she might not visit her beloved Sandystone, for a very long time.

'My family had always loved the beach. There were different aspects of it that we each enjoyed. However, there was one reason that the beach held a soft spot in all of our hearts. It was because one beach in particular was where we went to celebrate anything of significance in our lives. Sandystone.'

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First timer with a pretty mediocre story that was meant for a competition with the theme 'celebrations' but was never entered because I, for want of a better phrase, 'chickened out.' xoxox

Submitted: August 23, 2012

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Submitted: August 23, 2012

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My family had always loved the beach.
There were different aspects of it that we each enjoyed. For example, I had always loved the tender lapping waves of the sea and the serenity and peace it brought me.
My mum had always said that it was because I was a water baby; but I had always thought that it was totally irrelevant.
My older sister Lily on the other hand adored the sand and the soft, cushiony bed that it offered for sunbathing, despite the rare sunbathing opportunities available in Wales, infamous for its blustery weather and rain.
My cousins Jasper and Aaron prized the amount of activities and sports that they could play on the sloping sands; rounders, bowls, cricket.
And my mum, my mum loved how the beach was natural and gorgeous and provided spectacular views, especially at sunset, the sky blood red and the sun a semi-circle on the horizon, sending golden patterns to dance gracefully across the sea’s calm waves.
However, there was one reason that the beach held a soft spot in all of our hearts.
It was because one beach in particular was where we went to celebrate anything of significance in our lives. 
Birthdays, retirements, promotions, Christenings, you name it, come rain or shine the whole family packed their cars and met at Sandystone beach.
Whenever I explained our ritual to anyone outside our family, I almost expected the cynical expressions that I received.
I could understand that it was a strange idea that a beach could be the suitable environment to host any celebration imaginable.
“Well before you say anything, picture this,” I found myself saying to numerous people, “a small pale wooden beach house perched on top of a verge, surrounded by a plentiful garden of green grass.
Picturesque, cute and cosy at, least twenty metres between it and the next beach house, with sea shells and pebbles collected from the beach below, lined up carefully on the windowsills, a shingle path leading onto the slope of smooth round pebbles, a perfect stage for summer BBQs and bonfires.
Then past the pebbles is a wide stretch if golden sand, sometimes perfect, smooth and untouched, other times covered in sets of footsteps, each set telling a different story, a different journey.
On the sand, any multitude of games can be played and sandcastles made.
The sand stretches for miles and leads on to the soft lapping waves of the mighty sea that offers many enjoyable hours padding ling and body boarding in the summer.
Now imagine the Winter, the opposite to the summer in almost all ways, except for the availability of Sandystone.
Imagine sitting in the kitchen of the little wooden house, playing cards and drinking hot chocolate while stoking the real log fire and gazing at the beautiful view outside.
The ferocious crashing waves and rain drops like shimmering pearls rolling slowly down the glass pane of the window. Bliss.” 
At this point in my recollection, I would clear my throat to rouse my audience who would be staring at me in awe.
“So, yeah, like I said, any celebration, whatever the weather can take place at our Sandystone.”
Then I would be bombarded with questions.
“Where exactly is Sandystone?” 
“Are you sure you’re not making this up?”
 “Can we rent it?” Was the most common question asked.
We didn’t rent it out though. It belonged to my grandparents on my mother’s side; they’d spent their retirement money on it fifteen years ago and didn’t like the idea of trusting their most prized possession to strangers. 
They also refrained from renting it so that it could be used for the short notice celebrations, like when Lily had become head girl a few years back or when Jasper made our regional rugby team.
On these occasions we would jump straight into our cars with any food that we could find  and then made the one hour and a half journey to the Pembrokeshire coast.
My mother’s parents, Me, Lily, Mum and Dad, Mum’s younger sister Eleanor, her husband James and their son’s Jasper and Aaron and Mum’s older sister Rhian and her daughter Seren.
Not the biggest family but not the smallest either.
Every single person would just drop what they were doing, cancel their plans and meet at Sandystone.
The last minute gatherings like those were always the best, everyone still buzzing with the adrenaline of dropping their usual responsibilities and driving to our favourite place.
 
As I walked down the shingle path, my eyes set on the glittering waves, I realised how the visit that we were presently on wasn’t one of those times. In fact this visit to Sandystone was the complete opposite; it had been planned for a very long time.
It was ironic how mournful the celebration seemed to me, especially since it was a joint birthday and farewell party, in my honour.
On every other birthday that I had celebrated at Sandystone I had been ecstatic, completely overjoyed and thankful.
This time was different though.
“This is going to be another celebration that we will treasure forever!” Nan had greeted me with, from the door of the beach house when Mum, Dad, Lily and I had arrived just twenty minutes earlier.
I wasn’t really in the mood for celebrating but I didn’t have the heart to tell her that.
Then I had unpacked in the little attic room where I slept before taking a  tour of the house.
The four bedrooms, two bathrooms, living room and kitchen come dining room.
Lily didn’t leave my side, commenting on each room, saying things like,
“This room has the best lighting.”
“Remember when we blackmailed mum and dad into letting us sleep in here and them in our attic room?”
“Has the kitchen always been yellow?” 
You would think that she had the mental age of a six year old, the way she kept going on.
So by the time mum and nan sent me out whilst they put the finishing touches to surprise for me, I was pleased and had willingly obliged, needing a moment to myself.
 
I slumped down onto the sun warmed pebbles, flinging my bare legs out in front of me, tempting the sun to kiss them.
I took a pebble into the palm of my hand and rolled it over a few times.
It was grey, speckled with spots of brown.
I pivoted my body slightly before throwing the pebble through the air.
The tide was far out and never truly reached the pebble banking anyway, so as usual, the pebble hit the sand with a ‘thump’, small grains of sand puffing into the air before settling again.
The action was so familiar, yet not familiar at all.
Nothing felt the same to me anymore, not even being at Sandystone I realised sadly.
I pretended not to know why.
I told myself that it was perhaps because I was about to celebrate my eighteenth birthday.
Perhaps the magic of childhood that had previously transformed the beach into a dream world where everything was perfect had worn off.
But deep down I knew that wasn’t it.
The last time we had visited Sandystone had been a couple of weeks ago to celebrate Aaron’s GSCE results and everything had felt perfectly fine then.
Everything had felt normal.
And really, there wasn’t much difference between being seventeen and being eighteen. 
In all honesty, I knew why I felt so strange. It was because I was leaving.
As the thought entered my mind, I covered my face with my hands and pulled my knees into my chest, allowing my long, dark hair to fall forwards and cover my face and hands.
I was leaving for university in a week.
And said university was in Spain; sunny, half way across the continent, Spain.
Therefore, not only would I have to leave home, my family and friends, I was moving to another country and had to adapt to another culture. 
I wouldn’t see another celebration at Sandystone for a very long time. 
Suddenly the whole thing felt like a lot to deal with, the heavy weight of it all pushing me down into the pebbles, crippling my posture.
Of course at first I had been over the moon.
Where else better to study the beautiful Spanish language than in Spain?
Hadn’t I always wanted to travel the world and have experiences outside Wales?
It was life changing, once in a life time kind of stuff. In fact, I hadn’t really thought of the negatives at all.
That was, not until I had taken a step out of my Dad’s car only twenty minutes ago, caught sight of Sandystone, the house and the beach and had realised that the next day I would have to say goodbye to it and in turn, say goodbye to all the great memories that it held.
After that, the joint celebration felt more like a funeral than anything else.
 
Just then I felt a hand on my slumped shoulder.
I removed my hands from my face and turned around quickly, shrugging hair out of my eyes as I did.
“Hey Evie!” It was Jasper, my cousin, the eldest of all us ‘children’, although I wouldn’t call any of us children anymore. Even Aaron the youngest was already sixteen. 
I gave Jasper a quick hug.
“Hey! When did you lot get here?” I said as Jasper pulled me to my feet.
“Just now,” Jasper said, as I brushed small specks of sand from my shorts.
“I’ve just come down to let you know that aunt Emma and nan want you back at the house for your surprise, which reminds me, happy birthday!”
“Thanks,” I gave a half smile and the two of us began to walk back up towards the house.
“You’ve got the weather for it!” Jasper said, gazing up at the clear blue sky and glowing sun.
I nodded. At least the weather allowed me to fully enjoy every aspect of Sandystone for the last time.
At least for a while anyway.
 
When Jasper and I reached the house, everyone was already there, all crowded into the little kitchen, waiting for us.
As I walked through the door, Jasper just behind me, the whole group burst into a chorus of ‘Happy birthday’.
I grinned and took the time to take in every individual person. Mum and dad stood together, Dan’s one hand on mum’s waist, his other on Lily’s shoulder.
Aunt Eleanor and uncle James stood next to them, and aunt Rhian stood with Aaron and her daughter Seren stood in front of her.
Nan and Bampi stood in front of everyone, a monstrous sized cake clutched between the two of them, ablaze with dozens of candles.
I leaned closer to the cake as I blew softly on the candles, to get a better look at the intricate decoration.
It was two tiers tall, the top tier covered in a blue icing, with a little yellow icing sun.
The words, ‘Good luck in Spain’ had been piped in small letters around the rim.
The top tier was just a typical birthday cake, pale pink icing, red sugar roses and ‘Happy 18th b-day Evie’ spelt with sugar paper letters.
“Happy birthday to you!” 
Everyone finished singing in unison.
“Hip-hop-hooray!” Everyone cheered as I mad my way around the room, hugging and thanking.
The room smelt of burnt matches and candle wax.
“That’s a  massive cake!” Aaron said loudly, inching towards it, his finger outstretched, moving towards the buttery icing.
Nan slapped his hand away, almost dropping the cake itself.
“Oh no you don’t mister. Don’t you remember the last time we has a cake this size and you ate a whole tier to yourself?”
“No,” Aaron shook his head, looking rejected as nan and bamp swept the cake over to the kitchen surface and began to unburden it of its candles.
“Well you wouldn’t remember,” said Seren who was just a year older than Aaron but liked to think that she had years of wisdom on him, “that would have been the sugar rush!”
Aaron laughed wickedly and Seren tutted.
“It wasn’t funny!” Lily exclaimed, “you threw up all over my brand new summer sandals. It was four years ago but the memory still haunts my dreams. You ruined my sixteenth birthday!” 
Aaron laughed again and I giggled at the dismayed expression on my sister’s face. 
“Anyway,” aunt Eleanor said, flinging her arm across her son’s shoulders, “lets celebrate Evie’s birthday with just a slice of cake this time.” She chuckled as Nan began to hand out generous slices of the beautiful cake on paper plates.
 
The rest of day slowly transformed into one of the best celebrations we’d ever had at Sandystone.
After we’d all had our fair share of cake we  ventured outside, the glorious sun beckoning to us.
Aaron and I made straight for the sea, arms and legs flailing wildly as we raced down the beach, abandoning all cares as we dove into the frothy white waves.
I didn’t even bother to remove my tank top and cotton shorts, feeling too exhilarated to notice or care. 
Lily assembled herself on the sand and was almost dead to the world as the sun wrapped her in a blanket of heat and sticky sweat. Seren sat next to her, her head buried in a book, occasionally looking up to scold Jasper who just ‘happened’ to be splashing her with a spray of debris as he boogie boarded close to the shore.
Nan, mum and aunts Rhian and Eleanor spent the time ducking and out the beach house, taking turns to cook then relax.
I could hear their laughter floating down from the house on an occasional sea breeze.
The three men sat on beach chairs on the pebbles, drinking beer and singing raucously along to uncle James’ acoustic guitar. 
Then at lunch the ladies set up foldable picnic tables covered in mounds of food on the luscious green grass near the house.
The spread of food that they had made was amazing. They had tried to keep to a theme of ’typical British tea party slash Spanish fiesta’.
Therefore, whilst one table was ladled with bite size sausage rolls, quiches, pork pies and welsh cakes, the next table contained a couple of Spanish delicacies like paella, tapas and  my personal favourite, a large pitcher full of sangria, ice cubes bobbing around in the maroon liquid, seeming like buoys bobbing around at sea.  
The aromas of everything had been delectable, the taste even better but I didn’t think that anything could beat the sangria, the burning thrill of the whiskey, quickly followed by the sweet tingle of fruit and dry taste of wine.
I also didn’t mind the light headed, tingly feeling that it gave me and felt sorry for Aaron and Seren, who were too young to try any.
I had never been one to ‘drown my sorrows’ but the alcohol certainly was helping me to relax.
When we had all finished eating, we had slumped down, some of us onto deckchairs, others of us onto the pebble slope, letting our food digest, or in my case, waiting for the effects of the sangria to lessen. 
Then, when we were all suitably re-energized, we split into two teams of six to play rounders, children versus adults, apart from aunt Rhian who insisted on being on the children’s team, to even out the numbers.
“And you always end up out running me on the bases Eric!” She said, winking playfully at my dad.
“I wouldn’t have to if you’d get a shift on!” Dad retaliated.
Aunt Rhian mocked gasped, “Well I’d rather be on this team… The winning team!” she bellowed, causing Jasper, Lily, Seren, Aaron and I to whoop and cheer, before darting to our bases and fielding positions.
We played two full games, each team winning one game each, then moved on to to boules, having to use two sets to supply us all. 
Finally we finished the day by playing a game that Aaron declared to have made up on the spot which involved some sort of drawing in the sand with sticks and lacked any sorts of rules.
We played Aaron’s game, which he had  named ‘Aaronkins’ (obviously putting as much thought into the name as he put into the rules), until the sun began to set. It resembled a beautiful, fiery ball of gold, as it lowered slowly into the calmly bobbing sea, almost being completely consumed as we trailed back up the stones together.
Dad and uncle James fired up the barbeque.
 
By the time we had eaten our way through almost a whole butcher’s shop worth of meat, the sun had completely set, the sky alight with the blinking of millions of diamond like stars.
For the whole day, my worries and woes had dissolved into the haze of joyfulness and celebration.
But as I sat on a slouching deckchair surrounded by my family and with the crackling bonfire in front of me slowly drying my damp hair, I  gazed up at the vast, black sky and realised how soon I would be gazing up at the same sky, but from the other side of the world.
And I wouldn’t be surrounded by family, or feeling comfortable, safe and content.
Again, the feeling of dread swept over me, leaving me in a cold sweat, my heart in my throat and tears prickling in my eyes.
“Can’t beat a day on a good old Welsh beach,” Jasper sighed, leaning back into his chair and taking a sip of beer.
“Well I’m sure Evie will disagree with you this time next week when she’s relaxing on a beautiful Spanish beach, soaking up the sun,” Seren said.
I laughed half heartedly. 
“No, I think that Welsh beaches will always hold a special place in my heart,” I said softly, glancing over to the sea, that was being illuminated by the golden light of the moon.
“Yeah, there’s a lot of things that we’ve done at Sandystone that we couldn’t do on a Spanish beach!” Dad said, retracting a marshmallow from the consuming tongues of the bonfire and passing the burned article to Lily.
“Exactly, like remember on my birthday last August and it didn’t stop raining?” Bamp said suddenly, surprising us all, since the way he was leaning back in his deck chair, eyes closed, hands clasped over his pot belly, had led us to believe that he was asleep.
“Remember?” He opened his eyes.
“We played a mini ruby game on the beach despite the rain and when we were done, because you kids were already soaked you ran into the sea fully clothed!”
Everyone laughed at the memory.
“Yeah that was a great one!” Lily exclaimed, sitting up straighter in her deckchair.
“Oh remember on Mum and Dad’s anniversary when all those paragliders landed at Sandystone and joined our barbeque and offered us free paragliding lessons!” Aaron said, glancing hopefully in Aunt Emma’s direction.
“And remember how the answer was no back then and is still no!” she said, trying to stand firm as Aaron stared at her with puppy dog eyes.
And so the reminiscing began.
 
We spoke for what felt like hours, crying with laughter, rocking back and forth, remembering all of our celebrations over the years.
Things that had seemed terrible to us at the time, we hilarious and trivial to us now.
By the time we had settled into a contented silence, the chill of the night had settled on us, causing us to shiver and cower closer towards the hindering fire.
My stomach was tender from laughing and my spirits had been temporally lifted.
“This has been the perfect birthday. I’m going to miss this,” I mumbled, “Because if there’s one thing I can’t do on a Spanish beach its this, celebrating with my family.”
“Well that’s the beauty of Sandystone!” Nan said, reaching over to squeeze my shoulder, “Its one of a kind and has provided you with so many great memories to take along with you. And Sandystone will be waiting here for you when you get back, buzzing with the anticipation of your ‘welcome home party’ and I bet that it will be the best celebration that Sandystone will ever see!”
“Yeah and don’t worry about missing out on much little cuz,” Jason said warmly, “ we won’t have much fun without you!”
I giggled, “of course you will!” although I was flattered that he thought so,
And then I realised how my mood had suddenly become settled. 
There wasn’t a niggling feeling of dread or distress hanging over me anymore, probably because I knew what nan had said was true.
This wasn’t the end.
And that made me happy.
 
The next morning we awoke to the same glorious weather as the day before, the sunlight streaming in through everyone’s windows, welcoming and softly caressing.
The smell of bacon was wafting around the little house and was even quite strong up in the small loft room where Lily, Seren and I slept on futon beds.
The three of us dressed, not bothering to battle anyone else for the use of the single shower and met in the kitchen.
There, we found mounds of bacon and iced jugs of fresh orange juice.
We all ate quickly and while Seren and I were loading the dishwasher, mum and Lily came through the kitchen door, ladled with brightly wrapped gifts.
“Happy birthday slash leaving do!” Mum sing-songed.
 
Altogether, I received a new camera from my parents to take to Spain, a beautiful sundress from Lily, a pair of expensive sunglasses from aunt Eleanor, uncle James and the boys, a tie-dye top and travel journal from aunt Rhian and Seren and an intricate golden locket from nan and bampi.
I’d had little time to admire my gifts though, as the packing frenzy had begun.
We had hardly unpacked anything the day before however, so the process didn’t take as long as usual and then we were gathered on the patch of grass outside the house, bamp locking the door and nan straightening the collection of sea shells on the windowsills.
“Hey, how about a family picture?” I suggested, gesturing to the new camera, dangling from my neck.
“Definitely!” aunt Rhian gasped. She was a great lover of photos.
Everyone gathered at the top of the pebble slope, the beach and sea behind us .
We balanced the camera on the windowsill of the chalet and set the timer.
The adults and Jason stood behind and the kids knelt down in front.
Twelve sets of happy eyes and twelve large grins, all telling the story of our great weekend and all forever captured on my camera. 
When everyone has scattered again, I took a snap of the beach and then the house, mementoes to take away with me to Spain.
Maybe if I looked at them whenever a celebration was taking place at Sandystone whilst I was away, I could almost feel as if was there too.
We said our goodbyes then and I clung onto every single person for much longer than I normally would, for luck.
Then we walked the short distance to the car park, that offered spaces for the five beach houses that sat along the quiet piece of coast.
I got into the back seat and craned my neck around to have one last fleeting glance of the house and the magnificent beach in its background.
I grinned.
Last night as I had snuggled into my fleece blanket, surrounded by the soft snores of Seren and Lily and watching the late night’s sky through the slanted loft window, I had decided something.
I had decided that I shouldn’t mourn leaving Sandystone, or Wales for that matter.
I should celebrate the new chapter of my life in Spain and celebrate my memories of Sandystone.
I should celebrate that when I returned to my beautiful, picturesque Wales, I would have a whole new collection of memories to share with my family around the bonfire.
 


© Copyright 2017 Robyn and her pen. All rights reserved.

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