I like coming this way. The motorway doesn’t really show you where you are; this way you can see what you’ve passed and what’s coming. The motorway’s a blur and the cars overtaking make my windows rattle.
I stop at the last services before the bright red soil towers either side of the road, looking like a strange new country. I eat in the car, our customary packed lunch: egg mashed with salad cream on white bread, hula hoops, a flask of coffee and then jelly babies; always need sweets for a long journey. When you were driving I used to unwrap Foxes Fruits for you to suck between pursed lips.
At the crest of a familiar hill, blue soars up through the haze of sunshine below. “I can see the se-ea”. I was always the first to sing that, whether I could see it, or whether it was just the sky being extra bright. Either way, it means we’re nearly there.
And then I am. Clicking the handbrake on I stretch my arms over my head, brushing my hands along the fuzzy ceiling. I notice the pale orange gate and two milk bottles by the front door.
Winter mornings, we’d run to see if the milk had frozen, a column of white ice bursting above the rim. Youngest, smallest, and more interested in my breakfast, I wasn’t often first to the door to see the overnight magic, but it amazed us all every time.
Listening to music far too loud now the engine’s stopped, I have more jelly babies: black, red, red, green and orange together. I don’t want to ring the doorbell because it won’t be your pastel outline obscured through the glass as you fiddle, clattering the safety chain. I start walking, past the flaking orange paint, away from the empty milk bottles. Eventually I’m at the top of a familiar hill, and I can see the sea.