Laura’s family on holiday at Seagull. All photos provided by Laura Jacquottet.
STORY BY LAURA JACQUOTTET
“Mum, are we nearly there?” we whine for the five-hundredth time. A tired car, and an even more tired dad, turns off the main road and attacks the last leg of the journey along narrower and narrower high-hedged country lanes down to the familiar holiday home on the rugged coastline of England’s Cornwall.
“Not far now,” pipes up Mum. Pre-holiday stress starts to melt from her face as she cranes her neck in determination to be the first to spot the expanse of Atlantic blue.
“Who is going to be the first to see the sea this year?” I say, bouncing up and down between my older brother and younger sister.
“Your mother of course—she always is,” Dad says with an exhausted smile. Five hours of laughing, crying, singing, and I-spying, accompanied with the occasional backseat rabble-calming swipe of a hard hand on any unfortunate leg that got in the way, was always how our holidays started. Not forgetting of course, the road-side picnic, pee-stops behind a hedge for family and pets, and the optional trailer flat tire.
“I can see the sea, I can, I can, really, I can! Look!” cries Mum. The last worry line slips from her beautiful face as we glimpse the deep blue that appears, disappears, appears, disappears behind stone walls and profusions of bramble and dried fern.
But more than the hide-and-seek blue, it’s the tangy smell of salty air filling my lungs from the wide-open windows and the tightening of my stomach that tells me we are well and truly here at last. Dad turns down the dirt track and picks his route carefully so as not to damage the laden-down car—making the last few meters agonizingly slow. The sea momentarily disappears from view as we mount the last rise.
And then suddenly there it all is once again.
A wave of goose bumps washes over my body. I drink in the sheer visual pleasure of seeing the vastness of the sea, the greenness of the cliff’s matted grass and rough gorse, the ruggedness of cliff plunging to beach below.
And last but far from least, the white, proud walls of our holiday home, Seagull.
The back seat has by now gone berserk as we three kids are desperate to be let out of our child-locked prison and kick off our shoes and run at full pelt down to the Greenaway immortalized by poet Sir John Betjeman, “our” Greenaway, to sink our boarding school feet into the gritty, deliciously crunchy sand.
The car’s engine is switched off at last, and it sighs in relief that its cargo has reached port safe and sound. The shrill screech of a lone gull tickles my senses, and the rhythmic pounding of waves on the beach below the house feels like a familiar heartbeat to my soul.
Before being allowed to take off for “un-adulted” adventures, we are swept into the kitchen with the dogs, the cat, the bags and bags and bags from the perfectly packed car. Inside, I am hit by the delicious, familiar smell of this abode. I let its embrace take me in its arms. I gulp in the thick smell of an unaired house mixed with lingering beeswax and floor polish.
But then we three kids rush to the wooden staircase, taking two treads at a time, making the steps and floorboards sing their creaking tune in our haste to bag our favorite bed.
Despite having British roots that run long and deep, Laura Jacquottet has spent a chunk of her life as a rolling stone. She rolled along 10,000 kilometers of stunning African tracks at the age of 18, then rolled around a tiny volcanic island lost in the Indian Ocean, and final rolled into the French Amazonia rainforest with her then one-year-old son. Eventually, she and her French husband and their three kids stopped rolling. They have spent the past 20 years in Normandy, France, the home to her distant ancestor, the nephew of William the Conqueror! Writing allows her to continue to roll even when in reality she has put down roots.