An Ocean Legacy

By Lucy Gray

MMy grandmother is deaf in one ear. This is her story:

Follow that screeching seagull over the waves to the shore and you’ll find Elsie, my grandmother (although not yet my grandmother), sitting in her 1950s swimsuit on the sand of Treyarnon Bay, which, family legend has it, is the best Cornish beach there is. Every year she's here with her husband Harold, and their three boys (one of them my father) for several weeks of the summer. Nailed to the cliff top, and battered by the wind, is the fat, dumpy caravan and the boys’ small canvas ridge tent. Lucy, the prize-winning Siamese cat is there as well - too precious to leave behind. Harold comes and goes, returning to work for stints in suburban Solihull, leaving Elsie, the boys…and time.

Every morning starts with a military style dip in the icy Atlantic Ocean, cooked breakfast following. The days are filled with the chores of 1950s camping, the beach and rockpooling. And of course they surfed - in sun, cloud or rain. On flat snubbed planks of wood. Oh, Elsie loved to surf. How cool: that image of my young grandmother wading out waist-deep in the roaring foam of the waves. Watching the approaching swell, she gauges whether to go with this wave or not. Yes? No? No, not yet. Not big enough.

And then.

Here it comes, building, growing, towering, storming towards her, with massive noise, about to break. Now breaking. The green wall turning white atop as it crashes downwards. She catches it - but sideways - white swell forces itself on her. And into her ear. She travels, exhilarated to the flat of the sand.

How amazing! How fantastic!

But : she can no longer - and never again - hear in her right ear.

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