There is sand in the wind. Fine grains sting the eyes of children virgin to this golden coast. Ah, but I am savvier. I shield my face with curved palms whenever a crafty gust comes a'calling.
This is Great Yarmouth, a Norfolk coastal resort so close to its neighbouring county, it could easily dip its toes into rival waters, but doesn't for fear of the nasty nip of a Suffolk crab. We visit this town every summer. I have no choice in the matter. I am a mere child, not yet into double figures. Every year, the same holiday camp, same week, same everything. My parents are Mr and Mrs Routine. You could set clocks by them.
I love to explore. Sometimes I disappear for hours. I return when I'm hungry. My folks don't notice my absence. My mother is too busy trading white skin for brown. My father is too busy doing nothing in particular.
I climb the mighty sand dunes that dominate this weathered landscape. Giant tuffets of lofty grass cling on for dear life, the only green amidst a never-ending blanket of pale yellow. I conquer the summit with ease. I am the king of my sandcastle, and from my golden throne I look out to sea. A faraway fishing boat rests upon the horizon. I wonder why it doesn't fall off the edge. Maybe it will if I watch long enough.
I notice an oddity beside a tuffet. With eager hands, I spade away the sand that conceals this secret treasure. Oh, wow, it's a huge metal chain, the size of which I have never before seen. I tug, I pull, I heave, but this chain is going nowhere.
The shadow of my father darkens my sun. He warns me to leave well alone. 'This chain is connected to the biggest plug in the world,' he explains. 'If you pull too hard, the sea will gurgle down the plughole and drain to nothing.'
I tell him I'm sorry. We bury my find deep in the sand. And we leave the beach in search of fish and chips.
Twenty years on, I am that father. My boy has been quiet for far too long. In my head, alarm bells scream for attention. I am no longer busy doing nothing in particular as I scale the grassy dunes and catch him in the act. Like father like son, he has discovered my secret.
I explain, 'This chain is connected to the biggest plug in the world. If you pull too hard, the sea will gurgle down the plughole and drain to nothing.'
He tells me he's sorry. We bury his find deep in the sand. And we leave the beach in search of fish and chips.
One day, before I grow too frail, I will return to those dunes and pull that chain. And on that day, curiosity will triumph. So if the sea ever gurgles down the plughole and drains to nothing, you'll know who to blame.
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