Wyn and I had driven my parents down to Worthing, to revisit the seaside town in Sussex where we used to live, where I had been brought up. We were just leaving our small hotel when a car pulled up jammed with rowdy young men, geeing themselves up for the stag night ahead. I worried that my parent’s sleep was going to suffer.
We drove off though the traffic and then were walking – events, times, places, people just flip in a dream. I was leading us in the vague direction of the sea. I wanted to see the shingled beach, the promenade, the old red mine that collected pennies for charity, smell the stink of golden kelp rotting. I never wondered where it came from, where it grew, what life it supported.
It had been a long time and the town had grown into a city. We walked along busy streets I didn’t recognise, past glittering shop windows doing brisk business, from the age before malls. My mother was quite cheerful, despite the fact she always hated living there.
I ushered us across a Pelican crossing into small park with curling paths and flint walls a couple of feet high. I looked back and realised my father was missing. I said, wait a moment, went back through the low maze and found him standing, lost. He looked at me with eyes so large and dark, anxious and uncertain, I felt overwhelmed with guilt, tenderness and love.