Family: Janet Christie's Mum's the Word

Waves and memories wash up



It’s raining, it’s dark, we’re possibly lost as the family jalopy is buffeted by the storm raging over the North Yorkshire moors, tailgated by nutters. But inside the car all is well, Eldest and Youngest are in charge of snacks and music and Middle of navigation and soothing: “Ignore them ma,” he says as the tailgaters overtake us on a blind bend. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be as the lights of Filey shine up at us.

“I’m so excited,” says Eldest Child, unexpectedly. “Who’s all coming again?”

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I start to list the family tree and by the time I get to cousin’s partners’ plus ones’ children’s partners, my own twiglets are confused. “Well, they’re your cousin’s… em, my cousin’s … well, technically, they’re…”

“Family,” says someone.

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Seventeen or so of us this year, from every decade, from north and south, and the weekend passes in a blast of chatter, cooking and karaoke.

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There’s a walk along the beach as the wind whips the waves and the sun sneaks out. “More crazy golf?” says Middle as we pass the fishy-related obstacles on the prom. They’re still smarting from my victory the day before, when slow and steady and the putting stance my father taught me trounced their talent, imagination and optimism.

“Who won again?” says Youngest as we pass. “Can’t remember,” say the boys in unison. Typical.

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Right around the bay we continue, past the sea caves at the end of the beach where my mother and her sister were trapped by the high tide. Rescued by my grandad climbing down the cliffs above, carrying a ladder so the story goes.

We leap and clamber along rocks that stretch away to the sea and reach a pod of seals, fluffy youngsters lolling bellies up to the autumn sunshine as their parents bob up, curious, to greet us. “Amazing, so glad we’re here. But the tide’s coming in,” warns Eldest.

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He’s right. Each wave comes up higher onto the rocks and I eye the caves where my mother and her sister waited for rescue. Is history about to repeat itself? Is it hell, I’m not climbing up any cliffs, with or without a ladder, even if it does make a better story.