Photographs of Jersey
by Deanna Scutt
Small islands are good places to set stories. They limit our characters to the boundaries of a single space, trapping them in one another’s company. Besides this, there is something intense about a confined setting, a razor clarity.
When I was just getting to the age of being trusted to choose my own clothes, my parents decided on a family holiday to Jersey.
Booked at the last minute, we ended up scattered around the plane. I sat next to a grey-suited man with bad teeth, and spent the entire flight watching the aisle and hoping my brother would misbehave enough to necessitate our swapping places.
There is something odd about flicking through photographs and seeing the person you used to be. The sight of your own eyes, set in a smaller face, a stubborn pout, and an obnoxious purple jumper, are both peculiar and haunting.
My infant self knew nothing of university, of the friends I would make, and the places I would go. The perimeters of my current existence would have been, to her, inconceivable.
My world of lesson plans and French and customer service is far removed from hers, of buckets and spades and scrambling over the rocks after my father, taking three strides for his every one, and being pulled up over the green weed by her small hands, in case she fell and split her knees.
We were determined to find something living in the rockpools. Eels or fish or crabs. My mother distracted me with sandcastles while my father went climbing along the black rocks in a blue raincoat. He was gone for half an hour before he returned with two creatures snapping at the lining of his pockets.
We set the green-black crabs on the sand, and watched them bury themselves.
There were small caves at one beach. Blackish, slimy caves that seemed exciting, but now have horror movie connotations. I was forbidden from going inside, so I contented myself with throwing my voice into the dark and hearing it echo back, half wanting to explore further, half knowing the danger of the unknown.
Perhaps now, with a lighter in hand and a comrade to bolster my courage, I would go and cut into the dark and find the creatures waiting for the tide, but part of me is glad to remember my uncertainty. I was still at an age to not quite rule out dragons and hermit wizards.
My brother and I dug a channel so that the water could be linked up with the sea. We chased it all the way to the waves, and I was laughing because it felt like I had set it free. My brother got hit by a wave and had to be scooped out.
Too shocked to cry, my brother laughed.
What else do I remember? A miniature cheeseboard in the lodge, and my mother brushing my hair, and my father telling us to settle down when we would not – too excited by the unfamiliar surroundings. I remember the rickety steps down to the sea, and the grey waves, and how thwarted I felt when a little boy blocked up our trench to the ocean.
The warm, distant past.
Editor: Joel Emmons