Read Chapter 4 of Beach Potato, By Sarah Riley
Part of the Muckabee Adventure Series:
Chapter 4 – Wake Up!
“The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.”
Paul Valery – French writer, poet and philosopher
As far as Jess was concerned, the day of the move to Titterstone had come far too quickly. She was in the back of her parent’s car feeling a strange mixture of fear, apprehension, sadness and excitement as they drove to the coast. She thought back to earlier that day saying goodbye to Doris and realising she may never see her again because of how frail she was, but despite this they still talked of her visiting one day.
“I’ll miss you and our little chats,” said Doris through her tears. “But I’ll be so happy thinking of you in Titterstone. I know you’ll love being by the sea so much you’ll never want to come back.”
They smiled and hugged for a long time before she left, hearing the familiar old bell jingle for the last time as she closed the door behind her. Jess ran all the way home desperately trying not to fall over as the tears tumbled down her face.
Her goodbye with Elsie had been easier than she thought it would be, with her friend even managing to make her laugh. It turned out that her dad had done something very naughty with some rotten eggs and black paint to get Jess’ amber bracelet back from Mrs Miller. It worked a treat and Elsie’s mum thought he’d been such a hero rescuing her carefully chosen present from the wicked Millers. Now they were even trying to patch things up.
“You see Jess,” said Elsie with a smile, “you even managed to bring my family back together again. I’m so happy!”
Jess smiled thinking about it and twisted the bracelet around her wrist, as the car trundled down the road towards the coast. At least she had something to help her remember the good bits of their life in the city, and she hoped the return of the bracelet was a good omen for the future.
It seemed to take a whole day to get to Titterstone, which wasn’t helped by the slow moving lorry with all their belongings following them through the narrow winding lanes, but finally Bruce announced they were nearly there.
“Ok, answer this question. Look around you and tell me what you can see that shows we’re near the coast?”
Enjoying the challenge Jack and Jess looked eagerly out of the car windows at the countryside rolling by. They saw fields, hedges, trees, sky and clouds, but little else. This really was the deepest countryside scene. The road had grass growing down the middle and there weren’t any signs or white lines to be seen.
“No idea” said jack giving up.
“Ok, look at the trees and tell me what you see.”
“They’re all bending one way.”
“Bingo! Because there’s always a strong sea breeze going inland, especially in places like this, so it makes the trees bend away from the sea as they grow. So now you know where to look to find the sea.”
With that they all turned to look out of the right side of the car and there it was. On the horizon Jess could just make out a little white boat with a sail. She had seen everything about the sea and ocean life on telly but until now she had never visited it. Too little money and too much to do had always been their excuse, but now she wished she’d come sooner as it was amazing. Colours of blue and green spread out before her as they drove along the road that began to turn into a steep hill, dropping them further down towards the ocean. As the view opened out before them they saw little white houses dotted around the cliffs and more boats out to sea. Jess opened the window and had her first proper blast of totally fresh sea air, filled with the sweet aromas of grass, seaweed and flowers.
“We’re almost at expectation corner,” bellowed Bruce totally wrapped up in his own excitement while Lou giggled in the front seat. This turned out to be a sharp bend in the road forcing vehicles to slow right down, whilst filling its passengers with expectations of the amazing views beyond, Titterstone village and the harbour. Jess and Jack perched on the edge of the car seat to see as much as possible, while Lilly continued to play with her toys totally unaware of the excitement around her.
Bruce slowed down and everyone knew then the true meaning of expectation corner, as opening out before them was the most amazing sight of Titterstone surrounded by lofty cliffs and sculpted scenery. Even though it was a bit of a tourist village it had a wild untouched look about it, probably to do with the fact that local villagers devoted their lives to restoring, protecting and keeping it working as a traditional fishing village. Jess now understood why her dad had said it could easily be mistaken for an extravagant film set. They were quite some distance away but they could see the streets were cobbled and the houses looked as though they were partly built into the cliff walls. They were a mix of yellow, blue, pink and white washed houses with tiny courtyards and semi-tropical gardens climbing the steep hill behind the harbour. The reason why it had become a popular tourist attraction was clear. It was truly stunning.
“Did you know there are plenty of stories about pirates and smugglers working from Titterstone,” said Bruce adding to the atmosphere. They pulled over into a parking space at the side of the road with enough room for the small lorry behind them. Standing at the edge of the road they could see the village clearly. Jess watched as two men dragged a sledge up the cobbled street.
“What are they doing?”
“Well you might have noticed already that no vehicles are allowed on the cobbles so the only way to transport heavy things to houses is with sledges.” The removal men who had joined them to take in the view looked at each other with wide eyes. Bruce continued. “It’s hard work but worth it as it helps protect the village. The locals don’t complain as it beats cars going up and down chucking out fumes, destroying their ancient roads and having tourists peer through their front doors. The houses are already packed together pretty tightly so nothing else can really fit on the steep hillside anyway, which is probably the main reason it hasn’t changed much over hundreds of years. There’s simply no room for development.” Bruce handed Jess a pair of binoculars so she could have a better look.
“So how are we going to get down there dad?” asked Jack.
“By foot if we were going to go down there, but we’re not because there’s another road which winds around the valley over to the other side of the village to our new home, which is on the cliff overlooking the north shore.”
The removal men gave out a huge sigh of relief, leaned against the bonnet of the lorry and poured themselves a coffee from a flask. Jess continued to look at the village and was mesmerized with the crazy mix of colours and different things to see. There were traditional white fishermen’s houses intermingled with bright flowers, plants and tourist shops. People wandered around the streets at an intriguingly leisurely pace. Some were clearly tourists whilst others were fishermen and their families or hippies who had moved to the village to escape the fast paced modern world. She remembered how her dad had said it was a bit of a hippie heartland and now she could see what he meant. Further down, it became a bit more industrial and showed that at its heart it was still a working fishing village, as nets were slung over lobster pots and fish storage boxes. Further down still was the harbour with its small beach of shingle and pebbles, with small sailing boats, ropes and more lobster pots lying abandoned waiting to be used for the next catch of the day. The curving quay, with an Inn facing the sheltered harbour water, seemed to be the centre of activity with many people sitting on walls and either fishing or chatting amongst friends.
“The story goes,” began Bruce, “that years ago the village was impossible to get to by land, with the only way being by sea. Back then it was totally self sufficient but after one of the worst storms ever recorded, which lasted for weeks, the villagers were beginning to run out of food and fears started that they would soon starve to death. A local fisherman decided to sail out into the storm to save the village from starvation and returned with the biggest catch ever seen. The villagers decided then to put up a memorial to their new hero on the cliff overlooking the village and the sea. Each family saved from starvation carved it with holes and it’s these that make the sound of children laughing when the wind catches it at a certain angle. This stone gives the village its name. There are cliff top paths, which run east and west along the ridge, so plenty for us to explore when we’ve settled in. Maybe when we have time I’ll show you the place where I proposed to your mother.”
Jess and Jack looked at them both in surprise. Clearly this place had more history for their family than they had realised. Jess stared up at the cliff overlooking their vantage point and saw again the trees that had been moulded into weird shapes by the sea wind.
‘Maybe I’m going to like this place more than I thought,’ she hoped.
As they drove along the road taking them around the village they noticed how the traditional part of Titterstone village had been extended by a more modern collection of houses and shops. This was definitely more of a hippie heartland, with organic cafes, market stalls, picnic areas and bars set alongside the road. Many of the people mingling along the street and shops wore bright clothing, had long dreadlocks and seemed tanned, relaxed and happy. There were VW Beetles and rusty campervans scattered along the road, with Harley Davidson bikes parked in obvious places so people could admire their gleaming metal and polished leather. Most of all Jess noticed how every vehicle carried surfboards and there seemed to be wet suits and towels hanging from most windows, drying out in the afternoon sun. Sand was scattered across the road, which had collected in miniature sand dunes in the gullies at the side, giving the whole place a feeling of not actually being in the UK at all, but somewhere abroad instead. The sun had just come out and the afternoon was warm, which only added to the excitement Jess felt as she sat in the car taking in everything as they drove through the village.
They decided to stop for supplies at the side of the road and Jess was given the job of getting some pasties from a bakery they spotted called The Pepper Pot. When she got out of the car the first thing she noticed was the sound of music coming from behind her. Looking back she saw a young girl playing a small Irish Whistle while the man next to her provided the rhythm on some bongo drums. The young girl was about Jess’ age and played the happy jig perfectly. It added to the peaceful atmosphere and Jess sauntered happily towards the bakery taking in the colourful sights, the smell of pasties and the sound of music. The only thing she’d experienced like this place before was a free festival held in their local park a few years ago, and she’d found herself just as intrigued by everything then as she was now. Once in the bakery she was second in the queue, so she took the time to look at what she could buy. There wasn’t much choice but the bakery seemed to be doing a good business as the queue behind her started to get bigger and bigger until it eventually went out of the door. She watched as the lady behind the counter, looking rather red and flustered dashed from the counter to the oven and back again. The boy in the queue in front of Jess seemed to be making a bit of a fuss, which made the lady even more flustered, and eventually he turned and stormed off towards one of the tables in the shop to wait for something to finish cooking.
“Can I help you,” said the lady behind the counter with an exhausted smile.
“Yes please,” said Jess. “I’d like two bacon and leek pasties and five steak please.”
“I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for the steak pasties, they’ll be another five minutes.”
“No problem,” she replied. “It’s fantastic they’re so fresh. You don’t get that kind of thing where I come from in the city.” With that she paid for the pasties and made her way to the side to wait until they were ready. As she approached the boy at the table she gave him a wide smile in the hope of making her first friend.
“My name’s Jess,” she said.
“And what of it?” was his blunt response.
Caught off guard she didn’t know what to say. She’d expected a friendly hello or simply a smile to match the happy atmosphere around her. “Um… well… we’ve just moved into the area and I wondered if you could tell me what there is to do around here.”
“So you’ve come from the city to here, huh! Let me guess… you’re a Muckabee,” he said with a sneer. “What kind of stupid name is that? And before you say it I know you’ve bought that death trap haunted house on the hill. You’ve been ripped off stupid Muckabee!”
Taken aback by how rude he was Jess didn’t know what to say but simply stammered, “I… I… don’t know what you mean, but we have bought a house on the cliff above north shore.”
“Yes, that’s the haunted house!” the boy said with an evil grin. “My parents wanted to buy it but the old fogies wouldn’t sell it to them. That’s ok though as it’ll fall in to the sea soon enough and before that the ghosts will get anyone stupid enough to live in it. Didn’t anyone tell you it’s haunted! A soldier got his troops caught and tortured in the war and hid out in that house until he died a rotten old traitor without any friends, being hunted down by his own family. I’m surprised no one told you about that!” He looked pleased with himself as he passed on the gloomy news.
“Lucas, your pasties are ready,” said the lady behind the counter. Jess was totally shocked by what she’d heard and was glad for the interruption. By now the queue had gone and only Jess and the lady were left in the shop when Lucas disappeared out the door.
“Don’t worry about him,” the lady said motioning towards the door. “He’s a horrid little boy who’ll do anything to make people feel bad. You can’t blame him really. It’s his parents who’ve taught him everything he knows. If there’s one piece of good advice I can give you then it’s to keep away from the Stafford family. They’re rotten through and through and definitely won’t like your family as you bought the house they were after.”
Jess looked at her in disbelief. “Does everyone here know who we are and that we’ve bought that house?”
“Oh yes! Take away the tourists and you’ll find there aren’t actually many people who live full time in the village so news travels fast. Besides I just overheard you talking with Lucas. Don’t worry about what he said about the haunting. It’s a load of rubbish if you ask me, and as for the house falling into the sea, I think you’ll find that’s just another story to make you regret coming here. The rumour is they wanted to turn your house into a hotel and apartments, and as the previous owners didn’t like what they were planning they wouldn’t sell the place to them. Protecting the village meant more to them than money, which of course the Stafford’s have too much of, but as you ended up with the house that won’t make you their best friends around here,” she said with a wink and a smile. Jess wondered what the rest of the Stafford family were like. “My name’s Judy by the way, and if you or your family need anything then please just ask.”
Jess gave her a big smile and thanked her for the pasties before running back to the car parked at the side of the road.
“What took you so long?” asked a famished looking Jack. “You should see this place. There are loads of freaky things here! It’s so cool!”
Jess didn’t answer but instead tried to decide what to say about what had just happened. But as she looked at the happy faces of her parents in the front of the car, she decided she wouldn’t do a thing, but instead would let fate run its course and keep quiet about the fact there might actually be a sting in the tail of their dream.
It was an exciting moment when the family arrived at their new home. The gate at the top of the drive was looking a bit tatty but they didn’t let that distract them as they drove through it and towards the house. Rounding the corner they saw it in the distance. The garden was much bigger than they’d imagined, and Jess began to understand why the Staffords had wanted it for a hotel. She smiled when she thought of Lucas, knowing her parents had managed to clinch the deal instead of his.
When they finally got out of the car Jack grabbed Jess by the arm, “let’s explore!” They ran off to look at the garden and the land around the house. Most of it seemed quite normal but then they started to notice the tropical plants and trees that liked the warmer climate by the sea and rarely survived anywhere else. They wandered along a path for some time, between trees and down a hill until they came to an old shed hidden behind bushes just out of view. Looking inside they saw it was full of nothing but cobwebs, but as it was made of stone and wood and was tucked out of sight Jack decided it would make a perfect den and promised to revisit it again soon to make more plans. Further along the path the trees started to thin, and they finally entered a clearing leading to the edge of the cliff at the top of a steep and rocky pathway.
“This must be North Shore,” exclaimed Jack. They both peered down to the beach below. It was perfect, with a wonderful mix of open white sand and dark rocks. The ebbing tide revealed many rock pools and nooks and crannies desperate to be explored, and Jack immediately started to make his way down the path.
Jess caught him by the arm, “We can’t go down yet. We should go back and help out or dad will fume.” Knowing she was right they both started to climb the hill past the hidden shed and back to the house. On their way back, seeing things from a different angle, Jack noticed an old wall with a door in it.
“Let see where this takes us first.” He said with a smile.
Following him, Jess felt quite overwhelmed about the size of the garden. She had no idea they would ever be able to afford such an amazing place with so much space. As they pushed their way through the old wooden door, which creaked on its rusty hinges, they found themselves in a garden surrounded by walls on three sides, with head high bushes on the fourth.
“It must be an old walled garden. I read about them in a book once.” Jess said.
There were trees laden with young fruit waiting for late summer so they could grow big, sweet and juicy. Bees buzzed on flowers they’d never seen before, and garden tools lay rusting on the stone path.
“Blackcurrants!” shouted Jack as he raced towards a bush growing next to an overgrown vegetable plot. Within minutes his fingers and lips were stained purple from the juice. “We’ll take some back to the others. They’ll give us extra energy so we can…”
“Look,” interrupted Jess. Jack looked across to where she was pointing. Right in the corner of the garden next to the overgrown bush was a small rusty van. It was brown and red and almost completely camouflaged against its background. “It’s a campervan!” she cried out excitedly.
They both ran over to where it stood and sure enough there was the infamous ‘VW’ symbol on the wheel hubs and front grill.
“I don’t believe it,” said Jack, “our very own VW campervan! This has got to be the best thing ever.”
They tried the handle and with a rusty grumble of metal against metal the door slowly opened. Inside it looked dusty and full of cobwebs, but they knew a bit of time and effort could sort that out. There were cupboards and seats that looked like they could be made into a bed, as well as a couple of seats in the front. It obviously hadn’t been used for years.
“This…” said Jess looking around “is going to be our new den!” Jack gave her a huge toothy smile in agreement. “But it needs a name to truly make it ours.”
They both thought long and hard looking around them for inspiration.
“Ok,” said Jack, “How about North Shore bus?”
“Too long,” Jess replied. She looked out at the vegetable garden and then back at the campervan, taking in its different shades of brown colours. “I’ve got it! From this day onwards it will be known as the ‘Beach Potato’!”
“Awesome sister… you rule!” With that they both rushed off to find the others and tell them about what they’d just discovered.
When they finally made it through the overgrown garden into the house they were met with anxious looking parents talking in hushed tones by the front door.
“Ah you’re back,” said a startled looking Bruce. The furrows on his brow had returned and their happy Titterstone dad was beginning to look like stressed city dad again.
“You won’t believe what we’ve found,” began Jack.
“Not now,” interrupted Lou gently, “we need to talk.”
They all sat on the overgrown lawn in front of the house, which looked like a meadow rather than a normal garden, as butterflies flew from flower to flower spraying the pollen about and making Lilly sneeze.
“Your mother and I took a risk when we bought this place. We did it without viewing it because things were moving so fast and if we’d taken the time to come down here we would have lost it. At the time we felt it was the right decision, and we even paid a local builder for advice. He said it wouldn’t be a big job, but we’ve had a look around and it looks like there are only two rooms apart from the kitchen that we can use at the moment, so as the furniture will have to go in one, we’ll all be sleeping together for a while. Sorry kids but we have no choice!”
Jack could hardly contain himself and burst out in an excited ramble. “Don’t worry dad, this place is amazing. There’s NO WAY I thought we could EVER live somewhere as cool as this. The village is freaky, the house is awesome, and we have our own path to the beach, a vegetable garden and loads of other places we haven’t explored yet! I don’t care if there’s only one room to live in. When there’s so much else to do we’ll only be sleeping in it any way. This totally beats the city!”
Bruce smiled at the response.
“Besides,” continued Jess smiling, “there’s more than one place to sleep here.”
She looked at Jack and said with a smile “dad, we want to stay in Beach Potato!”