A life boat call out still rattles the windows, but other things in the village are quieter.
The life boat maroons went up the other afternoon, two window rattling booms, sending the seagulls for a three mile radius apoplectic with agitation, from our cottage I can see the lifeboat station and in minutes the yellow booted lifeboat crew are jogging down the pontoon out to the life boat, it had slipped its moorings and was heading off to sea before the gulls had stopped their squawking, everyone stands still and watches the life boat go out, it’s a bit like the trendy visual effect on TV where some of the people in the shot freeze and others keep moving; the crew keep moving, its not just the tourists like me that watch either; other cottage doors open and the locals, watch too.
Quickly the lifeboat is out of sight, I then listen, waiting for the distinctive roar of the lifeboat engines as they open up the throttle, when they are clear of the flotsam of little boats around Salcombe harbour. I like this sound, I like it a lot, don’t tell my family and I am loath to admit it to myself, I am really a repressed speed/power freak, I’ll start watching ‘Top Gear’ next!
Latter in the evening I walk the dog, we go up through the village, there is a cottage that is always awash with colour and warmth, the door always ajar, the same every summer, people coming and going, the sound of laughter and chatter in rich local accents flowing out. The colour comes from the sliver of a garden, full of gaudy dahlias amongst the geraniums and fuchsias with trellises of scented sweet peas on the whitewashed walls. The colour outside is mirrored on the inside with jugs of fresh cut flowers in the windows. But its not like that this year, the house is empty and locked up, the windows without flowers are as dull as slate, dark and soulless; in the flower beds just the fuchsias hang heavy with blooms, no sweet peas no dahlias, the lady who lived here has died.
I wonder what will become of the cottage it is chocolate box pretty with views across the harbour. On the open market it is likely to be out of the reach of the next generation of local people (this area is the hunting ground of the obese city bonus looking for a holiday home, where it is common to pay half a million for a house with a sea view just to flatten it and rebuild.) The houses are locked up for most of the year, so with scant customers for so many weeks the village shop and post office can’t survive and have closed, its sad to see, each year a little of the character and life of the village ebbs away. I suppose it is hypocritical of me to think like this as a holiday visitor.
We walk on up past the church, its gravestones bare the same distinct local names, back through the centuries, the same names that you can still see above shops and boat yards across in Salcombe to this day. On the church notice board is announcement of the very substantial amount collected for the RNLI, in memory of the lady from the village who has died, I always suspected she was a very popular person. In the distance I can hear the distinct sound of the life boat coming back into harbour and I remember how last year the lady and I had stood together and watched the life boat.