Porthmey by Margot Grey

The gentle lapping of the waves on the shingle are hypnotic. The waves roll in before breaking softly on the stones, then the water draws back a foot or so before another wave forms and rolls up the beach, never the same as the preceding one.

The still bay of Porthmey is dotted with boats and dinghies, bobbing on the grey-blue water.  Closer to shore the breaking waves are brown as they roll over the shingle, whilst further out the deep water looks green. 

The Front runs just above the shoreline.  Here are a few gift shops, the old Ferry Hotel with its veranda restaurant, the even older church, seafood restaurants, and a few private houses.  Most of the inhabitants retreat to their scruffier houses in the steep hills during the summer months when tourists descend on Porthmey.  Many of the visitors stay in the Ferry Hotel or the guesthouses in the village, but most stay in Penmey Town, and come over on the regular ferry service.  The one coastal road that leads into Porthmey is often washed out, so the ferry is the most reliable and convenient way to visit the village.

The ferry docks at Porthmey’s small pier, jutting out into the sea in front of the Ferry Hotel.  The small information hut at the end of the pier handles all the ferry and boat tour bookings. 

The most popular tours are, of course, the seafolk sighters, in business for over a hundred years despite not a single seafolken encounter.  This abysmal record has not dampened the enthusiasm of the many optimistic tourists only too eager to pay for a local expert to show them the favourite caves, islands and beaches of the seafolk.  Or search for the (entirely fictitious) nesting shallows.  Or travel beyond the sheltered bay, and dive in the deeper waters hoping for a seafolk experience.

Fortunately there are things to do in Porthmey that do not involve seafolk.  In the summer months, children paddle kayaks around the pier.  Closer to shore are the swimmers, enjoying the summer sunshine.  Small yachts glide gracefully over the waves, skipping around the forested headland and out of sight. 

In the evening people sit out on The Front, under the blossom of trees whose branches have been twisted by fierce winter weather.  Then it is time to wander along the beach between the upturned rowing boats that sit above the highwater mark.  Some of these boats are for hire, and others belong to Porthmey residents who regularly cross the bay to Penmey Town to get any supplies that the local shops do not stock. 

In the winter months there are no tourists.  The calm seas of summer become grey and wild, waves rushing up the shingle onto the Front, storms battering shutters and whistling through empty streets.  The villagers can see the lights of Penmey Town across the channel, but in these months it is too dangerous to try and cross.  Porthmey is cut off and self-sufficient, relying on its resourceful people to get through the cold, dark winter.  Volunteers staff vital services like the local ambulance and lifeboats.  During the day residents gather for Book Club or Coffee and Crochet in the library, or maybe afternoon tea or soup in the church hall.  In the evening the local pub, the Lobster Trap, does good trade, and the ballroom in the Ferryman’s basement is opened up for a Buffet with contributions from anyone who attends.

As soon as the road and sea routes become safe to traverse again, Porthmey goes through a spring clean.  Boats, guest houses and signs are re-painted; flower pots are replanted, and lawns are mowed and tidied; shops are re-stocked; the pier is checked, repaired and re-opened; the gallery puts on a new exhibition.  Soon everything is ready for the new wave of vistors and tourists, and the everyday Porthmey residents retreat back into the hills to wait for next winter.

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