Saturday, January 3, 2009

Greyling Bay

A seaside town with a harbour full of fishing boats and tourists, where you can pay to sail across the bay and imagine yourself pulling your living from the lapping waves as the sky soars blue above you. But think about fishing in winter, when you set off hours before dawn; when the lines freeze to your hands as you heave them in, and the waves lurch above you with every turn of the wind.

Where the mountains rise high behind the town and the only road out is sometimes blocked by a sudden fall of snow, a slow slide of mud-choked rocks; a tree, falling away from the sweeps of pine which cloak the mountains' lower reaches, beaten by the relentless slicing of the wind.

There used to be a hospital in the town which people came to from all over: it overlooked the promenade and all day long the patients turned their faces westwards, to the sea, watched the silt-green waves rolling across the cobbled beach, and slowly they improved. Now the hospital buildings are raggedy flats and residents come and go as regularly as the waves on the beach.

There's a university a little inland, quietly failing; to the north, around the peak of the bay, a caravan park. The students, the holidaymakers, the tourists—these transitory people wash through the town, the numbers swelling and retreating like a tide. The real inhabitants—the fishermen and shopkeepers and cleaners, the waitresses and teachers: the permanent inhabitants, the people who live here, with nowhere else to go—what do they do with their days? What do they think? And why do they stay?

Jane Smith


Anonymous said...

I am excited! What a great idea

Anonymous said...

ooh, Jane, how intriguing. Part of me is working out if GB really exists (- Aberystwyth meets Morecambe!!?)or is it really just a composite place of fiction?
And as someone who works in a small university I'm worried about one that is 'quietly failing'...
And where will it all end? (as a project I mean.) Are we talking 'Corduroy Mansions'?!
Great idea for the New Year, anyway. Hope you'll post some more 'pour encourager les autres'. cheers

Amethyst Willow said...

This sounds like an amazing idea, I'm really intrigued. I agree with AliB I thought of Aberystwyth the moment you mentioned caravan park haha. But I also think of Scarborough for some reason, or Robin Hood's Bay. Have you used all these places as vague inspiration? Or is it completely fictional?
- Willow

Jane Smith said...

Damn, I've been rumbled.

My mother's family was from Aberystwyth; my great uncle was a fisherman who worked out of the harbour; I spent many of my childhood holidays there, and now we take our kids there too (we had a wonderful three days at the Marine Hotel last August, right on the Prom).

But I'll remind you: GB is a fictional town. The writing here can be, ahem, informed by our childhood memories; but it can't be based on them too closely for fear of charges of libel. And we wouldn't want that!

Anonymous said...

Woohoo - how did I guess - have only been there once- must be my Celtic blood!
Don't worry - have plenty of experience of fictionalising known places!

Anonymous said...

BTW am now following with my blogger ID of Green Goddess (just to see how it works!)

Jane Smith said...

Ali, I'll admit: my first novel, and the one I'm writing now, and the one that's beginning to form in my mind, are all set on the west Wales coast. It's a place that somehow works for me, even though I've never lived there for any real stretch of time. I love to visit, and always write well when I have it in mind.

Thank you for following this: it does seem popular, and I've already had seven submissions. Get your work in now, before I'm swamped!

Anonymous said...

Jane - how interesting, but then the sense of place is so important ...
Your first submission has def set a standard. Would love to contribute - just a small matter of tearing myself away from the current novel which I'm on a New Year mission to complete. (BTW it's set in my native Scotland which I left 30 years ago. If interested, check out the WIP page on my site.)


Cliff Burns said...

"residents come and go as regularly as the waves on the beach"

Like this, Jane, the sense of place you manage to impart with a few choice words.

You have, as they say, "the right stuff"...

Jane Smith said...

Ah, Cliff, thank you for that. I considered this part of the furniture here, not one of the real contributions, and your comments are most welcome.

I've not yet dipped my toe into the water of Greyling Bay, but might do soon. I hope you'll contribute soon.

Laurie Paulsen said...

hi, jane--
thanks so much for the invitation. i love this place! a generous and creatively inspiring concept--can't wait to read more of the stories.
(and thank you for dropping by my digs--so glad you came!)