The Ocean At The End Of The Bed.

It’s late. The house is asleep or pretending to be. The smelly dog has padded down the stairs beside me in the almost dark and taken up his guard at my feet. Why is it so easy to believe that the dog can read my mind?

I have a thousand words swimming at the front of my head fighting for daylight and bright red warning lights burning at the sides telling me to self-edit, to just stop now and let it be.

I was away. We were in France. It was paradise. Almost.

We arrived at a wood cabin just in time for an Atlantic sunset. Down three steps and six leisurely paces from our door took us to a rickety picket fence and beyond that a thirty foot drop to the beach. The water was still warm, lapping turquoise and gold over tangerine sand. It was, truly, that good, like an ad for a perfect holiday.

We went to bed, toes pointing west, and the tide came in.

Waves crashed against the cliff, Ka-Boooommm, and dragged back sand, ki-shhishhhhhhhh.

At the top of the tide the waves hitting the cliff reverberated through the dune, across six paces, up three steps and rattled the house.


The draw back from each slapping wave sounded as though it was pulling the very ground from under me. The wind rose and a loose shutter took to banging in time.

Ki-shhishhhhhh-Pullll-Ka-Boooommm-rattlerattlerattle-BANG,  Ki-shhishhhhhh-Pullll-Ka-Boooommm-rattlerattlerattle-BANG,  Ki-shhishhhhhh-Pullll-Ka-Boooommm-rattlerattlerattle-BANG…

I lay awake with the certain knowledge that we were about be be tipped into the ocean, that feeling of spiders scuttling about in my chest. I listened closely for the ultimate sound that should send me dashing to throw my children out the windows. I listened and calculated, how long to drop thirty feet, how far to sink, and tried to breathe and dared not think the words it-will-be-alright.

Now. I have to go back and just typing that makes my head spin.

When I was eight my mother took a holiday with her girlfriends and my father brought my four year old sister and I to a seaside hotel. There’s a long story there, obviously, but it’s not mine to tell. We can skip to me, trying to get to sleep in a hotel bedroom. It was, I think, our fourth night in the hotel, my fourth night in any hotel and it still felt strange. My Dad had gone downstairs to the bar. My sister was asleep. I had read a few chapters of Black Beauty. It was a lovely hard back copy from a collection of children’s classics. My mother had bought them from the travelling salesman who sold her the World Book encyclopedia and she kept them all in the breakfront bookcase which was her pride and joy. The book retained the smell of pledge furniture polish. It smelled of home.

I had a bedtime ritual. Oh Angel of God, my guardian dear, and now I lay me down to sleep and if I die before I wake and then God bless Mammy and Daddy and Everyone Who Loves Me and then I said to myself, Holy God will take care of us, it-will-be-alright.

Then my Daddy was shouting Get Up, Lynda, Get Out Of Bed and I did what I was told and rolled out unto my feet and he was lifting my sister from her bed and urging me towards the bathroom and my feet were burning because the ground was hot and it was dark but I could see the orange light outside the curtains.

We went to the bathroom window and he lifted me out to the ledge and I looked down and saw a cluster of men holding their hands up and telling me to jump and I worried that my nightdress would billow out but I did what I was told and I jumped and, after a second, they caught me. My sister was dropped behind me and we were bundled to the other side of the street and wrapped in stranger’s coats.

There was heat, infernal heat and flames and sparks falling but mostly I remember a roaring noise and staring at that bathroom window waiting to see Daddy come out. He went back in you see, to save a baby. There’s another long story there. We had played with her all week on the beach. He went back through our room and tried to get down the corridor to her room but he couldn’t make it. He didn’t get her. They never found her. She was so little, I suppose there was nothing left.

Eventually, he came out the same window.

We were on the six o’clock news and the front page of the newspaper.

We don’t talk about it.

I don’t know what the triggers are. It’s not every holiday but some. It might have been the smell of Malibu sun cream or the hot sand or the booming noise. I don’t know.

I am so, so glad to be home. In a house that doesn’t shake and has a shitload of smoke alarms. I’m sorry I ruined my Husband’s holiday because I couldn’t speak.

It wasn’t all bad. The cheese was smelly, in the best possible way, and the wine was red and plentiful. I nearly have a tan. Well, many freckles. I have dozens of photos to show you but not tonight.

There are reasons, I’m sure, why I shouldn’t publish this post but I can’t, in my sleep-deprived state, remember what they are.

Now, to sleep.

Thanks for listening.




32 thoughts on “The Ocean At The End Of The Bed.

  1. Wow Lynda….. so many questions I have……so much raw, honest truth here that makes me want to give you a hug and offer coffee or wine (depending on the time of day) and talk and talk – for we all have stories. Life sure loves to throw curve balls 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gosh, what a tragic fire – how awful and sad. Thank goodness your father was able to rescue you and your sister. No wonder the memory of this event rears its head. I’m glad you had a good holiday nevertheless.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Being triggered into reliving (perhaps even subconsciously) the horror of a traumatic experience goes with the territory. You should see a doctor.

    Many people live with it, but since we rarely talk about it, that’s not very helpful to others.

    I’ve lived with PTSD since the car accident – it’s one of the themes in my new book, An Honest House.


  4. Life can be so cruel to children…and not to be able to understand what was happening in the moment….sorry that you have had to go through that and then have it come back to bite you whenever it feels it should….so not fair…..however I could close my eyes and hear the ocean breaking against the beach and being pulled back….and the sounds of the night wind bumping in the night….I lived on the Pacific Ocean for many childhood years and know the sound of the ocean well…and smell….I am sorry that you had to relive that memory on your vacation….hope you found some joy!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. I somehow missed commenting when I read this before. Your telling of this story is blistering, quite literally blistering. And the silence. The not talking of it, searing in its sadness. That is all I have to say. Because it is not for me to comment further on something so absolutely unerringly tragic that can never be made better nor soothed nor there-there’d.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I was 11 years old when i spent the afternoon with my mum and nana at the central hotel on that day. We were in the lounge and I was bored but a little girl in a pink jumpsuit with the same name as me…Nicola…caught my attention and wouldn’t leave me alone!! She just wanted me to play with her which I did. We were staying in a holiday cottage a mile outside Bundoran. I wasn’t told for a good few weeks that the little girl with the same name as me had died. I have never forgotten her. Your dad was a hero for trying to save her. Your story really touched me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nicola, It is difficult for me to express how grateful I am to you for taking the time to comment here. I have so rarely spoken aloud about the fire, the words just stick in my throat, and when I have, no one else seems to remember it – the Stardust fire is the one they remember. I have sometimes wondered if it was all a figment of my imagination, a nightmare. I can’t speak about it with my parents as that would open a whole, unbearable, can of worms about why we were there, why my mother wasn’t there and what exactly was my father’s relationship to Nicola. By writing to me you have, strangely, re-enforced my sanity. How bizarre to think we were both there that day and little Nicola the link between us. Seriously, thank you very much.


  8. Hi Lynda… I think this must be my tenth attempt to reply to you! I was just really taken aback by your message. I didn’t expect that sharing my memory of that day would of got such a lovely response. It was a short sad memory from my childhood but I have never forgotten little Nicola. I know for you it was a major trauma and has affected your life ever since. I hope you don’t think I’m out of line but sometimes I believe that talking about that ‘can of worms ‘no matter how hard it is for the family, is the best and only way of moving forward. Before you know it family members have passed and it’s too late. Regardless of that horrible time it looks like you are doing ok! I am so glad to have talked to you and it’s all down to the little Nicola ….it’s a strange world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not at all, Nicola! I suppose I have been processing over the last few days. Also, I don’t write when the kids are about the house.
      I very much appreciate your reply and think your advice is probably wise. I’ll need to ponder a while longer!
      Wishing you well,


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