I arrived in London at my mother’s house and there by the door were these two wooden bellyboards, they brought back vague memories of childhood holidays in Lyme Regis. Stormy days when the whole family would pack a picnic and head off to Charmouth beach to catch the waves under the cliffs, Mary Anning’s dinosaurs embedded in the mud. The children were only allowed waist deep half terrified by threats of currents that would whisk us away, half ecstatic to be carried onto the shingle beach and washed up frozen and bruised on the shore. Then we would sit shivering and numb eating cream teas and drinking flasks of tea from my dad’s whicker hamper.
My uncle, having read the riot act to the younger generation, would swim way out into the waves naked, and come back to the beach and warm up with a flagon of scrumpy cider. I picked up a valuable lesson – artists didn’t have to obey the rules.
‘But where did the boards come from?’ I now wondered.
My mum told me they bought them in Cornwall before the war about 1937. I had never seen my family as surf pioneers, but it fitted in with my grandmother riding a motorbike round London in the twenties and doing Isadora Duncan style dancing in a toga……
‘Oh, maybe I’ll take them home and try them out.’I said.
‘What???? They’re mine! I haven’t given up yet’ she said, ‘I’m only 88. We might take them back to Cornwall and surf together , but you’re not taking them anywhere without me!