This part of the world now seems to be ours

Click to follow
The Independent Online
I do not think I could bear to be a person (there is one such on our favourite site) who has gone camping in the same field for 22 years running. Nor, even loving St David's, as I do, would I expect to find myself declaring - as a man did to me the other afternoon while we explored rock pools - that I have been to the area every year for 32 years. Yet I know what people mean when they say they love this part of the world. Even that phrase, 'this part of the world', seems to resonate: it has been current all my life for the holiday spots where people have left part of their hearts, and which they feel, quite irrationally, that they own.

There is a certain smugness in it, of course. Let the affluent rootlessly search for expensive paradises where restaurateurs dance hypocritical attention on them: we may need a windbreak on our hols but at least we have love affairs, not commercial flirtations, with our holiday haunts.

St David's is not always benign, and never for long. Perhaps that is why, though this part of Wales is at least as lovely as Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, it is not so crowded. Some holidays we have been cold most supper times and in bad years you never seem to be out of your anorak. But in good years (and on good days in bad years) the sun, wind and sea seem as bright, invigorating and sharp as any childhood memory.

Yesterday, for instance, we walked through purple heather sprinkled with blue harebell-like flowers, down to a cove where massive vertical slate cliffs stand with their feet in golden sand which is as flat as the deck of a ship, but rippled by the outgoing tide. Even a coward can swim through the clear water from cove to cove, and watch the cliff change colour (to russet and Air Force blue). One fine-tunes one's interest in perspective and shape and ponders if this is how a seal sees the world.

We wait till the tide is far enough out and walk round to deep caves and paddle in them, feeling at least a bit like explorers because we know that signs of the last invasion of people were erased by the incoming sea, as ours will be.

One comes to familiar places like this with a sharpened sense of the passage of time. The bloke who takes us mackerel fishing says, 'Good God, is it another year?' The tent's fabric is more prone to ripping than ever. The 35-year-old boarding- school trunk looks even less probable a larder. The child who was here first as a toddler is now quite interested in lifeguards, and probably won't come on more than one or two of these jaunts again, at least not with us. Yet the young are all keen to enter the kid's regatta at a local (nicely scruffy) sailing club tomorrow, and remain politely appreciative of the panto and Shakespeare which a drama group from Birmingham (improbably and unfailingly brilliant) puts on nearby.

The kids, like the rest of us, are at an awkward age. I do not blame them for not finding much excitement in noticing, as I suddenly have, how extraordinarily vocal cows are in the middle of the night. There are cows and calves in the field next to our tents, and they have been waxing positively operatic at times when decent folk are asleep and when I slip out to have a pee. The kids are more interested in making pals and chatting late into the night.

It seems that each year we buy a bit of camping gear (a barbecue, a blow-up bed) but in 1994 we are feeling too broke for that sort of thing. Besides, we have perhaps slipped into the age group that flaunts the fadedness of its kit. We did buy a baseball bat, the beach apparatus in favour just now. We have not bought, nor are likely to, the new turbo sandals, all Velcro and aerospace soles. These are like mountain bikes: offensively expensive ways of delivering a hippy ideal. I shall stick to a Raleigh three-speed and a pair of plimsolls, thank you.

Meanwhile, at the sailing club in the chic little fishing village, I discuss this or that sailing boat I might buy, and go into a huddle with the harbourmaster about visitors' moorings. This all supposes that some boat or other is about to come in. I look at menus in the windows of bistros. I remain hopeful that Mrs North and I will become rather ritzy snowbirds, drifting from little spot to little spot. I cannot yet fancy the idea of becoming too Darby and Joan, playing Scrabble in an elderly caravan in the same corner of Britain for the same fortnight every year. I don't mind being rooted, but I don't want to be fixed.