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I don't know whether one could call my life a disaster, or a series of
miracles. I have seen tragedies that you think only happen in
newspapers or novels, yet I have also seen what comes out the other
side and that it is way above average human morals. I am proud to have
lived amongst such strong and determined individuals whom I hope will
teach others to follow in their footsteps.
Of all my childhood memories, one sticks out to have affected me most.
I can remember the look of deep fear on my mother's weary face. I
wanted to reach out and have her hold me close to her, but I knew that
I was no safer with her than in the arms of Edith, my oldest sister
under the dining room table. I could hear the huge rip and then crash
of the monster waves beating against the side of our house. I had
heard of the huge storms years ago before I was born, but they hadn't
become real until now. Suddenly, there was the splintering smash of
shattering glass and cold salt water hit me in the face. I was sick on
Edith but she didn't have time to care as she ran frantically around
the swamped house looking for something to barricade the broken
I must have passed out after that because the next thing I remember is
waking up alone in Uncle George's barn. I brushed the scratchy straw
from my salty clothes while I could hear my baby sister Clara crying
from the house. As I entered the cottage kitchen Aunt Francis had a
bowel brimming with steaming porridge. So as to not offend her I
gulped it down quickly while she gave Clara her bottle. I then asked
her about the previous night. She explained to me how the waves had
destroyed our home. Half the village was living in ruins now, all
because a cement factory dredged our beach of all its shingle. I
couldn't quite understand how this made the waves eat up our village
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"The Calm After the Storm - Original Writing." 123HelpMe.com. 19 Jun 2019
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beach meant there was nothing between the sea's storms and our small
village below the cliff edge.
Aunt Francis told me that the family would need my help sorting what
was salvageable or not from what was left of our house. I was
dumbfounded by what yesterday was my home. Shattered glass mosiaced
the floor and the whole front of the house had been swallowed by the
sea. The thatched roof had collapsed in half and now made a V-Shape
inside my mother's bedroom, which was quite visible considering the
absence of the wall.
Mother set me to work by the stove. As I tried to light it I heard her
and Uncle George talking about where we were going to stay. We
couldn't seek refuge in the neighbouring village as our work tied us
to the sea as we all worked on the fishing boats. Our mother was a
widow so two of my sisters and I worked with our Uncle and our cousin
Harold on two boats. George said we could stay in the barn but he may
have to stable his two mares in what was left of our house.
After I had made everybody a cup of tea, Patience and I were sent to
our room to collect what was left of our clothes and possessions. Men
had had to bore holes in our floor to let the water drain through into
the kitchen. The only things that had survived the storm were those
things packed in the trunk or the chest of drawers. After we had
carried all those things to the barn we hung our bed linen on the
thatch to dry out.
After the house had been sorted the others went out fishing and to
search for our other boat that had been washed from the sea wall in
the storm. There was however, very little of hope of recovering it.
Only mother and I stayed behind. There was no room in the boat for all
There was much to do in the village. Mother went sent me up to the
London Inn to offer my services as we had heard that they had been hit
hard in the storm as well. Mother however stopped to help Mr and Mrs
Feverell, the owners of the village shop. The London Inn was at the
far end of the village, so on my way I was able to look back and see
the damage done to the whole village. Even at the age of six I could
still tell that last night's calamity had struck catastrophic disaster
upon us. Over half the village must have been made homeless. There are
few liveable properties here now. It is a miracle that everyone is
alive and only two families have left the village of Hallsands
When I had nearly reached the Pub I noticed that there was a huge
crack in the road, which would make it impossible for me to go on any
further. I crouched down on the grass and watched the men scurrying
around at the London Inn. The front entrance had been blocked off and
the whole cloakroom and cliff half the building was built on had slid
into the ocean.
Unlike many disasters, after a few days village life didn't return to
normal. Even after weeks, months and many years, life in the village
of Hallsands would never return to the ordinary. The only thing that
rose nearer the norm after a few days was morale. The strong will of
the Hallsands people went on, and times certainly got no easier.
Like many times before, the villagers sought compensation for the
hardship we had all been through. In the past the cement company that
dredged the shingle had sent replies back saying that the reason our
village was slowly and painfully being sucked away from us was of
natural cause. However this time the damage done was all too clear.
The company paid us a barely adequate amount of money, yet we had
nobody to complain to, we needed it desperately. The local newspaper
also donated an appreciated amount of money towards the building of
My family and I on the other hand were eventually much luckier. It was
the winter before we were due to move into our new cottage. Fourteen
years of hardship had been endured. I was twenty. A row of nine two
bed roomed cottages had been built for the 'homeless' population of
Hallsands. I was to share a room with all my three sisters and Granny
was to sleep with Mama. Although it would be a squash for a while,
Clara was to marry in six months.
It was a very cold Sunday, well below freezing. Sam (my 10 year old
cousin) and I were out on a fishing trip. We did not usually fish on a
Sunday but household funds were low. We believed that we were the only
vessel out. Visibility was low but we knew the bay well enough to
navigate by memory. It was going well and after a couple of hours I
felt we had enough to return home. However as I was turning the boat
around I heard a chilling sound, a human voice. The wind was loud and
I had often thought that it was talking to me, as if to deceive me.
This time it was different, it sounded fearful. It touched me deeply
and although Sam thought I was mad I turned the boat again, this time
in the direction of the ghostly voice. I heard it again and realised
that a man was only about ten feet to my right. I started calling out.
My oar suddenly touched something solid. Sam shouted, 'Don't look!'
but it was too late, I saw a dead sailor floating away on his front. I
called out again and I could faintly see a moving body clinging to a
plank of wood.
As I drew nearer all the sailor could do was thank me. He nearly
slipped as I pulled him aboard and some of our catch disappeared into
the freezing water. When I touched him I was amazed at how cold he
was. The water on his hair and nose was frozen and he looked as blue
as the sky on a clear day. I quickly ripped my jacket, scarf and hat
off and wrapped up the sailor while Sam rowed. After a while the
sailor dropped off to sleep so Sam and I had an oar each which
increased the speed by a great deal.
When we arrived at the bay, Sam rushed for help. Mother and the other
women came rushing. They informed us that someone had heard the crash
of a vessel colliding with the reef in the night. This answered a lot
of my questions. She also told me that the men had left with the
lifeboat to recover anyone else from the wreck, but this turned out to
be a fruitless search.
The sailor's family was very grateful to me for saving his life. So
grateful that they paid me a huge reward of one thousand five hundred
pounds! This made us extremely wealthy and there were many debates
within the family as to what we should do with it. In the end I
decided to build a large building above Hallsands as a memorial.
I am now thirty-five and no longer have to fish for a living seven
days a week. I have turned my house into a hotel with seven guest
rooms and I have built a platform that stretches over the cliff edge
so that everyone can see where once the village of Hallsands once
stood. Full of happy people who had no worries and never had to lock
their properties because everyone knew and trusted everyone. This is a
community that hopefully won't be forgotten in a hurry.
This story and the characters are based on a small ruined village in
Devon, in the early 20th century.