Vicky Ewan: Why Dawlish holds a very special place in my heart

Torbay Weekly

Part of my heart is lodged deeply and irretrievably in Dawlish.

I have lived there twice in my life: the first time was during my childhood, the destination of a relocation from Oxford, dictated by a new job for my father.

I don't remember my reaction to moving close to the sea, but I do recall a summer of beach days early on, when Boat Cove seemed ours alone and every day was brimful of sunshine and promise.

My brother and I befriended some holidaymakers that year, a pair of sisters who loved the beach as passionately as we did.

Our new chums, freckled, sand-speckled and easy-going, were the ideal companions for an intense summer friendship.

We spent our sun-drenched days in their company, our mothers chatting the hours away, as we examined the treasures the sea threw upon the shore for our pleasure each day.

We gawped at the colossal crabs whose carcasses we would find afresh every morning; their encrusted burnt-umber shells and carelessly splayed limbs were a source of dreadful fascination that fired our childish imaginations with an other-worldly light.

Together, we sibling pairs ruled the waves, racing over the sandy shore and yelling "Intercity 1-2-5!" every time one of those magnificent beasts would obligingly thunder past us on the tracks.

It was a magical time.

When not careering across red-gold sands, during the constraints of term time I could be found cavorting with the local majorette group.

Representing Dawlish, we were appropriately identified as Black Swans and Cygnets, denominations allocated according to age.

I vividly recall the occasion when we participated in a local competition. I had learned to twirl my baton - my pride and joy - in all of two different ways, and was supremely proud.

Of course, that didn't prevent me from coveting the nonchalant expertise of the older girls, who would fling their own batons into the air and catch them again with consummate ease.

I would watch, mesmerised, as each slender silver rod with its thick white rubber tips span through the air, describing graceful arcs and flashing as it caught the light before slipping back into its owner's hands like a key into a lock.

I was in love with the costumes we had for that event: orange and black tartan kilts, white ruffle-fronted shirts and black velvet waistcoats.

They represented the epitome of style for me, and the beaming smile I am sporting in the photos my parents took are enduring testimony.

We didn't win the competition, I am sorry to say. The glamorous and ultra-talented Tracey Troupers - ah, even their name elicited a deep-set chagrin! - twirled their way to a well-deserved victory.

My family swapped Dawlish for the allure of the English Riviera when I was still at primary school, and it wasn't until I had moved into adulthood that I returned to the town with my husband and infant daughter in tow.

We rented a compact and bijou cottage in a pretty street, perfectly placed betwixt shops, park and health centre.

My husband and I raised our two young children there in what seems in retrospect to be some kind of idyll; I developed good friendships, found my way back to church, took up a part-time job and learned how to drive.

My husband was gainfully employed with a happy social life and a thriving garden of subtropical beauties in which he was cultivating a pronounced skill.

Our daughters were happy at school and preschool and enjoyed visits to the swings, ballet, the library and the beach.

And then, one by one, my friends began to catch up with me in the offspring stakes, rekindling in me the desire to have children - and therein lies the rub.

The charming, cosy cottage we rented was stretching at the seams with two little ones; when I realised I was expecting a third child, we knew time was up in our lovely home.

More financially secure by this point, we were ready to purchase our first home but unequal to the sophisticated prices Dawlish commanded, and it was with profound disappointment that we realised we would need to move.

The exodus to Torquay took place two months before our third baby's birth but that small piece of my heart is still tucked away in a forgotten corner of our former home.

Thank goodness I still have my old front door key.