Home > Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery (Little Beach Street Bakery #2)(2)

Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery (Little Beach Street Bakery #2)(2)
Jenny Colgan

Neil thought this was a brilliant game and shot off round the lighthouse once more to show her what he could do. When he landed back on the windowsill, his big black eyes were expectant.

‘Oh for goodness’ sake,’ said Polly, then – and she would never have done this if Huckle had been there – she leaned over and gave him a scrap of the cheese twist, which the little bird wolfed down happily, pecking up the few remaining crumbs. He pecked so hard he ended up hopping backwards and slipping off the window ledge.

‘Neil!’ shouted Polly, then felt a complete idiot as he flapped his wings and fluttered back up to window level.

‘You are scaring the life out of me,’ she said. ‘Come in or go out, not both.’

Neil chose to come in. He landed on the floor, then waddled across the room, inspecting the rough-hewn wooden floor carefully just in case there were any crumbs there Polly had missed.

‘Right,’ said Polly. ‘I’m going back to work. Behave yourself.’

She took a glance round the sitting room, making sure she had everything. Once you got to the bottom of the lighthouse, you very much didn’t want to find you’d forgotten something and have to go all the way back up again. Huckle wanted them to get a fireman’s pole, but Polly was highly resistant.

The little round room didn’t contain much furniture apart from her absolutely lovely old posh sofa that she’d brought with her from Plymouth, and which had had to be completely unscrewed and taken apart to get it up the stairs. It had taken most of the day, but it was worth it, Polly thought.

On the floor below was a bedroom with a tiny bathroom hollowed out next to it; then came the machinery floor, then the ground floor with its basic kitchen, a bathroom and another sitting room. There was also a separate low building, an ugly pebble-dashed flat-roofed space with a couple of rooms, but they didn’t quite know what to do with that. A little garden led down through the rocks; Huckle was going to take a shot at it, although he wasn’t confident they’d manage to grow much more than mussels and seaweed. Someone had put little rows of seashells following the steps down from the lighthouse and across to the main path, and they made a pretty sight as Polly jumped down on to the cobbles, around the harbour wall and into Mount Polbearne proper.

It wasn’t far, but at high tide and on stormy days you could get pretty wet going from one to the other, as the waves smashed over the top of the sea wall and the spray filled the air with salt.

Today, however, was breezy but clear, a few small clouds scudding past the high lighthouse windows, a hint of sun threatening to come out but never quite managing it. The tide was out, which meant the road to the mainland was open, its brown cobbles glistening with water, and the fresh scent of the sea was heavy on the passing wind.

The little town of Mount Polbearne was perched impractically on the slope of the island, with everything leading up higgledy-piggledy to the ruined roofless church at the very top of the village.

The roads were cobbled and steep and winding; it was possible to bring your car into the town, but not advisable. Most people used the mainland car park and walked the few hundred metres. Some of the fishermen ran a taxi boat for anyone who got really stuck, but the majority of the locals knew the ebbing and flowing of the tides as well as they did the rhythm of the sunrise and sunset, and adjusted their plans accordingly.

And life was simpler here on the island. It couldn’t not be, when there was no such thing as Wi-Fi here (several people had suggested to Polly that she get it put in, but the telephone company had politely explained that they’d need to run an underwater cable and it would cost about £100,000 and would she like to contribute, so that had rather put the kibosh on that), or Internet shopping, or nightclubs or hen parties or airport flight paths or free newspapers.

Instead there were the rows of little grey stone houses, meandering ever upwards, some with flashy new glass extensions and roof terraces and balconies made out of wire, courtesy of intrepid second-homers who came for the weekend and put up with much ribbing and overcharging from the locals. There was the old pub, the Red Lion, which was based around an old courtyard, and still had tie-up rings and troughs for the horses from long ago. There was Andy’s fish and chip shop, with its picture of a huge fish and all the fishermen lined up grinning cheerily, which did the best herring and the freshest, crispiest chips – with extra bits – that would burn your fingers, then sting them with salt and vinegar. He sold Fanta and Tizer and dandelion and burdock, and it was a short hop over the cobbled Beach Street to sit and eat on the harbour wall, watching the water and fending off the seagulls.

There was Muriel’s minimart, which sold absolutely everything, and Patrick the vet, who shared his consulting office with a young GP called Callie, who only came in twice a week; and the old bakery that used to be run by Mrs Manse, who had been Polly’s landlady when she had first arrived in Mount Polbearne and had made her life incredibly difficult by refusing to let her bake any bread. Now she had retired and lived with her equally bad-tempered sister in Truro, leaving Polly free to run her own bakery as she wished.

The last place on the quay was a flashy new restaurant, too expensive for the original dwellers, but very popular with visitors. It specialised in the fresh fish the men unloaded from their boats every morning. At this early hour nets were being mended, catches being tallied up, and a couple of the fishermen waved to Polly as she went past, asking what flavour of michette (a type of small loaf very popular with the working men) she was making that day. Then they all shouted a hello to Neil, who, Polly realised crossly, was following her to work again. It wasn’t good for him to come to the bakery: customers gave him too many titbits, and despite the fact that her kitchen was utterly spotless – thanks to Jayden, her assistant – if a health inspector ever came past and caught so much as a whiff of seabird, she’d be in trouble. The fact that nobody could possibly arrive on Mount Polbearne without absolutely everybody noticing was not, she had told Jayden sternly, the point.

It had been almost a year since the great storm, a massive hooley that had blown up from nearly nowhere, wrecked the fleet, and cost the loss of Cornelius ‘Tarnie’ Tarnforth, captain of the Trochilus, and, briefly, Polly’s lover. The day had not yet come when Polly could walk along the stretch of boats without remembering him. It had taken the town a long time to heal.

Polly dinged the bell of the Little Beach Street Bakery, with its pretty pale grey facade – painted by her ex, Chris – and its lovely italic writing: Proprietor, Ms P. Waterford. She rarely looked at that without feeling a wave of pride. There was a small queue of people already waiting, and Jayden was dishing up the warm morning loaves. Today there was a choice of pan, thin-sliced and the heavy sourdough that was a harder sell but that made in Polly’s opinion wonderful toast.

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