“Stop it,” Polly said in a warning voice. “It’s not funny.”
Neil ignored her and continued to beat on the little high window with his beak until she could be persuaded to go over and give him a snack.
He was outside the lighthouse they had moved into the previous month, all three of them together, Polly, Neil the puffin, and Huckle, Polly’s American boyfriend, who has parked his motorbike and sidecar at the bottom of the tower. It was their only mode of transport.
The lighthouse hadn’t been lived in for a long time, not since the lamps were electrified in the late seventies. It has four floors and a circular staircase that ran around the sides, thus making it, as Huckle had pointed out more than once, the single draftiest place in human history. They were both getting very fit running up and down it. One floor held the heavy machinery that had one turned the workings, which couldn’t be removed. On the top floor, just below the light itself, was their sitting room, which has views right across the bay and, on the other side, back toward Mount Polbearne, the tidal island where they lived and worked, with its caseway to the mainland that covered and uncovered itself with the tides.
From these windows you could see the little Beach Street Bakery, the ruined shop that Polly had revitalized when she has moved to the village just over two years ago, getting over a failed business and a failed relationship back on the mainland.
She hadn’t originally expected to do much in Mount Polbearne except sit and lick her wounds until she was ready to head back into the fray again, back to working a corporate lifestyle; hadn’t for a moment thought that in the tumbledown flat above the shop she would come back to life by practicing her favorite hobby – baking bread – and that this would turn into a career when she reopened the old closed-down bakery.
It wasn’t the most lucrative of careers, and the hours were long, but the setting was so wonderful, and her work so appreciated, by both the townspeople and the tourists, that she had found something much satisfying than money: she has found what she was meant to be doing with her life. Well, most of the time she thought that. Sometimes she looked around at the very basic kitchen she had installed (her old flat in Plymouth had sold, and she’d managed to get the lighthouse at a knockdown price mostly, as Lance the estate agent had pointed out, because only an absolutely crazy person could possibly want to live in a draft, inaccessible tower with a punishing light shining out of it) and wondered if she’d ever manage to fix the window frames, the window frames being number one on a list of about four thousand things that urgently needed doing.
Huckle had offered to buy the place with her, but she had resisted. She had worked too hard to be independent. Once before she had shared everything, been entirely enmeshed financially with someone. It had not worked out, and she was in no mood to repeat the experience.
Right now, she wanted to sit in her eyrie of a sitting room at the very top of the house, drink tea, eat a cheese twist and simply relax and enjoy the view: the sea, ever changing; clouds scudding past so close she could touch them; the little fishing boats bobbing out across the water in faded greens and browns, their winches and nets heavy behind them, looking tiny and fragile against the vast expanse of the sea. She just needed five minutes’ peace and quiet before heading down to the bakery to relieve her colleague Jayden for the lunchtime shift.
Neil, the little puffin who had crashed into her life one night in a storm and remained there ever since, did not agree. He found the activity of flying outside, high up, and still being able to see her through the window utterly amazing, and liked to do it again and again, sometimes taking off to fly all the way around the lighthouse and come back in the other side, sometimes pecking at the glass because Huckle thought it was funny to feed him tidbits out of the window even though Polly had told him not to.
Polly put down her book and moved over to the window, struck as she never ceased to be – she wondered if she would ever grow tired at it – by the amazing cast of the sun silvering in and out behind the clouds over the waves, the gentle cawk of the seagulls and the whistling wind, which could turn thunderous on winter days. She still couldn’t quite believe she lived here. She opened the old-fashioned, single-glazed window with its heavy latch.
“Come in then,” she said, but Neil fluttered excitedly and tried to peck in between her fingers in case she had a tasty treat for him.
Easiest White Bread
Yes! This was in the original Little Beach Street Bakery, and we are reprinting it because it is so simple, so good and so foolproof, that if you’ve never baked your own bread before, we cannot think of a better place to start. So have a go, and send me a pic! Jenny xxx
700 g bread flour
1 sachet active dry yeast (2 ¼ tsp)
1 level tbsp.. salt
1 level tbsp. sugar
400 ml warm water
Sift the flour, then warm it slightly in the microwave (I do 600w for one minute). Add the yeast, salt, and sugar, then the water. Mix.
Knead on a floury surface for a few minutes until it’s a nice smooth ball.
Leave for 2 hours while you read the papers or go for a stroll.
Knead again for a few minutes.
Leave again for an hour while you take a nice relaxing bath.
Heat the oven to 450 degrees and grease a bread tin.
Leave in the oven for 30 minutes, or until it makes a hollow noise when tapped on the bottom.
Leave to cool as long as you can stand it, then devour.