Effie & DaVid
Whitesands Bay, Pembrokeshire
Could you tell me about the original photograph?
My name is Effie, the original photograph was taken very near here, probably right on this spot, about 20 years ago. I was 12 or 13 when the photo was taken of my dad and me in Pembrokeshire, near St. Davids, just above Whitesands bay.
Do you remember much about the day it was taken?
I think it probably would have been a very ordinary day when we were here on holiday. We probably would have gone to the beach, been on a long walk and had some lunch, very ordinary things like that. I don't remember the day. I think I'm wearing my swimming costume actually, so we'd probably been in the sea.
Could you tell me what's in the picture?
It's my dad and me, standing on the coast, just in front of the sea, the sea in the background and we're standing next to the little cottage where we used to stay and come back to year after year. It was known as 'Toad Cottage' to us, I think it was my brother that named it, because we'd get lots of toads from the pond opposite, and they'd turn up in our shoes and things and we'd find them hiding in the cottage, so that's how it got it's name! We're just standing side-by-side, but looking at each other. I'm scowling a bit and he's smiling at me, which is quite typical I think!
"It was known as 'Toad Cottage' to us, I think it was my brother that named it, because we'd get lots of toads from the pond opposite, and they'd turn up in our shoes and things and we'd find them hiding in the cottage, so that's how it got it's name!"
Was it a particularly special place for you?
Yes it was. I think mainly because it was very familiar, we kept coming back to it, but I mean, it's a special, wonderful, magical place here. It's wild, there's so much sea and sky, we all loved it. We were drawn to it, because it is special, because of the city as well, the history, the landscape, my dad loved all of that, but then it became special because it was a place that we would return to.
Is it a place you've been back to regularly?
No, never! I haven't been back since actually. Since my dad died, we haven't come back as a family. I don't know why. There were other special places we'd go to, that maybe were a bit closer, but no, this is the first time I've come back.
How does it feel to be back here today, in this place?
It's a bit strange, and a bit sad, quite peaceful as well. There's something about going back to a place and reconnecting that helps you to reconnect to a memory or a person, grounding yourself in a place, that helps I think. It helps to get back in touch with a person, and memories. It's lovely to be back.
"There's something about going back to a place and reconnecting that helps you to reconnect to a memory or a person, grounding yourself in a place, that helps I think. It helps to get back in touch with a person, and memories. It's lovely to be back."
What was your Dad like, who was he to you?
He'd been a monk for many years. So he was always a bit 'monkish' and otherworldly, he had his head in the clouds a bit. He was obsessed with history and he almost lived partly with one foot in the past, but that's not to say he wasn't engaged with the present and with us. He'd inhabited the very unusual world of the monastery, and he'd carried that with him. He was gentle, eccentric, and not at all interested in material things, had a very deep faith and quite a silly sense of humour, quite whimsical. He loved his family and being in a family, having been in his alternative family for so long at the monastery. He was down to earth, very in the world, but in a way not very of the world. I think maybe he was a bit unusual, old fashioned and quirky, but I don't think I was ever particularly embarrassed about that, I didn't have any of that typical 'oh my gosh, my parents!', I think was actually quite proud of that odd side to him.
How was he as a dad? Are there things within you that you think you've inherited from him?
I'd love to think that I'm like him in some ways. I suppose I am. I don't know. He was a writer, and I'd like to write more and I do like writing when I do it, so maybe that's something that I've inherited a little bit of. He was definitely a deep thinker and interested in the human side of history, so he wrote a couple of books and they were full of characters. He was interested in the personalities of the past, it wasn't dry, he was quite into the psychology of the past. He was a teacher as well, he loved his students and they loved him, and he looked after them.
"It does amplify the loss. It makes you wonder. He died a long time ago now. I've longer without him than with him, so I don't know, there's such a loss of a relationship and you don't know what it would have been like, how it would have developed."
When it came to selecting a photograph, did you know which one to choose instinctively?
There were lots and lots to choose from, lots of special ones, all focussed around the mundane, family life, which is actually magical in hindsight. We've got lots of photos of him, they're really precious, but this one is a favourite of mine, partly because of the place, and partly because of my face as I'm scowling in it! I think he's humouring me in the way that he would, humouring my moods and my grumpiness, that's quite typical!
What was it like going back to the spot and retaking it?
It does amplify the loss. It makes you wonder. He died a long time ago now. I've longer without him than with him, so I don't know, there's such a loss of a relationship and you don't know what it would have been like, how it would have developed. It's peaceful, it feels OK to come back.
In that sense, do you feel like you've missed out?
Yes, dreadfully. I get very envious of friends with dads and that relationship, yes.
It's father's day tomorrow actually, so it feels significant to be here and even though it doesn't necessarily help to be envious of someone who's Dad is still around?
Maybe envy isn't the right word, maybe it is, but just that sort of notion that they're lucky, isn't it nice to see that, to have that relationship and it's particularly a special relationship between a father and daughter, they're special.
Do you feel like photographs have been important in crafting memories and remembering who he was and the role he played in your life?
Yes, they have been really important, as a way of remembering and keeping in mind happy memories, I think they're useful for that. Little tiny snapshots into a life, a family life, but actually the thing that is most evocative, more than photographs is the smell here. It instantly takes me back, it just smells the same.
How has it been engaging with the photograph and talking about it?
A little bit difficult, because I it's something I tend to be quite private about, but it's a good way of forcing me to engage with something and this is just a part of a little pilgrimage, so I wouldn't necessarily go there if it wasn't for this, it's quite useful, so it's instigated something.
Is there anything else that you wanted to add?
It's a wonderful thing to reconnect with the land and a particular spot. It's really special, there's something about going there, literally, it's very interesting.