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Salty, I say. Just salty.

Largs smells of fish and chips all the time, but Mum says It’s Common To Eat Them Often. Dad just says He’s Not Made of Money. Today though, me and Mum are alone for once and she’s not bothering to cook for just us two. I can’t quite see level with the open packet the fat lady has just slapped down on the counter. She sloshes vinegar over the food and waves towards the salt. Then she turns away to the till with the money Mum’s handed over, and whilst Mum is distracted by our greedy Labrador begging from customers I lift the salt cellar up. It’s large and heavy and sticky and my hand doesn’t reach around it fully. It’s shaped like a bigger version of the one Mum uses to sprinkle flour on the worktop before rolling out her pastry, with a perforated plastic lid. I upturn it, expecting to have to shake it. But instead the salt cascades out, hissing as it bounces off the food and the paper and onto the counter. The lady tuts and starts wiping around the packet before lifting it down to me. Mum notices and purses her lips, shaking her head. The dog drools and sits up nicely for me. I peer into the packet and see that the top layer of chips is frosted white with salt. Before I’m back on the pavement I have eaten them all. The rest don’t interest me.

My wee brother has sun burn. He ran around after the football in the back garden all day long last week. Mum tried to get his tee shirt back on him, luring him back indoors with a home-made ice lolly, but he shrieked and escaped with it, laughing, all reddening knees and ears and shoulders. Now he’s sitting on Mum’s dressing table stool, and I kneel on the carpet between the foot of the double bed and his bare back. A white line traces around the nape of his neck where his beautiful blonde hair has been cut, ready for school again. I can see Sean’s freckled face in the mirror, wincing, as I try out Mum’s lotions and creams on his crackly skin. It’s too late, I tell him, I can’t stick it back on. Iyah! he shouts as I rub. He’s been cycling the last day of the holidays away but now he’s given in to my game of beauty parlours. Then, just under his left shoulder blade, I gently pick at a dried-up edge and suddenly his skin implores me to keep going, keep peeling. I bring up my other hand and with both forefingers and thumbs I so, so, carefully peel across and downwards, all the way until the edge frays and the skin resists again. Keep still! I tell him. Sean’s head bobs from side to side in the mirror, impatient to see what’s happening. It’s tickly, he giggles, What are you doing? Delicately, and with a drama I know he can’t resist, I lift up the sheet of his skin and bring it into view in the mirror, suspending it above his shoulder in front of my face, holding my breath. The skin moves spookily on some unseen breeze, and Sean squeals. He clamps a hand over his mouth and moves as if to get up from the stool and run away. But he can’t. His eyes widen as he laughs under his fingers and I lift up my chin and open my mouth, holding his gaze in the mirror. The skin melts on to my tongue in a delicious instant and is gone. Eugh, Sean screeches, you cannibal! What’s it like? Mmmm, salty, I say. Just salty.

Our house sits at the end of what everyone calls ‘The Prom’: some tarmac above what they call ‘The Beach’. The council dumps sand on it sometimes, but by the next morning it’s shingle again. But The Prom frames the sort of view people marvel at come rain or shine. They come down from Glasgow especially, just to eat an ice cream whilst looking at it. But The Prom isn’t just for this, or for walking dogs, skateboarding or cycling on. There’s an old lady who takes her daily walk wearing a see-through mac over a bikini, even in winter. There are gangs of boys doing wheelies on Grifters. Creepy Uncle Willie preaches to empty pews in the summer. I kiss John in the pavilion by the mini golf, moving to the bench on the back when other people get too close. Every day of the seventeen years I’ve lived here I’ve been on The Prom. School satchels, windswept hair, eyelashes, scarves, dog leashes. Salt spray permeates them all - spring, summer, autumn and winter, hardening them, making them sticky to the touch, making them curl at the ends. When you can you wash the salt out, but usually you just live with it. After all, it’ll only happen again tomorrow.

I’ve started wearing lipstick. I don’t want to taste the salt on my lips every day anymore.

Karen Guthrie

Karen Guthrie is an artist and film-maker. Her most recent film, the autobiographical documentary The Closer We Get, screened internationally and was broadcast on the BBC. She is working on a memoir based on the film. Karen lives in the rural Lake District as a resident warden and gardener for Grizedale Arts. With them and their associate artists she made the installation The House of Ferment, which last appeared in Food: Bigger than the Plate at the V & A Museum in London. With Nina Pope, she founded Somewhere in 2002 and together they have produced many collaborative creative projects. Her work can be seen at