Friday, 2 August 2013

Beside the Seaside

Being less of an English rose, more an unripened tomato, sitting out in the sun is never usually that high up on my list of things to do. Even after the winter being hijacked by the white witch of Narnia, and the sun finally resurfacing from wherever it had been hiding, I have still mostly been content to watch its comeback act from the comfort of my armchair.

There is an exception to this general life rule of mine, however. As the old tune goes, oh I do love to be beside the seaside. And after a series of early family holidays abroad were marred by either mine or my sister’s vomit – air turbulence and ‘mocktails’ apparently not agreeing with our delicate young stomachs – I established a love for the British seaside which cuts almost as deep as my love for tea and bourbon biscuits, ie: VERY.

Come rain or shine, the beach is one of my favourite places to be. Even in conditions that force you to unpack a mac, bundle up in fifteen layers and leave you with hair that’s less windswept, more windstraggled, I still enjoy a trip to the seaside. I have ventured away from the Big Smoke to just about every location along the South coast: Whitstable, Dover, Margate, Westgate, Deansgate, Dymchurch, Brighton and more. I've experienced the delights of the South West, in annual holidays across Cornwall and Devon. I’ve even found myself sunbathing – or slow-cooking like a crackling pig - where such a thing is usually unimaginable; with Whitby Abbey looming in all its gothic splendour in the distance.

I know there are those who aren’t quite so convinced – sand getting in places it shouldn’t, the murky seawater and tatty seaside towns being a poor substitute for the clear waters and four star luxury of the Caribbean – but for me, that’s all part of the charm. Where else but in England could you sail out to sea on a replica of Captain Cook’s pirate ship, with the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack and a gruff voice of Northern wisdom to accompany your journey?

As my mother once wisely pointed out, the beach is also one of the few places that could entertain anyone from the age of 0 to 80. Whether you’re just watching the world go by from your foldy chair, engrossed in a book, or building a sandcastle, there’s always something for everyone. 

A few days ago, I ventured once again to one of the less salubrious areas of the South coast. My phone had died, but that didn’t matter - the real world looked like it had its very own filter placed upon it. I walked up through a verge of long grass, past the chirping noises which always have me imagining the grasshopper of James and the Giant Peach, and emerged to a sight which no amount of Instagraming could conjure. Clear blue skies, a heat haze courtesy of the 30 degree heat (ah British summer time, you fickle mistress), a stretch of golden sand already scattered with people enjoying themselves, and their legions of stripy windbreaks.

When I was no more than knee-high to those grasshoppers, I would always return from a day at the beach tired, burnt in the patches I miss every time, with a belly full of ice cream, and the pages of my book encrusted with sand. This time, I can’t say anything had changed. And I've realised, maybe that’s what I really love about the seaside - the tide might go in and out, but mostly, everything stays the same. I hope if I reach the grand age of 80, I'll still be vouching for that. 
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