..it was a nightmare trying to pull down and then up, a wet baggy, sand-ridden costume and have it still cover the parts of the body it was supposed to.
This is the third post in a memoir series hosted by Irene Waters over at her blog “Reflections and Nightmares” – “Times Past” is aimed at giving some ‘social insights into the way the world has changed between not only generations but also between geographical location’
Prompt No 3. Beach Memories. Did you go for holidays to the seaside? What kind of swimming costume did you wear? What activities did you do? Did you slip slop slap from an early age or did you bake yourself to a crisp? Did you eat ice cream after a swim? If so what kind did you normally have or was your favourite. The first time you went to the beach without your parents who did you go with? Any beach memories you’d care to share – I’d love to read them.
I am a Generation X ‘Baby Buster’. I grew up in Lincolnshire in the UK and our ‘local’ seaside was where land meets the North Sea between Maplethorpe and Skegness. Mum remembers hot days and the car packed ready to take off when we got in from school. I remember cold and sand. I remember my brother with blue lips, shivering violently but refusing to leave the water, toes and fingers wrinkled like white prunes. Sometimes it was hard to stand up in the water but that was the fun – crashing waves so cold they took your breath away. The retreating sea pulling sand from under my feet and dumping it into the seat of my nylon swimming costume – gone baggy in the water. We’d wee in the sea. If you needed something else you went into the prickly grass sand-dunes and dug a hole, though it was a nightmare trying to pull down and then up, a wet baggy, sand-ridden costume and have it still cover the parts of the body it was supposed to.
We had homemade multi-coloured towelling smock-things that went over our cold wet bodies to quickly shield us from the biting wind. We hid behind striped windbreaks staked in the ground with a camper’s mallet, lying on towels that wanted to take off like flying carpets. Sand stung your legs. It got everywhere – into all body creases, eyes, ears, nose; in drinks and sandwiches. Piles of it in the car footwell going home despite carrying shoes and despite Mum dusting feet roughly with a towel. By the time all the sand had been ‘removed’ from us, it felt like a layer of skin had gone with it.
An ice-cream van would sometimes be waiting at the road. We’d be allowed a “99” if we’d been good. The soft-whipped swirl of ice-cream was already melting by the time the man stuck the chocolate flake in. We’d bite the bottom off the cone and suck but end up with melting ice-cream running down our wrists and Mum shouting for us to hurry up and finish it – incontinence sheets raided from district nursing supplies, spread on our laps.
I remember camping holidays in Cornwall and Devon with days ‘rock-pooling’ – searching for interesting creatures in the water left behind by the tide in pools filled with dark green weed. And I can remember ‘crabbing’ with a line off harbour walls a bit like here with my friend Sue and our kids at Southwold.
Later with an overactive only child, the beach would prove to be a hard-work sort of holiday. Knowing our off-spring’s short attention span and astute assessment of hard work, we only tried a few day trips and one beach holiday without friends. The romantic idea of hours of relaxation whilst a busy boy built sandcastles and made up stories to amuse himself – were pure fantasy.
Simon would slave for hours over moats and castle turrets whilst I entertained the demon-exhauster with a ball or frisby. Max wasn’t interested in helping and would then take great joy in stamping all over Simon’s efforts. The best bit was the fish and chips afterwards. And a ride on the dogems.
We once risked a week in Corfu and thought we had it made when Max spent a day trying to catch minnows with a simple net on a bamboo cane. I read pages and pages of a good book. Simon dozed after a lunchtime lager.
Almost hysterical with joy, we crossed our fingers and came back the next day. All was well for about 2 hours until a minnow stayed in the net. That goal achieved, Max wanted to leave.
“I’ve done that now.”
We spent the rest of the week trailing around the ‘sights’ trying to find new things to amuse him and have only taken him on activity holidays ever since.