When I was a young child, I don’t think I really appreciated a trip to the sea-side quite as much as I do now. The sheer tranquility of the place; the bracing sea air, and the reassuring sound of the waves breaking on to the shore was somewhat lost on my child self.
My annual summer holiday with my parents was usually spent trying to persuade them to buy some little brightly-coloured paper flags for me, so that I could decorate my sandcastles, and I spent a lot of time pleading with them, hoping that they would also allow me to have a pony ride. As much as I loved paddling at the water’s edge and looking for tiny pink delicate sea-shells, and watching the Punch & Judy show, on the long, narrow, wooden benches on the beach, I certainly didn’t understand how calming and restful a day by the sea can be.
I can remember sitting wistfully on our beach towel, washing shells in my little plastic castle-shaped bucket filled with sea-water, watching other lucky children being lifted up on to the saddles of the bored-looking little grey donkeys and wishing it was me. The sheer excitement of my turn finally coming, as a last treat at the end of our holiday, is something that has always stayed with me and is one of the best memories of my childhood. Standing in line, waiting for the little line of ponies to trudge back along the beach, slowly, placidly, patient and uncomplaining, I’d be hopping from foot to foot with excitement, impatient to put my foot in the stirrups and get myself settled in the saddle. Those short treks to the first set of groynes and back to the pony stand were so exciting for me, during my childhood holidays, that I was delighted today, when I saw a sign offering pony rides when my husband and I went on a spur of the moment trip to the coast. In a heartbeat I was six again, wanting to ride on the biggest one. Although the beach was relatively quiet today, it made me smile to see a small group of children eagerly waiting, as I did, to have a pony ride. I wondered if the ponies seemed as big to those kids as they did to me when I was that small.
The weather when we arrived, gave no clue to the beautiful day that we were finally blessed with. It was so windy and cold that we spent the first four hours going for brisk walks between coffee shops, and much to my chagrin, it started spitting with rain soon after we left the first coffee shop. As I tucked my woolly red scarf even further into my jacket and dug out my gloves from my pockets, I began to wonder if it had been such a great idea after all, to get in the car and head for Hunstanton, a small seaside town on the east coast. Despite being used to the unpredictability of the British weather, I couldn’t help but feel slightly depressed that, as has happened so many times before, the weather was blustery and cold on the last precious day of my week’s holiday. I felt sure that, with my considerable experience of our climate, that the minute I was back at work the weather would turn and the days would become beautiful, cloudless, sunny and warm – the sort of days that would definitely make me feel quite resentful to be cooped up at work.
However, for once, someone up above must have felt rather sorry for me and shortly after a wonderful traditional full roast lunch of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes, provided, (rather surprisingly), by a small, wooden beach-front cafe, where we had taken refuge from the inclement weather, the sun came out and much to my delight, stayed out. The clouds scurried away and we were able to take off our coats, scarves and layers and enjoy a snapshot of summer weather. Kids went down onto the beach, parents relaxed in the sunshine, and one brave person went swimming in the sea, much to our surprise and admiration. Suddenly we were transported into a late August-like day; it was a day of ice-creams and long walks, happy kids and smiling faces. The beach-front shops displayed their beach mats, buckets, spades and shiny metallic windmills, and I got a glimpse of the long, summer days that I’ve missed so much over the long, grey, cold winter days.
We walked until we ran out of land to walk on, we picked our way over the groynes and rock pools and explored the water’s edge and washed the sand from a delicate, pink and grey striped razor shell to bring home to remind us of our lovely, lazy day.
Days like this allow me to put my busy, hectic life on pause. I took that wonderful salty air deep into my lungs, and I sat down on a weather-worn green wooden bench and gazed out at the sea. I marvelled at the many different shades of blue that I could see as I gazed around me; the azure sky and the blue-green swatch of sea and the frothy white crests of the waves breaking onto the sandy, white stone-peppered beach. I felt so grateful for the picture-perfect day – the day that I remembered that I am so lucky to be alive and living on this beautiful place we call earth.