I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside : A nostalgic story by Micki Myers

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have spent many a summer holed up in a caravan parked on some grassy cliff with a plastic flamingo planted by the door. You will have entertained yourself by scrambling down a rocky path to a beach whose sand has been formed by the relentless pummeling of the North Atlantic since the last Ice Age. There, you spread your blanket, strip off your clothes down to your rather hopeful string bikini (biting your lip so as not to gasp when the bitter summer breeze sets fire to your skin), and huddle down as close to the sand as possible so that the wind hurries over, as opposed to onto, you. If you hold a cheap paperback to your face you can somewhat avoid the exfoliating effects of the hostile air but quickly become cross-eyed.

If you are very brave, you will give in to the wailing demands of your family to be a good sport and play some kind of beach game completely unsuited to beaches, like soccer with an inflatable ball that tears off at high speed, bouncing along the flat surface at the slightest nudge, then stand around drawing hearts in the sand with your toe while the nearest player runs off for a half-hour jaunt to fetch it.

If you are not simply brave but also very stupid, you will take your life into your hands and baptize yourself in the water’s salty depths. Very likely you will turn and crouch reflexively towards the shore as soon as that first prickly wavelet crashes against your calf, but you will force yourself to edge deeper since you are now committed to a full submersion in order to justify your holiday to the coast, because unless you actually go in the sea, it’s not a seaside, holiday, is it?

Once you emerge — a shrunken, demoralized shell of the person you once were — shivering and in desperate need of a reviving flagon of brandy and an electric blanket, you will gingerly step back to your towel, noticing for the first time how damn sharp sand can be on the soles of wet feet. Not soft at all.

Swimming (well, standing armpit-deep waving your arms about while you nonchalantly pretend you aren’t having a pee) raises an almighty appetite, so you ignore the fact that it’s a full hour before lunchtime, and crack open the cooler. Huddled in your towel, you tuck in to sandwiches you would find revolting at home but which eaten under these conditions seem to you the most perfect food on Earth. I’m talking sandwiches made with Shiphams pastes and liver paté, or egg salad made with the zesty tang of Heinz Salad Creme; none of those fancy delights that nowadays you can pick up anywhere in a little triangular box. Even when your teeth meet grit you think this is LIVING, the salty air and proximity of screeching gulls trying to snag a bite somehow making the experience more authentic and satisfying.

Instead of saving the rest of your tuck for tea (your body instinctively telling you to eat! Eat as much as you can before hypothermia sets in), you reach for the fat slices of fruit cake wrapped individually in wax paper, cut fresh from the slab made seven months ago by your grandma for Christmas. Of course by now, the rum it was soaked in has thoroughly penetrated every juicy morsel, rendering you ever so slightly tipsy with each bite. Fruit cake never seemed like such a good idea as now. What a waste only eating it in the dead of winter! Surely this fruity treat was devised to be a fortifying delivery system and/or lifesaving device?

Once it has been consumed, and every little crumb picked out of the terrycloth, the skies darken. You try to judge how long the rain will last — is it worth packing up and traipsing all the way back up the cliff? — but decide what the hell, you’re down here now, you’ll wait it out. 20 minutes later, starving, you attack the apple in the tuck box and try to do the Sudoku growing steadily transparent as the newsprint it’s on gets soggier.

What you’d give for a beer. What you’d give for a woolen jumper and scarf. What you’d give for a steaming hot parcel of cod and chips, all soaked through with vinegar. What you’d give to be back in the caravan. What you’d give for the sun to come out from behind those clouds once and for all — OK, fine, just long enough to put on dry clothes and make a dash for it. What you’d give to have one fat soggy chip in your mouth; you can taste it already. What you’d give to have gone to Majorca instead, what a fool you are. What you’d give, sitting at your desk in the hot city, to be back there now, because it was paradise and it was horrible and it tasted just exactly like August in England.

2 Comments on “I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside : A nostalgic story by Micki Myers”

  1. Barbara Burridge says:

    Wonderfully evocative Micki of those heady days when the world was a differet place…. I laughed and remembered sitting in the car with our sandwiches looking out at the rainlashed coast. Oh to be in England etc…so worth recalling – thanks for that.

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