Perfect bliss; to come out of the cool sea and lie on the beach soaking up the sun, then plunge back into the waves to cool off again. This beach would be paradise if it wasn’t full of thousands of other day trippers, but when I close my eyes it’s peaceful, I could be alone. The screams of swimmers and the laughter of children fades away and I am drifting off to sleep, the early morning start, to beat the traffic down to the coast, is catching up with me.
I’m not quite asleep and I open my eyes to observe unnoticed the trio of girls spreading out their towels a few feet away. When they go running and giggling towards the waves I close my eyes again; in this heat wave they are bound to stay frolicking in the waves for a while.
My eyelids are heavy, my towel is moulded comfortably into the warm sand and I am drifting, just as I was in the gentle swell moments ago. Work, studying and responsibilities have floated away.
The gentle hum of human voices returns and then I hear it; a voice at odds with happy holiday makers, an increasingly urgent cry.
‘Charlie, Charlie, CHARLIE…’
I keep my eyes closed, just someone calling their dog and disturbing my perfect day.
‘Charlie, Charlie, has anyone seen a little boy…
I open my eyes, I am listening, but nobody else is. Where is the voice coming from?
‘Charlie, help, I’ve lost my son, he was here a second ago, Charlie…’
I sit bolt upright, twist around and there she is, sheer panic in her eyes, her mouth fixed open. People start to stir, struggle to their feet in the soft sand. The young woman looks straight at me.
‘Did you see where he went? Someone, someone must have seen him… Charlie?’
My brain starts to wake up, unburdened by parental terror I find myself gearing into action.
‘What does he look like, how old is he?’
‘Four, red hair, purple shorts, lime green top…’
Sounds quite easy to spot, but four is young, can they talk by then, I don’t know much about kids…
‘Go to the Lifeguards, they probably have some system or other, they’ll get a search going… I’ll look around.’
She stumbles off, some granny person is taking her arm. For some reason other sun bathers and parents seem to think I know the mother, know what’s happening.
‘Come on everybody, if we all look, red shorts, purple top and green hair… I mean purple shorts, lime green top and red hair, four year old boy.’
Suddenly everybody is shouting for Charlie, it’s quite exciting, a Lifeguard is running, talking on his radio… I could be a Lifeguard, saving people on land and sea…
Then I see him in the distance with a man, trundling away from our search area. I plough through the sand. Holding the man’s hand, is he being kidnapped? I overtake and trip over a sandcastle in front of them, the boy looks unperturbed.
‘Charlie, are you Charlie, your Mummy’s looking for you.’
‘My name’s Archie.’
‘Clear off mate.’
‘I was just trying to help a lady who’s lost her son, sorry, same clothes …’
The cries and shouts and radio voices reach us and the man turns his head to see the whole beach on the move, moving towards us, recognising the purple, green and red description.
‘My brother’s called Charlie’ says the little boy.
The man suddenly laughs. ‘Bloody child, he’s always doing that to us, getting lost. Come on Archie, no ice cream till we’ve found your twin brother.’
The game of snap ends ten minutes later when a worried swimmer emerges from the shallows with a grinning sodden child, but now nobody is sure where the mother is.
More tales of land and sea in Times and Tides
There is plenty to enjoy living by the sea, even if you never set a toe in the water. But there is so much to do involving seawater that it’s a shame if you don’t dip your toes or whole body in.
You need nothing if you have a naturist beach nearby or you can go to the other extreme and encase you body in a wet suit and acquire lots of equipment.
Paddling is the first introduction for most of us to the ocean and waves, warm and soothing at low tide on a sunny day, cold and daring at high tide on a windy day.
But swimming is the ultimate, leaving the land to which you are bound, seeing the coast from a different view point. On a hot day with the sun sparkling on the ripples it is bliss, on colder days it’s invigorating with the initial shock turning to a burning glow. I have never worn a wet suit, assuming it would take away the feeling of freedom and more importantly I don’t think I could manage to pull one on, let alone peel it off again.
A beach hut doesn’t involve water and many enjoy sitting outside their huts with the kettle boiling enjoying the view and watching the world go by. On a hot summer weekend the whole world does go past your beach hut if you are on the promenade, so a snooze in peace is unlikely. But for the swimmer a beach hut is a great luxury, even if it’s only a six foot wooden box – six foot square, not the six foot long other kind of wooden box. You don’t have to lug your towels, folding chairs, buckets and spades and wind breaks down to the beach each time and you have somewhere to get changed.
Renting our little square of concrete from the council (we own the hut ) is not cheap, but probably cheaper than the many sea sports which involve getting all the gear. From paddle boarding on a calm day to owning your own sailing boat there are many ways to be on the ocean. For some, their boat is a part of family life just as a dog is for other families. I am a touch envious of people who can sail over and drop anchor just off Studland Beach, a lovely stretch of natural coast unspoiled by groynes or promenades, it also includes the nudist beach. The rest of us face a slow bus trip or drive across the conurbation of Bournemouth and Poole and a £4.50 trip on the chain ferry ( £1 for pedestrians and bikes ). But a boat owner told me the trouble with owning a boat is, you feel compelled to go out in it if the weather is good, so you never get to do other things on a sunny day.
If you are adventurous you can go surfing – big board, kite surfing – little board or wind surfing. All of them involve falling in the sea a lot and being watched by other people and photographers. These sports also involve lugging around equipment and spending ages getting ready and deciding if the wind or waves are right.
So I shall stick to swimming; after the days of torrential rain and changeable weather, I finally had my first swim of the year on Saturday. Sea temperature 16 degrees. It was lovely, but there is one piece of equipment I would like; a waterproof camera for a real sea view.
Visit my website for more coastal views.
Some of the stories in Times and Tides are set at the seaside.
Six years we’ve waited for this wooden box,
With flaking paint and rusty locks.
There’s barely room to stand,
The floor covered in sand.
The towels are damp and musty
And all the shelves are dusty.
But the kettle and mugs are well in reach
And there’s a great view of the beach.
In the sun we sit and read books
Waves beckon, costumes hanging on the hooks.
Wet and cold return for hot tea,
Strip off and dress in modesty.
The neighbours are close, two inches away,
Her next door is topless today,
His huge stomach should not be seen,
Thank goodness for the screen between.
The other side are out of sight,
Soaring under parachutes bright.
Their boards dip the waves, then ride up high,
We sit and watch them in the sky.
If we fall asleep as we usually do
We won’t notice when they drop from view.
Until we hear roaring whir above the wave
As Coastguard hovers, kite surfers to save.
How to adore new things.
No need to buy, to bring
The sensual delight
Of touch, smell and sight.
John Lewis sells to you
Cotton, wool, silk, bamboo
Knitting yarns, skeins and such,
Many hues, soft to touch.
Call in at the bookshop,
Look out for new stock,
White paper, page pristine,
Smooth spine, jacket clean.
Tack shop for leather new
Saddles, bridles on view,
Shopkeeper hopes to sell;
No, just here for the smell.
Go down to the saw mill
Experience the thrill,
Newly sawn scented wood,
Golden sawdust feels good.
Ancient ocean, old land,
New waves, new tides, smooth sand,
Grains glitter, sparkling foam,
Before feet start to roam.
Sunrise reveals hard frost,
New scenery at no cost,
White landscape, yours to view,
Air sharp, breath anew.