Life's a beach

Kieran’s sandcastle

Kieran’s sandcastle

Sunshine on a rainy day

Summer beach life has been suspended for two days now, and given way to warm weather rain. The garden loves it, I love it, and the kids love it – as witnessed by all the people hanging out at Penzance bus station this morning, when the bean (two year old son) lay downin as many puddles as he could, as I poured his sleepy older sister and her toast on to the school bus.

There’s two distinct types of beach life here in Cornwall, at least for our family, put simply ~ winter beach life, and summer beach life.Winter beach life:mostly characterised by periodic blustery beach walks – brief, but strangely rewarding.These involve a sort of determined shoulder-hunched, hands in pockets, billow-trousered stride down to the water’s edge.Once there you pause for a moment, pained grin under a tightly tied hood, and take an exaggerated intake of ‘mmm fresh air’.Enjoying a rare moment alone as the kids play tug of war with a huge length of slimy seaweed, you look out to the wild white seas, and start to feel the wind penetrate your trousers. Pretty soon it's in to every other layer, no matter how ‘outdoorsy’, the goose bumps are rising up your whole body - the back of your head, then your cheeks, until fairly soon you are officially freezing. Defeated and shivering, having been on the beach for all of twelve minutes, you beckon the troops (who are so hot there’s a cloud of steam around them). You then fight the wintery gusts to get back up the beach to the car.Stuffing children, wet coats, arms, legs, and bits of seaweed in to the slightly swaying vehicle, you finally launch yourself in just as the wind whips the door shut.

Then you set off in search of a rare café that actually opens in the winter. If you’re lucky the rest of afternoon is spent enjoying mugs of hot chocolate and cakes, ears stinging, and feeling rather intrepid.(This beach life is particularly successful if experienced on occasions such as Christmas Day, when the cosy après beach rewards are extra delicious, and warming).

finding seaglass

Now, summer beach life is a different thing entirely. It’s a kind of ongoing state of being – both on and off the beach.When I lived in cities, if the sun came out, I always had the feeling that summer was going on elsewhere, without me, and the city sunshine was just a rather cruel reminder of what I was missing. Well, it was, and it's here! If we’re not off to Woodcraft Folk or Cornish Dancing or any of the other after school activities we seem to shuttlecock between each afternoon, then it’s off down the beach for tea .

There’s nothing quite like reading Biff and Chip in your school uniform, sitting on a body board, eating an egg sandwich.Or at least I don’t reckon there is, I don’t know, I’m not 6.But I know that would have been pretty cool when I was a kid.

Praa sands

Summer time in our place is measured by the progress in the washing cycle of swimming costumes and towels, and how dry the wetsuits are. The passing weeks are counted by the depth of the tan (dirt?) on the back of the children’s necks, the build up of sand in my bag, and how hard the skin on the soles of our feet has become. Buckets and spades start to breed, becoming lodged in almost every corner of the car, garden, bathroom….

I know it’s summer when my pockets are full of seaglass, which I do want (see below), and loads of other flotsam that I don’t, put there without me even noticing by smaller but equally avid beachcombers.

At weekends, in stark contrast to the winter, there’s no limit on where to go and what to do, the only problem is deciding which of our fabulous beaches to go to.

rockpool treasures

Actually, rain rain go away…I think the garden’s had enough now, we want to get down on that beach.

Oxidised silver and seaglass earrings.