Every summer since I was a baby, and even before I was born, my family would head to the same place for at least four weeks over the summer. My Grandfather had built a house just back from the beach and various members of the extended family would drift in and out over the weeks, bringing their own family and friends.
We would be up early for a rowdy breakfast and then head down to the beach. I don’t have many independent memories of the beach from my very early years, just old black and white snapshots showing a snowy-haired toddler in a bathing suit running in and out of the waves, or sitting on a towel with a face screwed-up in disgust at the sand that had dared to invade my space. As the years past I was joined in the photos by my brother, another brown-bodied, fair-headed child skirting the water’s edge.
I think my memories start to be my own at about the age of six or seven. Early mornings at the beach, heading home for lunches of ham and tomato sandwiches then back to the beach in the afternoon. Very little caused us to vary our routine, except if it rained. Rainy days would lead to other adventures such as horse-riding or hiking but once the sun showed it’s face we were back at the beach.
As I grew older I practically lived in the surf each summer. I had no fear of the water and loved nothing better than dodging the breakers until I was past the break line. My feet couldn’t touch the bottom but I didn’t care I’d happily tread water for hours, bobbing like a contented cork over the undulating water or floating on my back watching the gulls wheel above me.
Those beginnings fuelled a life-long love of the beach. My idea of the perfect vacation is time spent lying by the water with my nose in a book. A vacation spent anywhere else just doesn’t feel like a vacation.
I’ve carried on this tradition with my own children, spending weeks of our summer at the same beach, living next door to the same house I spent my summers in. My mother built her own house next door to her father’s. She died over two years ago and her house now belongs to me and my brother. I look forward to the day when I can take my grandchildren to the beach for the first time.