I am very lucky to live next to a wonderful beach. A few years ago, if I’d known I would be living in this wonderful place, I’d have imagined making full use of the amazing facilities.
Cue visions of morning jogs along the sand, daytime paddles and sunset swims. Laughing with Little O as we’d build huge, architecturally stunning sandcastles and then take a break for a dainty picnic containing healthy homemade delicacies.
Whole days spent at the beach, basking in the freedom of being outdoors and inhaling the evocative scent of sunscreen and salty air. A bit like a TV advert for fabric conditioner, you know the type of thing.
The reality is really quite different. The morning jogs haven’t happened, but we won’t go into that. Rather, lets focus on the challenges of taking a terrific toddler to the hallowed sands. Such adventures require keen mental preparation and a day to recover afterwards.
It usually goes like this:
Why we need five bags I’ll never quite understand. It certainly takes a while to pack our beach paraphernalia and to haul it down to the sea shore. An array of buckets and spades in different sizes, a few sand rakes and other mysterious implements. Sun screen, hats, towels, beach mats, changing bag in case of an alfresco code brown situation. Water, snacks and a purse to purchase the inevitable ice cream. Insect repellent, a magazine (just for the fun of not reading it) and mobile phone. It’s like packing for a holiday, just without the passports and pyjamas.
The vast collection of beach entertainment in the form of the aforementioned buckets, spades and other sand related tools are just for show, really. I live in hope that one day Little O might be interested in shovelling sand into a bucket and gazing in wonder at the fabulous sandcastles we could make. For now, she is quite content to crawl about, intermittently stopping to guzzle down a handful of sand. She makes fun in her own way and I observe in wonder, my heart bursting at the simple pleasure she takes in watching the planes overhead, watching other children run around and of course, eating even more sand.
No elaborate games needed. Trying to ensure Little O’s sunhat remains in place for more than three and a half seconds is all the fun I need.
The best part of being at the beach is having a paddle. I’m more of an ankle-paddler than a full on sea swimmer, so Little O gets to swim with Mr O. She delights in splashing and squealing and wriggling about like a frenzied otter, whilst I look on from a safe distance.
After swimming the re-application of sunscreen to sandy toddler limbs is a bit like a rather rough exfoliation treatment for the palms. Who needs a spa when we have the beach?
Mainly sand. See above.
I’d love to say we have homemade healthy meals served on fabulous picnicware, on a gingham rug. But I struggle enough to cook decent meals to eat indoors so the beach doesn’t have a chance!
On a good day there may be rice cakes, sandwiches and fruit. All with a light dusting of sand to make the beach culinary experience all the more authentic.
The Clean Up
Oh, the clean up. It is an epic task. Sand in every crevice, nook and cranny and in places nobody knew existed. We brush off as much sand as possible before leaving the beach. Somehow we remain 50% encrusted, top to toe. On entry to our abode, flip flops are discarded and a trail of sand is scattered all the way through to the bathroom. After showers all round, sand is re-picked-up on the soles of the feet and crawling toddler knees and trodden around a bit until it becomes so familiar we forget it’s there. Until bed time. Sand in bed is a lot worse than toast crumbs, I tell thee.
It can take days for our home to become a sand-free zone. After which, the beach starts to look quite attractive again and beckons us back to paddle in the azure sea. The happy squeals of a sand-munching toddler make it worth it.