This is the first short posting in an equally short series about the changing experiences of a day at the beach in summer from 1966 to now.
A day at the beach 1966. January. High summer. Me, my mother, sister and brother (and someone else’s dog). Too hot to stay in the tent!
Beach umbrellas grabbed and towels draped on shoulders. Sunburn creme (as we called it then) plied carelessly onto noses and maybe elsewhere if you thought adults were checking. Tent flaps fluttering listlessly. Only a hint of a breeze through the camping area most days in high summer. Climbing mercury promising a scorcher on the beach. Who cares? Us kids certainly don’t! Can’t wait to get to the sand and the water.
Don’t forget to lay your clothes out for when you get back! Here, can you carry my beach mat?
Watch out for oysters on the rocks! They’ll cause a nasty cut.
Don’t go out too deep and watch your younger brother!
Stopping just long enough to drive the umbrella shaft into the sand, I take off towards the water, running up behind my sister hoping to splash her before she gets wet so I can watch her stiffen her back and hear her scream before I run off into the deep.
Friendly sparkly aqua water over white sand. Stars of sunlight glancing off mirrored wave lenses, a shimmering rippled hard sandy bottom. Little fish schooling unconcerned around your feet. Warm salty water that fills ears and noses. Waves that shove and pull at you, sometimes taking your feet from underneath you and tumbling you like you were in a washing machine. Waves that take you unawares and force involuntary gulps of salt water. Sand that gets into every crevice of your body. Rubber surf mats you ride into the shallows with a wide grin on your face. Chafed skin and sunburn from too much exposure to sun, salt water and sand.
I have a name for all this. I call it ‘January’ water. Water warm and inviting, the water of summer beaches; bringing fun fit to make you burst! It’s texture, temperature, transparency and froth capturing the essence of childhood holidays. The memories return each January when I stand at the water’s edge and let it swirl round my feet.