Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

If I had to pick the one thing I miss most of all about living in the United Kingdom, it would have to be the ever present close proximity to the sea! When I lived back across on the other side of the pond I never fully realized I was living on an island.

We had lots of 'real' islands surrounding our great big land mass, e.g. the Isle of Skye, and the Shetlands (a great buddy of ours grew up there - I'm not even sure I knew the Shetlands were inhabited until I met him), which were supplied by us - the mainland. I was forgetting that so many of our food and fuel and other vital supplies were being shipped in to us also.

Size is a relative concept, and now that we're living in Central Texas, and our closest beach, Port Aransas, is at best, a four hour drive from us, I realize how much I took living on our Great 'little' British island for granted. 

I was brought up on British beach holidays. For those of you that don't know what a British beach holiday is. Here's my Top Ten reasons why you can't beat a Brit-holiday :

10) Donkey rides

An age old British seaside tradition! I infamously dived off of one of these poor beasts of burden when I was a wee nipper. I guess it wasn't a hit with little Momma back then, which is why they only just made it on to my list at number 10. The seaside would not be the same without them.

Donkey rides, Cleethorpes Beach, England (2007)

9) Speedboat rides

A tad bit more thrilling than the donkeys, a speedboat ride is a thrilling adventure that just isn't the same without the bump and splash of those big British white horses! Nothing beats getting soaked to the bone sitting in the wrong spot on one of these speedy vessels, especially with the cutting chill of the North Sea wind whipping past. If you don't hold on tight though the bounce on those waves can make you feel like you've had a smacked arse by the end of the ride!!!  

Speedboat coming in to Bridlington harbour.

8) Saucy postcards

Do they still even have these? With the world gone PC mad, there's a chance these funny old fashioned seaside postcards have become a thing of the past! Walking through the tacky seaside souvenir shops would traditionally take you past dozens of carousels displaying hundreds of hilariously lewd and crude postcards to choose from - 10p each. I don't know about you, but I still think they're good for a cheap giggle!

7) 99 ice cream

Nothing better to cool down with in the 'heat' of the day! Haha! OK, so the chances are you won't need cooling down, but there's no better seaside treat than a 99 ice cream! It's a wafer cone topped with some whipped vanilla ice cream and a Cadbury's chocolate flake stuck in the top! Some folk like to go the whole hog and put some raspberry sauce on top. Not me! I like them just like in the pic below. Yum yum!

6) Club bingo 

On an evening, after arcades at the seafront, it was down to the local WMC or Mariner's club (like a pub but more exclusive - I don't mean fancier, just a members only deal, where wives are not allowed to go without their husbands!!) for a few rounds of bingo, dominoes, and, if we were lucky, there might be a pub quiz! Our folks would play four or more bingo cards at a time - us kids would get one each, which we had to watch and check our numbers off really carefully - especially if it was a snowball (a high earning round)! We'd happily guzzle draft cola and snack on Seabrook crisps and KP peanuts until midnight.

5) Making Camp

In Bridlington we would traditional hire a wooden box chalet on the seafront (my family still do this every year). The little shed would boast one socket for a 
small appliance - like a kettle. I don't know anyone who would have the audacity to sneak their microwave and deep-fat fryer down to the chalet after dark...  Even with a small wooden shed for shelter further camp construction is required. Every day Dad would mallet in at least 2 stripey windbreakers (on either side) to fend of that fickle and brutal North Sea breeze! Finally with six or so stripey deckchairs, camp is complete. 

On a beach without the chalet, camp construction can be a little more complicated. Dad would create a horse shoe effect with the wind-breakers and we'd have umbrellas on stand by!

Chalet and camp. Bridlington South beach, 2010 

4) Digging dams (and other wet sand play)

My big brother was the master at wet sand dam construction. Once the tide went out, he'd spend hours not too close to shore digging rivers and building dams with his metal spade. The rest of us would reap the rewards of his labor - these boy-made pools were warmer to play in than the sea. We'd help build some, but no-one had his tenacity and endurance for working quite so hard in the wet and cold. The best part was watching the tide slowly come in and fill up his intricate dams until, finally, all evidence of his day's work was washed away. He didn't care. He'd just do it all again the next day.

This sand dragon 'dam' was created by me, the hubs
and my family. Cleethorpes (2007)    

3) Horse racing ball drop game

Once the sun went down, we'd lock up the chalet for the night and back to the flat (or caravan) we would all troop for a cup of tea and a shower, then it was off straight down to the sea front to spend much of Dad's hard-earned cash on the fairground rides and slot machines! The biggest hit with my family being the horse (or camel) racing.

2 ) Beach cricket 

A favorite pass time for all British beach-dwellers. It's often a fight to find the best sandy stretch for a family game of cricket. Ripply sand is agony for your arches, and soft is too much of a work-out, besides which, you really need that tennis ball to bounce! Always a hard choice: do you bat or bowl into the wind? It all depends on the competency of your bowler, your batter and your wicket keeper. Let's just say big brothers should always bat into the wind - otherwise fielding is no fun!

Cleethorpes Beach, England (2010)

1) Fish and chips drenched in salt and vinegar

Of course anybody that knows me would put a safe bet on my favorite thing about the seaside being related to food. Absolutely nothing beats a bag (or tray) of greasy fish and chips, drenched in salt and vinegar. Lunch, tea, or after pub snack - it all works for me! Just looking at the picture below makes me horribly homesick. Sigh. I can almost taste it...

It was never more than a couple of hours car ride for us to reach our British holiday destination. It's funny how long those trips seemed to be back then. We'd need snacks and entertainment for the road. And Dad would always kick-off with an alphabet car game, which usually took care of a big chunk of the journey.

During our time together the hubs and I have been lucky enough to live beside a number of exotic beaches, not excluding Stonehaven beach. OK, so perhaps calling Stonehaven Beach exotic is a bit of a stretch - especially to a Brit - but when you live land-locked and thousands of miles away from Scotland - you gain a new understanding of the word 'exotic'.

Stonehaven, Scotland

Before we moved across the pond the hubs and I had settled in the quaint and beautiful northeasterly Scottish coastal fishing village, called Stonehaven. We didn't strictly have a sea view - but if you leaned out of the top floor bedroom window and craned your head right you could see the sea! We were literally a stones throw away. 

Birthday card sent across the pond,
from one sea loving lady to another !
She knows me so well! 
I miss it now, this time of year especially, when the chances of a fine weather day in Britain are fairer than none. I miss the sea air, and the noisy seagulls crapping all over our Ford Escort. I miss the walk to the harbor pubs, and eating our vinegary fish and chips wrapped in newspaper as we ambled along the beach front.

By last summer, after three years of living in the lone star state, ironically we'd seen the British seaside - during our trips home - far more than any stateside beaches (which we'd only seen from the plane!). So we decided to remedy that sorry state of affairs and last June we headed down to Galveston for a weekend at the beach. I'm sorry to say, but Texan's - it just didn't measure up to size! 

Unfortunately any hotel we could find within beach walking distance was ludicrously expensive, and with a 21 month old and a 4 month old we didn't much relish the idea of being a car-ride from the beach. Two nights was all we could run to, and with the journey being over five hours drive each way it's a huge expense and travel effort for such a short beach experience.

But most disappointing for me was the lack of a hub. My childhood holidays back home in Bridlington didn't require us to jump in the car every time we wanted to get an ice-cream. Once we were there and the car was parked, it usually stayed parked for a fortnight.

In Galveston, we tried walking to a few places, but everything was so spread out. We even commandeered an abandoned shopping trolley on the beach front to wheel our beach bags and one year old in, on our failed attempt to walk to the putt-putt place.

Daddy borrowing a shopping trolley.
Galveston, TX
"It's about ten minutes that way.." The lady at reception had pointed along the sea front.

But, what the nice lady at the desk had failed to point out was "It's about ten minutes that way... in the car!!"

I should have realized that Galveston wouldn't be too different to the rest of Texas - of course we'd have to go everywhere in the car - silly Momma - but my mind's eye had created a seaside resort like I'm used to in Britain or Europe. Cars are only ever hired for day trips out of the resort, and who wants to do that when you're already at the most fun place on Earth - the seaside?

Our beach time, albeit brief, was a massive hit with the kids though, of course! Don't all kids love the beach?

Apparently not.

In the past the hubs has surprised me by not knowing how to play on the beach. When we were first married, and living in Scotland, we had family come to visit, and my brother and I created a massive sand castle for the kids to 'storm'. When we needed wetter sand we dug down until we reached water, then we created a castle moat, and waited for the tide to come in and claim it. 

All the while the hubs shivered at the side in wonder at his wife's tenacity for paddling in cold water and getting covered in wet sand. Sand and water don't go well together with the hubs - but he is getting more accustomed to it though - he doesn't have much choice with the sand box set up we have at our house (see Go Momma:  Living at the beach.... )  

I've often wondered at his aversion to sand. He was a river kid more than a beach kid growing up, so maybe that explains it. I spent my early days roaming wet sandy beaches diaper-less. It was second nature for me to whip off our bairns diapers and let them sit in the sand with the tide lapping around their never regions - much to the hubby's discomfort.

Daddy and our diaper-less baby hanging out in the wet sand.
Cleethorpes Beach, England (2010)

River swimming back in Yorkshire wasn't really an option for us. Apparently all natural water bodies in land were a no go! Usually lakes and ponds were illegal waste areas and dumping grounds, and we were commonly warned at school never to go swimming in them - we'd get our appendages stuck in a bicycle, break our neck diving onto an old rusted heap, drowned in the turbulent undercurrents - or even contract some nasty disease because of all the gross garbage that was floating on top.

But for some reason, the tampon and sewerage ridden sea was OK!

Sadly with no Brit-trip on the horizon, and our Texas beach budget waylaid for hospital bills, this seaside loving Momma will just have to make do with our own private beach consisting of two sandboxes and a paddling pool. My ice-cream cones are on the ready. If Momma-hamed won't go to the beach, the beach must come to Momma-hamed!

Momma and my boys cooling off in the paddling pool (2012)


  1. I love living by the sea side too but unfortunately I can't seem to ever manage to reach my goal. I love the breeze, the sand, the sound of waves, the get the picture, you've been there :)
    Well...I guess I just need to keep dreaming...


    1. One day Petro - all your dreams will come true:)