They breed them tough in Northern Ireland. When I first met my husband’s family I was shown a picture of him as a boy at the seaside. It was clearly a lovely family day and he and his brother had just been for a dip* (This post comes with a glossary of British Beach Terms For The Uninitiated. It’s all part of the service.)
What struck me, however, was not the beautiful landscape, stunning beach or lapping waves in the background, all of which were there in abundance. No, it was the fact that there was my husband and his brothers in their swimming shorts. Next to them, also smiling happily for the camera, were his parents wearing their coats, boots, scarf and a hat.
It’s not just the Northern Irish who do this to their children – the English do it too. I was down on the south coast of England this Easter and observed a couple who had built a veritable fort out of windbreaks* and were sheltering from the icy blast which was hurtling along the beach by cowering together for warmth, wrapped in down jackets and clutching a mug of tea. Their children were in their swimming costumes and were gaily running to and fro with their buckets and spades.
I don’t do this to my children. I figure that if I’m more comfortable in a coat, they probably will be too. I may be breeding complete softies who will never know just how it feels to have the circulation rubbed back into frozen icy limbs with a scratchy towel following an ill-advised paddle* in the Irish Sea, but I’m prepared to deal with that when it all comes out in the counselling.
However, I love the ethos. It’s the spirit that says “It’s been raining, almost continuously now, for a month. The rain has stopped. The sun hasn’t exactly come out, but it’s threatening to do so. Grab your beach stuff, chaps – SUMMER’S HERE!’.
This spirit was summed up beautifully by a sign I saw this Easter on a particularly lovely area of the world’s coastline known as Portrush.
Here’s the beach:
We had just finished a walk along the beach and were heading back to the car when my husband pointed out this sign:
And in close up…
Just in case you can’t see it very clearly, the relevant parts are:
1. Temperature: 14 C (57 F)
2. Water Temperature: 10 C (50 F)
3. Conditions… ‘Lovely’.
*British Beach Terms For The Uninitiated:
Dip: A quick swim including getting your shoulders wet.
Paddle: This is a wonderful thing. It’s when you take your socks and shoes off and walk into the sea until it comes up to just below your knees. It’s do-able, no matter how cold the sea it and you feel mightily good afterwards.
Windbreak: A length of fabric attached to stakes of wood at intervals. The stakes are hammered upright into the beach so that the fabric forms a ‘U’ shape and you can shelter from the freezing gale in the bottom of the U. The fact remains, however, that if you need one of these at all, you shouldn’t be on the beach. You should, instead, be in a little pub with a big window by a nice fire sitting looking out at the beach whilst nursing a pint of something local and warmingly alcoholic.
Sily is a freelance writer from the UK who moved from the wilds of Lincolnshire to London for work and discovered that the big bad city was, quite frankly, wonderful. After a stint in Northern Ireland she moved to Pakistan where she is now living with her husband and 2 small boys and has her own blog at Carrot Crush In The Hindu Kush.