Life is indeed a beach - Al Fresco Holidays
Hazy memories from halcyon days learning how to daydream in the Mediterranean
Pretty much all of my favourite memories revolve around the family beach holidays I enjoyed as a wide-eyed city-kid let loose on the golden sands of the Mediterranean.
I remember, as a scruffy infant schoolchild, being told by my teacher – as I explained we were going on a six-week family camping holiday across the South of France and Spain – that “It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds, for the opportunity to rain on a tent.”
I ignored her. It didn’t rain once. Not even a solitary tiny tear from a curious cotton wool cloud that had plucked up just enough courage to pay an ill-advised visit to the sun-soaked beaches where I learned how to daydream.
Children, or at least this child, are born accomplished beach bums. Yes, even children from the rain-soaked streets of Manchester.
One of my all-time favourite quotes involves kids, holidays and beaches:
“Babies don’t need a holiday but I still see them at the beach. I’ll go over to them and say, ‘What are you doing here, you’ve never worked a day in your life!’”
The secret is not to grow up too quickly, in case we forget how much we love the beach.
The beach had an intoxicating gravitational pull for this writer as a child. It isn’t just the ocean that bows to the whims of the moon you know.
I remember sitting on the sands at Le Grau de Roi in the South of France as a kid and wondering at the sheer power of the beach. Envying each golden grain of sand. How lucky they were to lie in the sun all day, bronzed and drenched in sunshine. Reinvigorated periodically when the waves of the sea granted them a cooling ocean kiss.
I was in awe of the sea. How powerful must this fluid creature be to reduce boulders to grains and yet still seem so gentle as it soothed the edges of the earth?
Whimsical childish thoughts, maybe. But the beach really did teach me how to daydream. How to take myself away from the real world and place my young body and impressionable mind in the middle of the most dizzying fantasy world.
Some years later, as a gawky teenage would-be rock ‘n’ roll star, the beach showed me how to construct words into sequences that would resonate with strangers.
Its influence is undeniable. It inspires boys to become adventurers, poets, leaders, discoverers of small pools. New, exotic life under rocks. It’s also where girls learn how to love the warming cuddle of the sun.
As a grown-up, hunched by the demands of parenthood, pummeled by the expectation to achieve professionally and forced to accept that maturity means you’ll never again fit into those size 26 jeans, the beach offers that same promise of escapism.
OK, so you may have as much physical baggage to take to the beach as you do emotional baggage to ditch in the ether of the annual two-week family getaway but, boy, the rewards are just as refreshing as they were when you were seven.
There are no office memos exchanged on beaches. No brain-storming sessions to navigate. Life is no more complicated than deciding who goes for the ice-cream.
The jaunt may be brief but those delicious moments see the stress ebb away as easily as the waves. You’re at the edge of the earth, heart in your mouth, a world of possibility in the palm of your hand.
This is living.
To celebrate our love of the beach holiday we are going to be giving away one of our fab beach bags to everyone who writes a blog to let us know their favourite beach holidays. It could be a nostalgic piece like this, your favourite beach holiday memories or simply your recommendations of your own best beaches.
Look forward to hearing from you and sharing your blog posts here.