Sun, sand, sea, sex… three out of four ain’t bad

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Dad, trusty pipe still in place and the Archaeologist take me for a stroll on the prom, circa 1959

Irene Waters has another prompt from her Times Past series thus:

Prompt No 3. Beach Memories. Did you go for holidays to the seaside? What kind of swimming costume did you wear? What activities did you do? Did you slip slop slap from an early age or did you bake yourself to a crisp? Did you eat ice cream after a swim? If so what kind did you normally have or was your favourite. The first time you went to the beach without your parents who did you go with? Any beach memories you’d care to share – I’d love to read them.

Every holiday from my earliest memory meant a visit to my mother’s mother – my Gran – who lived in a tall Georgian terraced house on the sea front at Herne Bay in North Kent.

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I could wax lyrical describing it by saying, even then its best days were behind it. There was the pier, second in length to Southend and the promenade; the winter gardens and the clock tower and… lots and lots of pebbles. At low tide sand – acres of it – appeared and we could go wandering but it wasn’t the yellow-orange-hued granulated stuff of beach holidays in pictures and films that lends itself to healthy beach volleyball and sandcastels Rather it was a grey-brown claggy sludge they use to fashion bricks in films like Bridge Over the River Kwai and which stuck to everything and occasionally became a sticky gripping pool that you did well to exit right sharpish before it sucked you in.

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Or I could tell you it had a finger post on the sea front pointing due north and indicating there was nothing between you and the North Pole. I’ve only ever seen icebergs once in my life and that was in the bleak and dreadful winter of 1962/63 in the sea outside my Gran’s house.

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Mum on the pier

I don’t have a distinctive earliest memory because I was always there for the holidays, in my mind’s eye, and all those early occasions have coalesced into one slideshow of sun-filled sepia images, wrapped in blankets.

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The Archaeologist sinking into the mud and Gran’s dog Shep probably summer 1956

My earliest memory is probably walking along the pier, mostly because it was so long. In two places the wooden boards rose to form arches, like small bridges. I recall being told this was done in the War to stop German planes landing on it.

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My mother and my uncle guarding the sea front at Herne Bay against the German invasion

Now that seems highly unlikely; back then, less than 15 years after the War ended it seemed glamorous and thrilling.

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We collected shell fish to eat: mussels off the breakwaters and cockles raked out of the mud at low tide. These gritty morsels, eaten with fresh crusty bread were a treat denied me today as a result of a late flowering allergy. At least the memory is sharp.

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Whitstable harbour, just along the coast where we ate winkles as a treat for being good visiting Aunt Rose and Uncle Jock

At some point we, the Archaeologist and me, graduated to a stage where we were trusted to be alone with Gran for two weeks at Easter. Gran loved us dearly but couldn’t be doing with any sort of hands on child care. We were fed breakfast – always our favourite choice of cereal – and pushed out of the front door. On sunny days we’d head for the cliffs towards Reculver in the hope of fossils. Clouds and drizzly days had us in the library where eventually the Archaeologist found me something I enjoyed reading; and on foul gale swept days we would be on the promenade as huge waves crashed over us and terminally stupid seagulls tried to put out to sea – how we weren’t swept away has much to do with luck.

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Collecting butterflies on the cliffs towards Reculver with my Uncle Les and the Archaeologist

This being a coastal resort, albeit one with a faded glamour, there was a coffee bar playing the latest tunes – Macari’s – which had whirly whip ice cream and chocolate flakes. It also served its coffee in trendy glass cups – I didn’t drink coffee back then – I tried, like I did everything dad liked because I wanted to be like him (all his favourites – beer, coffee, tea wine, grapefruit  – made me gag, tasting as they did like the distilled essence of brother really)  – but I loved those see through vessels.

My favourite ice cream was a vanilla slab (Walls not Lyon’s Maid) in between two wafers. You were limited to vanilla or Neapolitan – vanilla strawberry and chocolate in strips. I loathed the chocolate ice cream  as I recall, arguing it gave me a headache. Odd that I had the hypochondriac’s excuse off pat even aged seven.

I have too many memories really to do justice to this piece though as a selection:

  • Punch our boxer collecting enormous stones off the beach and grinding at them all day, possibly for the salt
  • the sea water swimming pools that were covered in slippery green seaweed that caused endless amusement and hurt as you fell over
  • cutting my feet on, variously: flint pebbles, glass, barnacles, mussels shells and rusty wire
  • being allowed to eat while walking, a pleasure denied at home
  • getting sunburnt and covered in calamine lotion; the alternative of sun oil that stung my eyes to all buggery was avoided at all costs
  • Gran had the best TV in the family – 625 lines rather than 405 lines – meaningless to the pixilated generation, I know – but it meant we had 3 TV channels, BBC2 as well as BBC1 and ITV and with it more Test cricket to watch. Swoon!

Best of all, Gran’s house tended to fill with people. My youngest uncle lived at home in those early days and was a wild child – so inevitably hugely glamorous to the Archaeologist and me. There were battle going on behind the scenes of which I was blissfully unaware for many years.

Later, beach holidays lost their allure, well until I met a certain young lady who took me to great Yarmouth for the day. Clearly, if this picture is anything to go by, she had a way with words

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Wait until I catch you…

And then it was the kids and their love of the beach  the circle of life, huh?

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A lovely image though desperately poignant too as the young man next to the Lawyer tapping the Vet’s head, Sam H-B died running the Brighton marathon a couple of years ago. RIP Marco

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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47 Responses to Sun, sand, sea, sex… three out of four ain’t bad

  1. Such a great collection of pics and memories. You really met this challenge head-on !! ☺

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fiona says:

    Alas, few pictures of my seaside memories, other than in my mind’s eye. That winter of 62/3, I was never allowed to forget. I was born in that winter in the UK. It was all my fault, that weather 😉

    One of my earliest memories, before we came to South Africa, was a day at the beach. We lived in Bridlington (The Parents had a tobacconist’s shop). I remember it being cold and windy and my beachball, disappeared into the cold water and was carried out to sea. The sea was colder than the wind. The Parents decided that I didn’t need my beachball. 😦

    Thank you for that wonderful collection of memories. Poignant end.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. trifflepudling says:

    Very British memories! Mine include: nylon swimsuits like large bubble wrap; crude oil from the beach on said swimsuits; feeling sick in a rowing boat; scraping my heel on a garden gate and it stinging in the sea the next day; my sister always dropping her picnic food in the sand whilst running away from wasps; French cricket and hating being got out; endless construction of sandcastles and moats; the lovely rattly noise when you run your hand through a little plastic bucket full of sea shells; a little rubber spade which bounced when you dropped it on the road. We had to use Ambre Solaire oil, which I don’t think protected at all – in fact we probably cooked all the quicker. Daddy always fell asleep instantly and so Mummy was on lifeguard duty the whole time. We certainly behaved better than she did when little – she whacked some hapless little boy on the head with a metal spade!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ritu says:

    Great memories and photos Geoffles!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Thanks Ritu. So what part of the coast do you remember

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ritu says:

        Of the UK coast, not many, though we used to drive to Rhyl in Wales sometimes. .. more for the large water centre though than the beach.
        I was lucky in that my beach memories were in Kenya, on the golden and silver sands of Mombasa beach!!!
        Idyllic!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        How can you deny us something so exotic! Was there a restaurant there called carnivore where you could eat giraffe and crocodile or am I misremebering that?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ritu says:

        Nairobi had the restaurant Carnivore!!! A huge pit in the middle of the restaurant with great big carcasses revolving… I was quite young when I first went there and I just remember a big black man coming up to our table with thus huge carcass on a thick skewer slamming the end on the table and announcing ” Impala!” If you wanted doe he’d carve a slice off, then move on… The same happened with crocodile and other game meats!
        A little older, I flew out there alone and my cousins took me there on a Friday evening, where it turned into a nightclub of sorts… That area was affectionately called ‘Voreys’ by the locals!!!!
        What memories!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        Ah yes. We were there in 1988 and had Croc. Amazing city then. Sounds like it’s having a hard time these days

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ritu says:

        There are apparently amazing improvements, but politics and terrorism means it’s not always a nice place to visit. . The threat of what could happen puts many off. ..

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ritu says:

        I know… thus is why we haven’t taken the kids there yet. .. a fear…

        Liked by 1 person

  5. merrildsmith says:

    Wonderful photos and memories!
    When our girls were young, we spent a few days every June at the same inn in Ocean City, NJ. We have lovely memories of those days.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Times Past: Grainy memories | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)

  7. Geoff your memories are wonderful and you brought back a memory of my own childhood. We too were not allowed to eat whilst walking, apart from the icecream we were allowed at the beach. It sounds as though you loved those holidays but I gather swimming was not the main reason for going to the seaside. That I feel may be a big difference depending on location. Roger grew up in Brighton but arrived in Australia barely able to swim, a fact I always found strange but like you his descriptions of his activities at the seaside seemed to be centred on the piers and having fun in other ways. I loved your photos of your mother and uncle protecting the Herne Bay seafront from the German invasion. I also loved the photo of the archaeologist. Thanks for joining in again. It is wonderful having a male perspective. The last photo was fun but so sad at the same time.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. jan says:

    Well my, the cycle of life indeed – love the picture of you guys chasing butterflies!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Charli Mills says:

    So many wonderful memories, throughout generations. Had to laugh at the bit about chocolate ice cream, though. What is it about ice cream that diminishes chocolate? I like ice cream, I like chocolate, but not chocolate ice cream. Lovely photo of fun times with Marco and your kids.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Anabel Marsh says:

    Lovely memories. We moved to the seaside (Roker in Sunderland) when I was 5 and lived there till I was 11, plus we had holidays visiting family in the west of Scotland every summer. As is often the case, I could probably produce some very similar memories to yours. E.g. our seaside cafe was Notriani’s – glass cups and frothy coffee. I liked it though.

    Like

  11. Ah! 😄 This is the post you promised on Sacha’s blog with “sex” in the title/headline! Haha! Love the photos. Be back to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Lovely memories of the seaside, Geoff. I so loved the slab of ice cream between two wafers, and the ever so popular sand sandwiches which were usually cucumber sandwiches that always, somehow, got some sand stuck between them. I was more of a Toffee Apple child rather than Candy Floss and I always enjoyed the Summer shows at the end of the pier which was held every night. Penny Arcades, Donkey Rides, the oh so painful sunburn and my father sat with a knotted handkerchief on his head and his trousers rolled up.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. roweeee says:

    Great job on that prompt, Geoff. I should’ve participated in that one. It was right up my alley but it was a big week with our son’s birthday. I have photos of my grandparents at the beach as children. It’s just one of those timeless things. I love this quote from “Sand & Foam” by Kahlil Gibran:
    I AM FOREVER walking upon these shores,
    Betwixt the sand and the foam,
    The high tide will erase my foot-prints,
    And the wind will blow away the foam.
    But the sea and the shore will remain
    Forever.
    xx Rowena

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Helen Jones says:

    Wonderful memories, Geoff, and I really enjoyed the photos too 🙂 We always went to North Wales or Devon for our beach holidays – in Devon, my grandparents would always rent the same bungalow on the hill overlooking Plymouth Sound. I have wonderful memories of those days. They tried to buy the ‘bungadoo’ at one point and came very close, but the owners’ children stepped in and said no, sadly.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Lisa Reiter says:

    I knew it had to be you before I clicked on the link – with sex in the title! 😂 Yet more wonderful photos. I remember pebble beaches like that but not sure where I would have been. Perhaps Norfolk – And those ‘groins’ or water breaks but I think they’re a feature along much of the East coast. Just checking in with your fab memory to see what it jogs in mine 😘

    Like

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