Tuesday 9 June 2015

Beach echoes

Oh no, not Summer again

The dubious joys of the British seaside

Basking in the full magnificence of the Belgian Summer, I joined the lemming like rush to Blankenberge, on the coast where I admired the sand sculptures. 
Being Belgium, these are rather special. For example a sand castle, turns out to be the size of an actual castle. Reminiscent of Michael Palin being ejected from the school modelling club for building a 1:1 scale icebreaker, in his Ripping Yarns TV show.
Beaches are great places, borders usually are, but while noisy fun fairs are all too common, for those with a pensive turn of mind, they are great places to potter about, feel the sand, look at how water changes it, from small puddles to the whole coast, we see rise and fall, construction and erosion.
All beaches come with a ‘Yes, of course you can act like a kid’ licence, and set out into the waves, with the wisdom of Canute, until, standing on tip toes, the strength of the tide pushed and pulled as the waves passed and slunk back, there was a point of balance, feeling the sea like a permeable muscle, the sharp tang of salty air as the container ships waited on their way to Antwerp port.
It’s all moving, it feels alive.
With sensations like this, the beach is a place for reflection, for connecting with nature. Of course, as a Brit brat, the climate also adds an edge, often a fearsome, stormy one. 
Many of us wondered if we were on holiday or a punishment as we wrapped up to brave the elements. But we had a sense of their power that the less imaginative adult mind doesn’t quite want to grasp.
UK conservationists, The National Trust launched a fantastic campaign for kids called, “50 things to do before you’re 11¾”.
It’s a sort of ‘bucket and spade’ list, and featured swimming in the sea, explore a cave, climb a tree and eat an apple straight off the tree. But why waste all the fun on kids, the list should also be ‘50 things to do when you’re 51¾’. Or, if you were lucky, 50 things to do again.
What is remarkable about the list (available on www.50things.org.uk) is that you don’t need money. On;y one -  a new fangled idea of playing a treasure game, or hide and seek, with a geocache thingy. The rest require nothing, just a little sense of adventure.
As we become more urbanised and our cities become a dumping ground for dreary glass and steel buildings, the only break from the monotony of tarmac and concrete, we’re losing contact with nature, replacing it with a Nintendo or Nandos.
This means that what we are passing on to our children is worth a little less every year. Instead of running wild in the country, they’re being scared of strangers, in a risk adverse parenting. Where kids friendships are regulated and scheduled, rather than the natural spontaneity of youth.
We could soon be rearing a generation who lose the innate love for those words that warm the heart of the island, “And now the Shipping Forecast, issued by the Met Office on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency...”

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