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The worst thing about summer for me is that it has to come to an end. I was thinking about this yesterday as I dropped the children off at school and turned the A/C up to warm for the first time this year – I already miss the days of driving around with our windows open singing our hearts out to Shake It Off. And as I look out my window at the grey garden beyond and then at the leggings that I hastily pulled on under my dress earlier this morning I think – yep. So long sweet summer.
Every year I question why someone like me with such a big love for everything beachy and sunshiney lives in geographically one of the furthest places from the coast in the UK. There’s something about being close to the sea that I find so therapeutic and calming, as if nothing else matters when you’re so close to something as magnificent as an ocean.
I like to think this feeling was in me from birth as I was born and spent the first couple of years of life in Bournemouth on the south coast. Like I couldn’t stop loving the sea if I tried.
Me enjoying the sea stark naked, 1986
As a kid I spent so many happy summers returning to Bournemouth, spending hours building sandcastles, collecting shells, hanging out in beach huts. We’d walk up and down the beach between Bournemouth and Boscombe piers, stopping for picnics and ice creams and paddles in the sea. Bournemouth is a proper seaside town full of kids and old people and skateboarders and British holidaymakers: it’s a special place where I have such happy memories and I love love love going back.
We’d drive from our house in Worcestershire, stopping off for a McDonalds and a wee at the halfway point in Newbury, and from then on it was a competition to see who could squeal “I can see the sea!!” first as we got to the coast. I still remember the anticipation of parking the car and racing down the zig-zag to leap on to the hot sand and stake our patch with a windbreaker and some towels. My brother and I would build sculptures out of sand and watch our dad float out to sea in a dinghy, coming back a much brighter shade of pink.
This year I wanted to bring a bit of the Bournemouth seaside magic to my own children’s summer. And so, in the last week of the holidays, we all strapped into the car and headed south to see the sea!
Our first stop was to be The Pig in Studland, just across the bay from Bournemouth, but naturally they both were fast asleep and so missed the first glance of the sea. I parked up, woke them up and made them behold the vista: the weather was crappy but really, rain or no rain, how gorgeous is that Jurassic coast?
Though the weather was nowhere near as glorious as I remember from my childhood jaunts to the coast we had a lovely time at The Pig before packing up for stage 2 of our adventure just across the bay past Brownsea Island. The novelty of the chain ferry was almost too much to bear and soon we were back on dry land: Sandbanks, Bournemouth.
I’d picked a hotel right on the beach in the hopes we’d be able to spend the entirety of our trip out there, but in reality the end of summer had come that little bit too soon. Though the kids happily stripped off to their swimming cossies seemingly oblivious to the chill I kept my jeans and tshirt on, shivering slightly as we played in the sand.
We’d loaded up on buckets and spades before leaving Milton Keynes and had great fun making castles and fishes with our moulds. Hux had a meltdown because he buried his spade in the sand and then forgot exactly where he’d buried it but this was quickly appeased by Elfie promising him he could borrow her spade whenever you want, Hux.
We buried each other’s legs as deep as they could go (the sand being a wee bit too chilly to bury any more than that) and had a great time splashing about in the shallows. We got sand EVERYWHERE as is customary for a weekend at the seaside and retreated back to the hotel at dinner time sticky from suncream and ice cream, with salty hair and happy faces.
This will go down in memory as one of the happiest breaks we’ve had together as a family. They thoroughly enjoyed the beach life and I got to regale them with stories of my old summers (whether they liked it or not) and it was such a treat to spend time together without the pressures of washing or playdates or work or cooking. We played together, snuggled together, laughed together, ate together and generally felt very happy together. The weather was too rubbish that I wasn’t able to put much of my #SummerGoodTimes advice into practice but we’ll be back – next year and the year after that and the year after that, too.
Boots have enabled us to enjoy some brilliant experiences this summer with their #SummerGoodTimes campaign. Thank-you, Boots!