Friday, 12 August 2016

Caravan diaries, Here and Now (Part Two)

I’d anticipated sharing, in enthusiastically avuncular tones, my childhood experience of this beach: climbing rocks (there’s a particular one, the Big Rock, they’d surely have to climb that just as I did when I was their age), dipping a hand into a rock pool (I know where the best ones are), collecting shells (you can’t have too many cockles and mussels and razors), watching the slow motion of the tides and working out when the beach would be at its best, feeling the sand and building castles from it, with that special glee of knowing that those tides are going to level them back to flat clean sand in a few hours, so it’s fine to wantonly kick over your own lovingly crafted creation just before you leave the beach for an ice cream (that’s fun!).

I was wrong.  Gus and Zerlina found all that all by themselves, immediately and instinctively.  It’s Tuesday now (I think) and we have to leave on Friday; so I only have two days to discover diverting and damming streams, shrimping (though we have no nets as yet), espying huge live crabs in the recesses of the deepest pools…  Sorry, did I say ‘discover’ there?  Hmm.


Caravan diaries, Here and Now (Part One)

If you want to know mindfulness, come to Wiseman’s Bridge.  If you want to explore it deeply, bring two small children. 

I first came here when I was probably somewhere around Gus and Zerlina’s ages, so let’s call it six.  Although I was born and brought up within earshot of the sea, and spent many of my early days on Southbourne beach, that wasn’t the seaside as we understood it:  that had to be Pembrokeshire, obviously. As my parents had patiently to explain to acquaintances –  who expressed perplexity as to why anyone would drive three hundred miles to get from one beach to another, taking about seven hours in the process (the Severn bridges, let alone the M4, not then even having been a post-war planner’s wet daydream, the journey therefore having to be made via the lowest bridging point at Gloucester, followed by scenic detours across the Heads of the Valleys and even further north, as far as Builth Wells sometimes, to indulge my father’s unexpressed passion for dramatic scenery) – those two versions of ‘seaside’ were so different as to make the whole thing not just worthwhile, but essential.

This time the journey was in three legs, over three days – Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  (Modern kids shouldn’t be asked to do seven unbroken hours in a car, even with more distractive technology than we could have imagined or handled, nor required to sing ‘Old McDonald Had A Farm’ and ‘Ten Green Bottles’ for seven hours.)  Leg one was from their child-minder’s to Z’s house: a mere forty minutes, just to soften them up.  Packing my car with what had been interpreted from the phrase ‘travel light’ proved a challenge, though nothing compared to then wedging it all, plus our own modest equipage, plus the food (and the extra food, and the oh-by-the-way food; and we still managed to forget the garlic) into Z’s car for the second leg, from Yagnub to my place in Reading.  Then it was just the boring last three hours down the M4, across the gorgeous bridge and into Wales, lunch at the best pub in the country (the White Hart at Llandarog) and so to – here!

Now is Monday.  I’ve only managed to get us as far as the caravan, and I’m already exhausted.  Parts two and three will be written tomorrow and, perhaps, Thursday, and published simultaneously when I get back to the internet-verse on Friday.