I just got back from the beach. It’s obvious that a trip to the beach has universal appeal. Anyone can reach back to childhood and get all those mental attachments that apply to just a day or a couple of weeks’ vacation at the beach.
Whether it’s miles of uninhabited shoreline with all the room to explore the coastal wonders or being squashed together like sardines, cheek by jowl, on an overheated gritty sand retreat, contained within the size of a towel and everyone has to roll over in synchronicity – we take to it like seals in heat.
As one ages, even now, the beach recalls heady days of freedom from all kinds of everyday tedium – school, the city, everyday clothes, all replaced by no timetables, broad skies, fresh air and bathing suits. And in those days we didn’t even check in with parents because they knew we were “on the beach.”
My first holiday was spent in a rented caravan (or travel trailer) in an austere south-coast town in England called Seaford.
I had chickenpox at the time and felt like poop. I recovered in time to explore the cliffs overlooking a meager strip of sharp sand more readily of use to a concrete maker. I fell down the cliff face with a chunk of chalk stuck fast in my upper thigh like a prehistoric weapon. I bear the scar, even now.
We graduated to a rented cottage in Greatstone-on-Sea and made the annual migration from London for many years to follow. My brother still goes there to this day. Situated on the English Channel near Dover, the dunes and sand stretched from one horizon to the other and the tide went out for almost a mile.
Shrimp nets and clam digging often provided fare for dinner. Instead of sun tan lotion, my mother made a concoction of olive oil and vinegar, which she slathered all over us. We fried in the sun and would have made a colorful contribution to a salad. I’m still horrified at the notion of sticky, sandy skin, sore from exposure and as red as a large-animal vet’s forearm.
Seaside towns fascinate me and I find them enormously attractive - whether it’s Boca Raton with its snobby nose in the air or Ocean City’s boardwalk with tee-shirt shops selling overpriced, shoddy stuff that will probably end up in the lint trap upon its first acquaintance with a washing machine and dryer.
Resorts in Great Britain are as gaudy as here, as many neon-colored storefronts beckon for your business, for
clothing or food, arcade games or ice cream and candy.
One big difference is that men in Europe still wear Speedos! Especially men who have no such right to do so. The girls picturesquely refer to them as “budgie smugglers.” I should point out that a budgie is a small, Australian parrot-like bird!
Social differences go out with the tide – you could as easily park next to a Nissan Sentra as a Bentley Continental and gorging on a corn dog is as common as splashing out on a banquet for dinner.
Though some resorts rejoice in their own condescension – glamorous South Beach in Miami, once as cool as its Art Deco surroundings is now the gathering spot for show offs and spivs who happily part with the price of a condo for a cocktail and the valet parkers will ignore you if you don’t pull up in a Bugatti. No boogie-board shops here. Art galleries rub shoulders with jewelry stores and fashion boutiques, where a tee shirt will set you back a king’s ransom.
But that’s the beauty of the beach – where mind and body can get away from it all and memories last a lifetime.