My school friend S is half Iraqi. As a child I remember being intrigued and enchanted by her story of how, although her father celebrated his birthday in April, it was equally possible that he had actually been born in September. Born into a very large family in Iraq, it seems all anyone could remember as to the timing of Faruq’s birth was that it had either happened when his family were moving their beds up onto their building’s roof, where they slept during the hottest months, or when the beds were being moved back down once high summer had passed. No one could quite remember which! While there is, I am pleased to say, no such ambiguity surrounding my own son’s spring birthday, April and September do mark a significant change in our family’s lifestyle as between those months we spend almost all our weekends at our house on the south coast.
This is the third year we’ve had the house and the pleasure it’s brought us really has exceeded all our expectations. I grew up five minutes’ walk from the sea (in South Wales) and the house was the manifestation of a strong desire for my children to experience the joys of the beach as a part of their childhoods, too. Big J, meanwhile, grew up in a leafy London suburb, but he is the one who has taken to beach living most of all! Whatever the weather, barely a day goes by when he doesn’t go in the sea, whether it’s an hour on the kayak, body boarding with the children, or a sunset swim on a beautiful summer evening. The children, meanwhile, spends hours at a time on the beach with their friends, in and out of the water swimming, body boarding,
pushing each other jumping off giant inflatables, hitching a ride behind someone’s boat, digging for worms, building elaborate sand cities, or hunting crabs by the breakwaters (what a wonderful invention wetsuits are!). As for me, I was surprised and delighted to discover that it’s possible to surf on the south coast, and I’ve used my surf board for the first time since pre-children days in Devon, Cornwall and Australia. I’m also the family’s midnight swimmer – there’s something completely magical about having the whole sea to yourself, wrapped up in a giant dark blanket twinkling with stars!
It sounds unlikely, but being away from our main home really is like being on holiday every weekend. When we’re not on the beach, the children spend most of their time in the communal gardens with their friends, leaving me with acres of time to float between the balcony, gardens and beach indulging in book after book after book, rounding off the days with early evening drinks on friends’ balconies … ahh … introvert bliss! 🙂