Young Sam has just returned from a day out at the beach with his two brothers.
Being on the other end of a telephone as I am, I can't see him - but as he chatters away
about the boat they built out of sand, with "fire" shooting out from its stern and the fun he has had body-boarding atop the waves, I can conjure up his face. He will be all sun-kissed and glowing from a seaside day. His eyes will be shining and yes, he will
be far, far too excited for bed.
There are still four whole weeks of school holidays left, he tells me. Two weeks have gone already but - he claims ecstatically - the holidays seem to be going on forever!
Oh, I do remember that wonderful feeling, despite having reached such a Great Age.
Sam hands the phone over to brother James but neglects to advise him to whom he will be talking. We therefore chat at cross
purposes for a sentence of two before the penny drops. James has managed 100% attendance at school and has been rewarded with a voucher for two people to go skating. Before I can congratulate him he is playing Pass The Phone again (it's a variation on Pass
the Parcel but you probably guessed that) and this time I find myself talking to My Boy. I am pleased to note that he does realise who he is talking to. If you can't recognise your mother's voice, you really are in Big Trouble. He says he will ring me back
once the boys are all bathed and in bed.
That's the downside of a Seaside Day. As well as returning home all glowing and golden, you have sand in your hair, between your toes, just about everywhere. A dip
in the bath or a burst of the shower is called for. At the end of every day during our holiday in Alicante (Ally Canty, as Faris would say) the Middle of the Darling Daughters would hold each of The Twinkles under the shower before returning them to me all
cool, clean and refreshed. It may sound crazy but it was one of the Special Moments of my day.
I rather suspect they will need more than a quick sprinkle after our forthcoming Family Beach Day. Both twins
are on the move and I somehow can't see them staying in the UV sun tent. Not when there's a whole beach to explore. Even more fun when you can head off in completely different directions so that your poor Mamma doesn't know which one to run after first.
The Family Seaside Day, as you may have expected, is a Tradition. It acquired Family Tradition Status very early on in its history which dates back to 2001, when Jack was three and a half and Hazel was two. That first
year we were few in number - just two Darling Daughters, Team Baldwin and me. While waiting for Everybody's Favourite Auntie (aka the M of the DDs) to arrive, the kids and I spelt out the message "Welcome Auntie Hilary" in large stones. You could tell we were
pleased to see her. Everyone else on the beach knew too.
As the years passed, more and more family members joined us, chief among them the Lovely Debs who never turned down the annual invitation, even when
her little lads posed as much of a beach challenge as The Twinkles will this year. In the last few years her Mum and Dad, my sister Maggie and her fella, have joined the party. Some people can't make it every year but come when they can - the Eldest of the
Darling Daughters definitely won the Best Entrance Award last year, arriving bearing aloft doughnuts for everybody.
Sometimes the weather is kinder than other years. Sometimes we can stay on the beach till
almost everybody else has left, eating sandy fish and chips so we don't have to cook when we get home. The photos from one year, on the other hand, depict us seated, chillily, on the beach eating our picnic with grim determination - the sky above us as black
as black can be. Nobody but us would put Tradition before a good soaking.
There's nearly two weeks to go before this year's Family Beach Day. Still time for more family members to join us. 2015 could, indeed,
see a Mega Turnout...
Traditions, of course, wouldn't be traditions if they weren't built to last. Sisters, brothers, cousins, second cousins, parents, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles and - not to be forgotten
- grandparents. We are Family.
Family Seaside Days - I can see no reason why they shouldn't continue. As Sam would doubtless say - forever!