My mobile phone pings me awake at exactly six minutes past seven. I drag myself out of an uneasy sleep in which I was dreaming about searching aimlessly around a rather beautiful graveyard without ever knowing exactly
what I was looking for. This is one of my “regular” dreams but it never presents me with any answers so I am quite pleased to be pulled back into real life.
The message is from the Youngest of the Darling Daughters, posting me sixteen photographs from a lovely day we spent together two years ago to this very day. We called it “Big Kids Beach Day” and spent the whole time, just the two of us,
doing the things we would have done with her son and daughter in tow, back when they were littl’uns. As in, crazy golf, a ride on the Boat Train along the Prom (prom, prom), a picnic on the beach, eating naughty-but-nice hot donuts, paddling in the sea
and building a sandcastle. “Want to do this again this year?” my daughter asks. I think you can safely assume this is a question expecting - and, it goes without saying, receiving - an answer in the affirmative.
Later on, by coincidence - or, possibly serendipity - while I am sorting out a pile of paperwork which has built up over time and is now overflowing the sides of the basket in which I had consigned
it (out of sight, out of mind), I come across a scruffy scrap of paper in which I had written one of the seaside poems with which we used to celebrate each summer holiday together when Team Baldwin were small. I can even date the poem, because the last two
lines of the final verse read: “We always will remember / summer days 2002!”
My goodness, 2002! That’s sixteen years ago. Where did all that
Each verse, usefully, recounts what happened on a particular day. So I am reminded that one day we went to Butlin’s where we met up with Noddy,
Big Ears, PC Plod and Tessie Bear. At least Butlin’s is still there - the white land train which took us all around the town another day is no more. Nor do I remember anything about the Playdays Summer Singalong (“the first of this week’s
treats”) where apparently we only needed two of the four seats I had booked because their mother and I both had a convenient lap in which to sit to watch Peggy Patch and Poppy prance across the stage. Whoever they were.
Their Grandad, known to you all as Mr B, took both his grandchildren on a boat (“it was red and number two”) and cooked sizzling sausages on a barbecue after a day at wonderful West Wittering
beach: “And when he put the charcoal out / the water steamed and fizzled.”
One verse relates the story of how Hazel Bagel found a cockle “still
inside its shell.” Every time we sang this verse, she would add, earnestly: “So I took it out and showed it to Mummy.” We could never finish singing that verse, we were always in fits of the giggles. Hazel also featured in another of our
favourite verses: “We said we’d eat so healthily / no picking up bad habits / but Hazel said, each time we asked / “just make mine chicken nuggets!”
Those seaside songs caused me much grief as I struggled at the end of each holiday to capture the essence of our precious time together in verse. Okay, it’s not Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale (and I understand he, like me, composed his opus
in just one day) but as a memory jogger they are precious, indeed.
So, yes, yes, yes, my Darling Daughter, let’s do it all over again. I’m not sure
I will manage to clamber aboard a boat on the boating lake (a red one, number two) and even if I can I doubt I’ll be able to clamber out again without assistance which could be mega embarrassing. I’m happy to give Noddy and Co a miss too - unless
you feel strongly about that particular experience. But we could include chicken nuggets in our picnic, strictly for Old Times Sake, you understand - and we could always look for cockles (though I suggest we leave them safely in their shells.)
So the answer is yes, let’s be Big Kids again and enjoy a fabulous Beach Day together, just the two of us.
But please tell me you won’t expect me to write a song about it....