I think it’s fair to say, right from the start, that I am – and doubtless always will be - a Bucket-and-Spader at heart.
Show me an expanse of sand (well, it doesn’t have to be an expanse, really, any little patch will do) and I will make me a sandcastle. Hand me a pebble and I will be seen to throw it into the sea, trying (always unsuccessfully – but
that’s no reason to stop trying) to make it bounce. Alternatively, if it’s low tide, then I might use my pebble and others to write my name, and those of any others accompanying me, on a spare bit of sandy beach.
Set me down on a large, uninhabited beach and I’ll be setting out the cricket stumps, marking out the 22 yards between wickets and organising friends and family into teams. Given less space,
on account of other seaside aficionados spreading their blankets and sun-tents and beach chairs all over the place, and I’ll settle for French Cricket. Even though my general lack of mobility over uneven surfaces like beaches means that whenever
a ball is hit in my general direction, my preferred approach is to stick one arm out, scare-crow style, hoping against hope that the ball will magically fly into my open palm.
Hot doughnuts! Oh, please, don’t get me started on hot doughnuts (or donuts as some seaside kiosks insist on spelling it.) I mean, there is absolutely no way I would ever, in any other circumstances, eat something straight from a greasy
vat of boiling oil through which literally thousands of other doughy rings have shortly passed. Something which, moreover, has then been smothered with caster sugar in which the thousands of other doughnuts / donuts have so recently rolled. But
out on the beach and suddenly the donut becomes a “must have” and Mr B has to be despatched with our donut order without delay.
I know what you’re
thinking. You are wondering why I am going on about the seaside on a grey February day when a spiteful cold wind is keeping everybody with any sense off the beach. Even me. The fact is, I’ve just arrived home from a most entertaining talk called
“I Do Like To Be Beside the Seaside.” You can see why I was drawn to it, can’t you?
I had to sit in the front row because I arrived a little late and the only empty seats were right
there at the front. I also had to miss out on my coffee and biscuits because the people serving up the refreshments were busily clearing away when I arrived at the kitchen hatch and I didn’t want to be the “Always One” who turns up late.
Even though I was. If Mr B had been with me (he was waiting in for a delivery) he probably would have sweet-talked them into providing us with a couple of cups of coffee. This is one of the reasons why I love him, he always looks after my baser interests.
From my vantage point in the front row, I could see that our speaker sported a quite magnificent, snowy-white handlebar moustache on account of the fact (as he helpfully
explained) that he is currently appearing in Jack and the Beanstalk as someone called King Crumble. Now, I happen to know quite a lot about Jack and the Beanstalk but I’ve never heard of a character called King Crumble. But you will be pleased
to hear I didn’t argue.
Over the next hour we heard all about the history of the seaside, which wasn’t considered a visitor attraction at all
until someone called Dr Richard Russell in 1752 wrote “A Dissertation on the Use of Sea Water in Affections of the Glands.” Snappy title, don’t you think? It was so popular that it ran to six editions but if you are thinking of
setting it as your next Book Club “read”, I think you may have trouble getting hold of it.
We heard about bathing machines and the history of piers;
saucy postcards and seaside landladies; Punch & Judy and a music hall group enticingly called the Worthing Whimsies; holiday camps and promenading. Not to forget the esteemed Mrs Martha Gunn, who was renowned as Britain’s most famous “dipper.”
You know I like the Daily Blog to be educational every once in a while so, for those who don’t know, dippers were the people whose job was to encourage would-be swimmers out of their bathing machines and to ensure they encountered the magically
healing powers of the sea by literally dipping them in the water. I think I would have made a pretty good dipper, given my love of All Things Seaside. Provided I could keep my own head out of the water. Obviously.
OK, I still don’t know why we make sandcastles or who first played French cricket on a deserted beach. But just for an hour, in a cramped church hall, on a chilly February afternoon, I found myself basking in seaside
Thanks to King Crumble.