I'll try and make this my last beach-related picture for a while
The beach is still occupying my thoughts. I'm finding it difficult not to shoehorn clear blue skies into all my pictures: even the interior settings. And it's having a worrying sartorial effect too: I'm cutting something of a Lebowski-ish figure right now- shorts and flip-flops being the order of the day.
Was it Father's Day in the States on Sunday? I spent a rather lovely day en famille at a touchingly amateurish local dinosaur museum: 10 foot long Papier mache stegosauruses, boxes full of old tires that visitors are invited to stick their hands into to discover how a triceratops hide might've felt. I think, even without kids I would've relished the earnest shoddiness of it all- as it was, the kids genuinely adored the place so we all had a great time.
As a Father's Day card, my daughter (3) had painted me a picture. She explained that the main elements were, 'a circle, a gun, and a pistol'.
Hmmm... I blame it all on Tintin. It's funny how I'd imagined Tintin would be a benign or even a positive influence on her- in preference to- say- the schmaltz of Barney or the vacuousness of Barbie. Now I'm starting to wonder. Herge's be-quiffed Belgian reporter is her longstanding obsession. For a while now she's answered only to 'Tintin', her soft toy rabbit is 'Snowy' whilst Mum is Captain Haddock (I think it's more that she's a constant companion than she's a belligerent old soak) and I'm the- largely absent and often befuddled- Professor Calculus.
Often 'Tintin' can be found lying down complaining about how she's been hit with a cosh...
Embracing the coastal life, we decided to rent a beach hut for the week. For the unitiated, the beach hut (or the twee 'beach chalet' as the local authority insists on calling it) seems a uniquely English phenomenon, much like the allotment (a small patch of land that suburban gardeners rent from the council ostensibly to cultivate vegetables but mainly to provide a pretext for avoiding the wife and children). The beach hut is essentially a tiny piece of territory to nurse, a small shed, right on the beach promenade equipped with four deck chairs, a camping stove and a fold-out table.
It's for sheltering from the sun, or rain, changing into a swimsuit, and brewing the thrice hourly cup of tea without which English life would collapse. Sleeping overnight in one's a no-no. I'm sure that running your business out of the hut or using it for carnal relations (or-heaven forbid- combining the two) is against the local by-laws too.
I'm not big on kitsch and nostalgia, nor am I into hanging out in a glorified garden shed so the whole ritual left me a bit nonplussed: old folk going leathery in the sun sat outside a 3 yard cubed shack? On the busier stretches of promenade Hut-ites look particularly curious sat out front of their plot: it's a bit like that other (apocryphal) British practice of picnicking in the lay-by of a busy road (I've tried to translate lay-by to American but the nearest I get is 'highway pull-off' which- to my double entendre tuned ears- sounds a little smutty), hut dwellers determinedly relaxing in their deck chairs, home comforts (radios, cups of tea) to hand while all the beach traffic, cyclists, wheelchairs, mobility scooters, rollerbladers, pedestrians pass on the tarmac a few feet in front of them, obscuring their view of the sea.
As you can tell, I'm an inveterate observer and am wont to turn into Dr Spock or an amateur Alain de Botton (or 'joyless prig' as my wife might put it. At least I think it's 'prig') ruminating over the sociological and philosophical aspects of such rituals rather than actually enjoying the moment. Over the weekend with the family I managed to switch off my Vulcan tendencies and really enjoy the experience. Our hut's on a very quiet stretch of the beach and the weather was glorious. The kids, needless to say, lapped up the beach (the boy literally chowing on vast amounts of sand).
I was something of a cliche of an Englishman on holiday (no, not the string vest/ knotted handkerchief on my head; nor the drunken lout, starting fights and refusing to engage with the local culture)- I fell asleep in the sun and ended up sunburnt. I've now got what I believe is known as a 'farmer's tan': naked, I still appear to be wearing a white t-shirt. It seems as though the glow of my computer monitor is no preparation for hours spent in the sun.
My 9 month old son has (in a non Kafkaesque way) just turned into a beetle. All of a sudden he's crawling. Occasionally capsizing but more often than not just gleefully, purposefully plodding. Infact more mollusc-like than beetle-y as he leaves a trail of drool everywhere. It's a lovely yet, alarming development- I'm having to teach his older sister coping strategies for when he's pawing her or her toys. And there's a return to stairgates so the whole house becomes a max security penetentiary. I'm most worried about a lethal fireplace in the living room. It's a tacky mausoleum of a hearth (a monolithic structure combining stone cladding*, a marble 'headstone' and a flame effect gas fire. All purchased by the previous owner about 15 years back for nigh on £2000 ($4000)- they left us the receipts.
What previously was just an eyesore looks like a potential headsore- a skull dasher- for a freshly mobile babe. Am unsure if I should take a sledgehammer to it (though turning the corner of the lounge into a rockery isn't much of a solution) or cover the whole thing in foam or bubblewrap.
Hey! Here's a thought: any drawgers who'd like a genuine olde English fireplace (c.1990)- I'll arrange to have it shipped across- just like London Bridge, for you to reassemble in your homestead.
* stone cladding: a British phenomenon of the 80s onwards 'HOMEOWNER! Irreparably transform the facade of your house and knock thousands off its resale value (and that of your neighbours houses)!' A bizarrely coloured faux stone covering- supposed to look rustic but suggesting the bridges and castles that are found in fishtanks.
...to entertain a 2 year old that you’re not prepared to repeat funfty thousand times.
On a recent visit to the beach I sketched with my heel a 50ft version of my daughter (think the Cerne Abbas giant, but lose the smut- this is a family item). Much fun was had by all and my daughter became very protective of her giant self, bawling people out for inadvertently straying across her head. Now, though, every visit to the beach isn’t complete without drawing a visible-from-space 2 year old. Am thinking of getting a huge cliff-top mounted epidioscope* or a giant pantograph* to make the task easier (* I had an art teacher from the 19th century). Is Photoshop making me too lazy?