Sunday, July 21, 2013

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

There’s a lot to be said for the sea. 

Brittany, of course, has a lot of it, so no matter where you are, you’re never that far from a spot of ozone replacement therapy. In these hot days, the lure of the beach is stronger than ever, though it calls all year round. 

The coast differs greatly depending where you are, from the wide sandy crescents of St Brieuc bay, to the tiny little beaches amid the rocks of the Côte de Granit Rose, to the mighty cliffs of the Atlantic coast.

We’ve been up to the beach at Les Rosaires in all weathers. One wintry Tuesday we picked up a whole roast chicken and a pot of fried potatoes and onions from the rotisserie man at Quintin market, and ate them in the car watching the waves hurl at the beach. 

Even on the least inviting days there will be someone in the sea. It’s common to see groups in wetsuits walking breast-high through the water, occasionally with a leader who does the whole thing backwards whilst encouraging the rest.  One lot were all equipped with paddles, looking for all the world as though their boat had sunk under them. There are events where these teams walk all the way across the bay, though I think I’ll give that a miss; you can’t exactly sit down half way for a breather. 

We’ve recently been up at high tide, with the waves foaming at the rocks just below the promenade, and the sea noisy but not quarrelsome.  Later the same week, it was flat calm, murmuring at the sand. There have been men with fishing rods stretched out, hoping for a bite. In other seasons there will be lots of people bent at the waist, looking for shellfish with which to fill their buckets. The beach occasionally gives generously, but it also takes back: every year someone will die for concentrating too much on the possibilities of a free lunch and not enough on the turn of the tide. 

Just now it’s full summer, and very hot, so there are families at the beach; but there are nothing like the crowds we have seen on the TV news. ‘England is having a heat wave – head for the sea and broil!’ It doesn’t seem so frantic here. Dogs, horses and radios are banned from the beach from 10am to 7pm. There will be people playing volleyball, courts scratched into the sand, and children building sandcastles; there will be babies trying out the water for the first time, and teenagers discovering that air and water temperature don’t line up as closely as they hoped. There just won’t be a lot of noise or cramped crowds. 

There are sailing schools, and numerous vessels just offshore with matching sails, passing back and forth before the breeze – or against it, which confuses a landlubber like me no end. 

This proximity to water is wonderful, even though neither of us is a swimmer; we’re more the frantic floater types.  We live near a lake, but there’s something sinister and waiting about lakes; I’m not sure what it is, but still deep water worries me. The sea doesn’t wait for anyone. It just does its thing, backwards and forwards, endlessly, and in many moods. 

Now, the renovations can’t be put on hold just because it’s summer, you know; but we’ve come up with a compromise. I will go into yet another DIY store and gaze longingly at plumbing sundries, (largely because I’m the one with the specs about my person and neither of us can read the small print without them), in exchange for a swift detour to the beach five minutes up the road. It works out really well. We both get some exercise and fresh – occasionally very fresh – air, and we come home with lots of things to keep He Who Does Everything Around Here occupied next door for hours afterwards. 

So I sit here at the bottom of the house – I’ve had to decamp, or suffer from heatstroke up under the roof – and write, with a new view of the garden to gaze at for inspiration, while he plumbs and mutters and wanders in and out for cups of tea. Then, when he comes in frowning, and says, ‘There’s a bit of a hitch,’ I sigh and reply, in that wifely understanding but slightly exasperated way, that we’d better go and buy another part. I’ll pack my sun-hat and towel, and reach for the Factor 50 cream. 

Yes, there’s a lot to be said for the sea.
 © lms 2013


  1. You're nearly in the same boat (!) as we are, surrounded by sea. In the days when my mother would fly, she used to come and stay, and every day I would ask "Where do you want to go today?" "It doesn't matter, dear, as long as it's by the sea," she would answer, and we'd go exploring.

  2. "teenagers discovering that air and water temperature don’t line up" Oh, so true! I remember nearly freezing my face off trying to snorkel in those waters.

    Nice post, Lorraine, superbly written.