My father’s photo albums are filled with hundred of photos of my sister and my childhood. There are the photos of Mum and Dad as proud new parents of a dark haired, rotund little squished up me, photos as the three became a family of four two years later, and photos of high days and holidays.
And then there are the photos of what were to us the everyday moments, the pictures of me leaping off the high rock at Gara in summer, a bath full of small friends and cousins washing off the day’s salt and sand, or my personal favourites (sadly inappropriate for the internet if I ever want my sister to speak to me again) taken on the beach below our village in late autumn. In the first picture I’m still wearing a warm wooly jumper, but I’ve long since abandoned my socks and shoes and trousers. And clearly I think this is a good thing because I’m rapidly removing and unbuttoning all forms of warm winter clothing from my toddler sister. She doesn’t look unhappy about it though, and the next shot is proof; one tiny girl, now entirely undressed trying most determinedly to remove my mother’s jumper, while Mum’s face is a picture of laughter and mock horror.
The sea was the background to my childhood, and while as a teenager being a million miles away from well, anywhere, had its frustrations, I wouldn’t swap it for the wide world. There is salt in my blood and it shows.
The sea is my happy place. I can sit for hours watching a storm roll in across the bay, crashing down on the shore with a sharp scrunch of pebbles flung up on the beach and feel myself unwind with every roller, or lie out on the sand on a beautiful summer’s day, listening to the lullaby of the waves kissing the shore as a light breeze brings the yachts out of the harbour in a kaleidoscope of sails and brightly coloured spinnakers and feel the cares of the day drift away.
And that’s before you’ve even got anywhere near the paddling and swimming and exploring that comes with it.
Nowadays, having by happy accident ended up living about as far away from the sea as it’s possible to be and still be in England, being by the sea is the cornerstone of our family holidays.
I might not be able to give the girls and Pip quite the bucket and spade childhood that I had, but I want to share with them the things that made that childhood special; the afternoon walks to the beach for a swim, the rush of the waves under you the first time you manage to catch a wave with your new bodyboard, or the peace of listening to the waves lap under the front of a Topper (it’s a very little sailing dinghy) as you push off from the shore and out to sea.
Watching the girls on the beach at Putsborough this summer showed me oh so clearly that there might just be a bit of salt in them after all.
For Kitty it was all about the surf, jumping the waves, running in and out after H and sneaking as many goes on his surfboard as she could manage. She helped her Grandpa to build enormous tide castles and sat watching from our balcony window as the sea finally reclaimed the sand.
She still talks about exploring the rock pools at Croyde and her pink fishing net would I suspect feature quite highly up the list of prized possessions, along with the shells that she carried home in it.
And for Elma, my sweet little just about walking Elma, as soon as she spotted the sea and the wet sand left behind by an ebbing tide it was love at first sight.
Give her a bucket and spade, and just possibly a toy watering can and she was off, toddling from puddle to puddle, stirring, pouring and contentedly sitting in each one until she was eventually whisked away protesting to be cleaned, dried and warmed up.
Because, and you may need to sit down for this because if you’re also Devonian what I’m about to say will shock you to your core, the sea in Devon isn’t exactly warm. (I’m rather hoping H doesn’t read this because he’s been telling me it’s cold for years and I’ve been telling him that he’s simply being a big northern Yorkshire softy.)
If I were to dream up my ideal holiday for our little family right now there would be sea, the big skies and wide horizons that let you feel that you can stretch and stretch and stretch some more. There would be swimming and sailing and surfing; time to explore and time to sit and dig sand puddles and just be happy.
Time to build the memories that they in turn might want to pass on to their children one day.
And if it was warm enough to do it without the thermals and a wetsuit that would just be the icing on the cake.
This is my entry to be a #markwarnermum next year and I’ve got all my fingers and toes crossed that we do get the chance to take our buckets and spades to the sun to indoctrinate young Pip in the ways of a beach loving family.