Barbate. Not de la Frontera, which tells you either everything you need to know about where the Frontera was at the time the did the names, or that the man who painted the road signs was far too hot and far too fed up of painting de la Frontera on everything that doesn’t move by the time he’d meandered down the little road to reach the sea.
We reached the sea on the start of our first full day in Spain, in search of a certain something for Kitty. A little request that she’d made only several dozen times since she’d heard the word “beach”, addressed to all available adults, and her baby sister (although quite what she thought Elma could do about it is a mystery):
“I want a bucket please!”
“A purple one!”
As our convoy pulled into town, there on the other side of the road was a shop selling seaside paraphernalia. We looped around the roundabout and as we dawdled in a bus stop, Grandad and Kitty set out to choose the very nicest pink princess bucket, complete with purple spade, purple rake, a fish and a crab. Well, you can’t go to the beach without a bucket and spade.
The beach itself was beautiful, wide open stretches of soft pale sand, and virtually deserted thanks to a warm gale which gave us the choice between sitting above the tide line and embracing a level of exfoliation usually reserved for stripping paint, or accepting that everything and everyone is going to be gently crusted in damp sand.
We choose the latter and pitched camp with a tenacity that must have made us stand out for miles as tourists, probably British ones. We put up the sun tent for Elma. The left hand strut took one look at the advancing puff of wind and caved. We re-jigged it, trying to provide some shelter from the cloudless skies. The right hand strut snapped. But I didn’t spend all those years in the cadet force for nothing, and lacking the traditional logs, sisal rope and foliage with which to make an A-frame bivvy, I buried the bottom half of the parasol pole in the sand, propped the top of the tent on it, and shoved the nappy bag in the corner for ballast.
Elma, sat contentedly in her little patch of shade, ate a handful of sand, decided she liked it, and crawled out into the sunshine to look for some more.
We didn’t swim that day, if it’s somewhere new I don’t like to go in the sea until I’ve watched someone else swimming to see what the water’s doing, and no one else was foolhardy or brave enough to venture in. But it was the first time that either of the girls dipped a big toe (and quite a bit of the rest of them) into the Atlantic. I know it’s not the same the ocean over, but in southern Spain it’s just a tad warmer than the English Channel.
And it was the first sandcastle of the holiday,
And the first chance to really giggle and unwind.
We pottered through the town in the morning and then, as the boys headed off for some golf in the afternoon, the girls and I went for a swim at our hotel. It was a lovely giggly splashy swim and we all had a wonderful time. Although I’m not quite sure what Kitty found the most exciting; bobbing around in the water or the discovery that (as she later reported to her father in amazement):
“Grandma’s got knees!”
But before I go back to the world of washing up and grey skies, I must record Barbate’s one last claim on a spot in our family history. Well my history to be precise. I talk about the girls’ milestones all the time, but I’ve achieved a new first myself. For on the afternoon of 4th September 2013, for the first time in my 33 years, I got behind the wheel of a left hand drive car, loaded a good portion of my nearest and dearest into the back and drove them all the 20 minutes to Barbate.
We got there and back in one piece, we achieved our aim – shopping for pretty Spanish children’s clothes for the girls – and, and I’m especially proud of this; I overtook a tractor!