Sand gets everywhere.
Into every crevice and curve; into every sandwich and snack. It exfoliates my knees red raw as I attempt to build masterful sandcastles with the eldest children whilst fending off the Littlest ‘Sandcastle Destroyer’ with my spade.
The inevitable sandcastle collapses invoke wails of deep grief, as does any dripping ice cream, any unwanted splash of water in the eye, or any chip lost to the gritty sand. In some ways it is difficult, especially when a big cloud covers up the untrustworthy British sun, and descends us all into a chilly wind.
But it is such fun. Especially when you just embrace it all.
The kids run wild and free.
Wetsuits are the saviour of cold British summer beaches. And despite still ending the day shivering from top to toe, it is glorious. The kids could stay all day. Rain or shine. For days on end. They make friends with any other little child who is also building a dam against the sea, or collecting eye-catching shells to decorate another sandcastle before the tide washes it away.
Their hair tastes of salt at bedtime, and their chins and cheeks become ruddy from the combination of sand, wind and sea. Their tan lines increase daily, even though clouds may dominate the beachy August days; and they learn how to play without a plastic toy or screen in sight. And secretly I too love the chance to let out my ‘inner creative’ on sandcastle designs.
The grown ups can sit and watch, taking it in turns to help out with sandcastle extensions and toilet trips. We sit, sipping coffee, smiling at the juxtaposition of bare legs on our bottom halves and thick down-filled coats on our top halves, which must be a particularly British phenomenon at this time of year. Coats come on and off and on and off as the sun plays hide and seek behind the clouds, and we take it in turns to potter around with the Littlest beach lover who seems born to play in mud and water, but does not yet understand why one cannot just keep walking straight on out to the sea.
Grandparents are the gemstones of these holidays. They have saved themselves up for this week of unlimited grandchild time, and although they must be given breaks from the relentlessness of little children, they throw themselves in so wholeheartedly that the kids eyes twinkle, the laughter echoes across the beach and, despite the inevitable tantrums, two generations create a bond and memories that will last forever.
Our children have an overflow of wonderful grandparents. We do not take this for granted. Their love and involvement leave a beautiful, indelible mark that will not fade, and that money cannot buy. They set the tone in this family that these sandy beaches magnify.
The kids run and collect, splash and sit, build and break, laugh and dream, on their own and all together. Windswept and towel-snuggled; sticky-fingers and salted-cheeks. They are wild and free. And so are we.
Hot, sparkling mediterranean beaches can wait.
This is enough.
And it is good.