18 June 2010

'I do like to be beside the seaside...'

Barafundle Beach, Pembrokeshire coast

"I do like to be beside the seaside"

Music hall tune written by John Glover-Kind (1907)

Every delights to spend their summer's holiday
Down beside the side of the silvery sea
I'm no exception to the rule
In fact, if I'd my way
I'd reside by the side of the silvery sea.

But when you're just the common or garden
Smith or Jones or Brown
At bus'ness up in town
You've got to settle down.
You save up all the money you can till summer comes around.
Then you go away
To a spot you know
Where the cockle shell are found.

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside,
I do like to be beside the sea!
I do like to stroll along the prom, prom, prom,
Where the brass bands play ‘Tiddly om pom pom.’

So just let me be beside the seaside,
I’ll be beside myself with glee.
And there’s lots of girls beside,
I should like to be beside,
Beside the seaside!
Beside the sea!

The seaside holiday--like the camping holiday-- is an iconic experience of British life.

Mainland Britain is blest with over 11,073 miles (17,820 km) of coastline, much of which is protected and preserved by the National Trust, and other such organizations, and easily accessible.

As a result, nearly everyone you meet has a story, or two, at least, of fond childhood memories of family holidays by the sea.

The locations may differ (Saundersfoot, Blackpool, Scarborough, St. Ives, Torquay, and son on) but the details are invariably similar: tales of stunning views, breath-taking beauty, surprising sunshine, and of course the ever-predictable rain.

Growing up in the land-locked, lush and humid landscape of the American south; where relief from an arid summer’s baking heat came only in the shape of ponds, lakes and muddy rivers, the British seaside holiday, as I imagined and read about it books, seemed a magical thing.

For me, this image/idea was captured most successfully and indelible by the singer Morrissey (The Smiths) and his song “Everyday is Like Sunday”. The video for this song splashed onto MTV in the summer of 1987; and featured amazing British actress, Billie Whitelaw, as the blithe and breezy, tea-making mum. (Billie Whitelaw should be everyone’s mum!)

Perhaps, dear Reader, if you of a certain age, you will recall this one, too?...

The DEB and I have a little Mercedes camper van that provides us with transport and shelter on our little holidays and getaways. This past week we took the Princess Puppy and ventured off to the beautiful landscape of the Pembrokeshire coast in South Wales.

We stayed at a Caravan Club site near the beach at Freshwater Water East.

The site was run by Brian & Janet and Geoff & Babs two, really helpful and friendly couples. They were always at the ready with advice and recommendations.

The location was quite remarkable, more of a park ground really, with rabbits bobbing around everywhere; and we were flanked on one side by the sound of bleating sheep on our left, and the sound of splashing waves on the right. Magic.

We were smart to plan our trip for the week just after half term, which meant – NO KIDDIES!! In other words: quiet campsite, day and night; and beaches that were practically secluded and nearly empty.

The amazing thing about British beaches is that on a really good, hot, sunny day you could be anywhere in the world, the beaches are that spectacular. The only things that “good, hot, sunny days” are never guaranteed on this precious isle.

This is one way in which living in England has changed me/my life forever. My life, as never before, is utterly ruled by weather! For our 1 week holiday in Wales, I packed as if we’d be away for 3!

Fleeces, jumpers, socks, jackets, flipflops, trainers, shorts, long trousers, capris, summer skirt, dressy skirt, warm skirt, swim suit (swimming costume), and a wet suit – just a few of the items in my bag!

It’s all about layers and being prepared for the unexpected, and the inevitable. For example, I took along three different jackets: a light, J.Crew denim one; a fleece zippy one; and a puffy, quilted water-proof one.

Well, it is only June, after all.

And, anything could happen weather-wise! On Sunday, we were on the beach, roasting (yes, roasting) nicely in the sun; Tuesday found me berating myself for foolishly leaving my precious green wellies behind!

A soaked DEB in soggy Saundersfoot

Something I would not normally have done, but my one excuse is that it was June, and I was hopeful...

A familiar, washed-out, British seaside holiday scene

Fortunately, the rain only dampened our plans for one day; and the rest of the holiday was blissfully sunny.

We explored the spectacular Pembrokeshire coastline, which made us proud to be members (and in my case, staff) of the National Trust.

The DEB at Barafundle, National Trust coastline and beach

The Princess Puppy surveying the land of her ancestors on Stackpole Estate Beach (National Trust)

We donned our wetsuits and braved the waves. The first time for me! Incredible experience, and now I’m hooked!!

We ventured off the beaten path, after taking a wrong turn, quite literally, and discovered a small village pub in called the Stackpole Inn.

The food was gorgeous, on our first visit I had salmon and the DEB had Welsh pork. We went back on our last evening and we both had fresh, Welsh lamb. Lovely! And, the most delicious Summer Pudding that I have ever had!

I have to say, I didn’t find Welsh ale very inspiring. Compared to good, old English ale, the Welsh variety seemed a bit stale, flat and bland. But, then, to be fair, I only tried one or two. I am, however, more than willing to explore this topic further!

The Welsh get a lot of stick, for their beer, and a whole host of other reasons. There’s an old adage I’ve heard, that goes like this: “The Scots hate the English, the English hate the Irish; and everybody hates the Welsh!”

Well, The DEB and I really enjoy Wales and the Welsh; and as my paternal grandmother was proudly a “Jones”, I claim a bit of Welsh pride.

The nice thing about Wales is that it is so close (4 hours drive for us to the coast), and yet “feels” so far away. Not bad for ticking all my holiday boxes: history, culture beach – and not necessarily in that order.

Pembroke Castle, birthplace of Henry VII (Henry Tudor)
(Pembroke is a nice little town, with an excellent Fish and Chip shop right near the castle!)


Just... Linda said...

Looks lovely! I'm so jealous, lol!

Spike said...

Morrissey... Thanks for the memories.

I truly need to map out a vacay-- this sounds wonderful.

Miss you...

misschicago said...

Enjoyed this. And -- we have the very same style of fitflops! (I got mine at Macys) :)

Sue Doran said...

Oh thanks, I can't get that song out of my head now! Lovely photographs, specially that first one; you have got right to the heart of a proper British seaside holiday :-)

Natasha said...

Great song and great post! Glad you had a great time.

Best wishes for a lovely week,

Starle said...

Wow. Lovely to find your blog. Just wanted to say how awesomely-weird it was to watch that Morrissey video. I wonder what my 14 y/o self would have thought if she would have known that I would end up living in the UK? Glad I found your blog and looking forward to reading new posts.