Awash in the Wash – 1984

After the magnificent sea and sand holiday of 1983 I was left with a hankering for the sea. So when the next year’s holiday rolled around I was counting the days ’til we hit the coast. However, what no one told my 9 year old self, or at least, if they did I didn’t listen, which seems highly likely, was that not all seas are made equal. I knew about the hot/cold differential, no one that grows up on the fringes of the North Sea and its frigid waters could ever be under any delusion about the potentially heart stopping powers of the ice cold ocean.

But the waters off Hunstanton, on the Norfolk coast, had a problem which I suspect my parents saw coming, but wasn’t one that alarmed them, probably the opposite.

I believe it rained quite a lot during our time in Hunstanton. Such is the risk when the school holidays in the UK take place over one of the wettest months of year. But the heavens must have cleared when I donned my trunks and marched into the water.

Splish splash. It wasn’t very deep. I tried to hunker down in the water but even my child sized frame didn’t find the depth at all sufficient. It was like trying to play hide and seek with only a bamboo cane to take cover behind. I went out a bit further; it got an inch deeper. The quiet waters continued to lap around me. I tried to swim but still didn’t have enough water below me.

No matter how far I waded out, the water remained as shallow as a goldfish bowl and more boring, for it didn’t even have little toy castles to swim through. Although it might have done, the water water was pretty cloudy and the bottom was a mystery, even in such shallows.

I had a moment of excitement when trying a quick flail through the water. I probably brushed my leg with my own hand, but I didn’t know what it was and the contact with something other than sea and sand panicked the hell out of me. I assumed it was gigantic and life threatening, with huge teeth, perhaps a giant squid, so I decided to escape those waters. In my child’s mind, with all the poor estimations of distance and speed that offers, it was at this point I discovered I was “miles” away from my parents at the edge of the lapping waves.

Exhausted from my waterlogged walk I trudged back onto dry land.

What I now know is that the waters on the Norfolk coast are famous for such shallow shelving. I believe they tried to warn me of this by saying “you might have to go a long way out” when I said I wanted to go in the water, but I was deaf to their concerns, it was the sea, it got deeper, that’s what the sea does. They must have tittered heartily at my dismissal of their warning. I hope so.


Porthcurno – It’s Alive!

On the south coast of Cornwall, not far from Land’s End, there’s a pristine sandy beach, nestled in a deep cove. Perched on a cliff above this amazing crescent of gold is the Minack open air theatre. Running under the sands, down into the turquoise waters are several communications cables and it was via here that Churchill was able to beg FDR, on a regular basis, to join the war. My brother went to the Cable and Wireless college there, where he played Amidar (like Pac-Man, but much more playable) and tin tray sledged down the icy road.

But none of these noteworthy features, none of these auspicious events, are the reason I think of the place.

I will forever remember it as being the first place I ever saw women sunbathing topless. I say women, I don’t really know if there was more than one, I only remember one. One woman, that is. She was up on some rocks, quite a distance away. I was only 8 years old, so we’re talking a strictly academic appreciation of taboo here.

That was the high point though. Despite Porthcurno’s many attractions and glories it was disappointing in the one department I really cared about – splashing about in the sea. There were two problems with it in this respect: Firstly, the beach there shelves as quickly as a patent for poo flavoured gum. Having only short legs I found this drop off to be pretty frightening. Secondly, the sea was alive with little translucent sea bugs. These critters were small enough to wash into my trunks with each wave, but big enough to make me go “Waaaah! There are things alive in my swim togs!”

I could be wrong but I think me and my dad lasted about 5 minutes before giving up.

Porthcurno – 8 out of 10 for look. -3 out of 10 for feel.