The last lovely gasp of summer by the seaside
SUMMER is almost over and we are seeing it off with a last big family beach weekend.
Following a faint grey Google map in search of the house we’ve rented on the internet, we anxiously ponder what’s really implied by ‘‘close to the beach’’. We find it one block from the sea.
Soon the uncles, the aunty and the baby arrive with boogie boards, surfboards and a giant plastic leaf. The kids are baffled.
‘‘It is a sun and wind shelter,’’ the aunty explains.
We all head for the beach. The kids refuse sunhats and sunscreen. The adults threaten exile under the giant leaf. The kids sulk. But in the surf, lotion, hats and sulks are quickly forgotten. The sun sinks on chattering teeth and blue lips.
Back at the house, the barbie sizzles, the grown-ups talk past one another and the kids plug in to the Playstation. The chef can’t quite co-ordinate the cuisine, so the disgruntled vegetarian eats last and alone. While the aunty holds forth on multi-processing, the chef sulks and a battle breaks out around the Playstation.
A quiet evening stroll along the sand dunes fails to calm the kids and winds the adults up to fever pitch on the question of coastal revegetation. Back at the house the television movie is under- scored by thumps and wails from the bunkroom, hissed threats from the hallway and an airing of the uncles’ knowledge of Chinese cinema. At midnight the baby is the last man standing.
Despite grand plans for an early team start, only a bachelor uncle is out the door by 9am, surfboard under his arm. Envious eyes follow his escape.
The mood in the house is tense. Someone has forgotten to bring the coffee machine.
It’s past 11am before the first group arrives on a beach whipped by a wind chilled by white-capped waves and whistling with flying sand. Just when their burning eyes and lacerated bodies can take no more, the aunty turns up with the giant leaf. She plants it triumphantly in the sand. But, like the real thing, the plastic leaf flaps wildly in the wind.
The kids chase its elusive shadow in mad circles. They kick up a storm. The adults shriek and bury their heads. The baby bawls. Everyone gives up and heads for the house.
over lunch. Someone has forgotten the Playstation charger. The kids stare resentfully. The adults glare accusingly. Just in time, another bachelor uncle turns up with the coffee machine and the charger. He distracts the adults with espressos. The kids withdraw with the charger. Peace reigns.
Down on the beach the wind has dropped. A sandcastle construction project gets under way. With combined adult direction and a co-operative force of child labour, turrets, bridges and a moat emerge. It’s the envy of the beach.
The baby discovers the miracle of sand. He digs his hand in and runs it through his fingers. Everyone marvels at the miracle of babies.
For the rest of the afternoon, great fun is had by all.
That evening the vegetarian launches into his lentil burgers and the carnivores attack their lamb chops in concert. The chef basks in the warm glow of the aunty’s approval.
Now back in the city, memories of the big family beach weekend ping from phone to phone.