Beach but not beached

A week sprawled on a sun-lounger is an ap­palling prospect but, hang on, even hol­i­day re­sorts have sport­ing po­ten­tial, finds Jonathan Young

The Field - - YOUNG IN THE FIELD -

AF­TER a se­ries of dis­as­trous “dis­mounts” from the nag, I booked into the lo­cal saw­bones for re­pairs on my right shoul­der. “Ah,” he said, with the sort of suck­ing noise com­mon to car me­chan­ics, “not sure we can fix this. Too many years on the clock. We could fit a new joint but you’d prob­a­bly need an­other in 15 years.”

Hav­ing thus failed the bod­ily MOT and been con­demned like a hu­man Cortina, I suc­cumbed to fa­mil­ial pres­sure and trot­ted off to our nearby acupunc­tur­ist-cum-mar­tial arts in­struc­tor. Nick­named Kung fu Panda, his treat­ment be­gins with a 40-minute yak about any­thing from the price of eggs to the city cen­tre’s traf­fic con­ges­tion. The real pur­pose of Kfp’s ver­bal ram­bling is to es­tab­lish the flow of your life force and check out the bod­ily bal­ance of the five el­e­ments: wood, fire, earth, metal and wa­ter. That es­tab­lished, he then slides in the nee­dles to re­di­rect the life force to the in­jury.

It all sounds a lit­tle like eat­ing dried bat to ward off the plague but it works and, hav­ing seen the Panda three times, I no longer have prob­lems with the shoul­der even af­ter fir­ing heavy ar­tillery at high pheas­ants.

Part of this suc­cess may be down to heed­ing his ad­vice on life­style. “Wa­ter’s an im­por­tant el­e­ment to you,” he said. “You need to be near it reg­u­larly for your spir­i­tual health.” And while that may sound far too patchouli oil and joss sticks, there’s noth­ing that makes me hap­pier than mess­ing about on rivers and the sea.

The key bit, how­ever, is “mess­ing about”. I would al­most pre­fer the hor­ror of a DIY cen­tre on a Satur­day than sprawl on a beach sun­bathing. Partly that’s be­cause I am in­ca­pable of tan­ning, a red­dish blotch be­ing my best at­tempt at brown, but mostly it’s down to the sheer te­dium of pro­longed fry­ing.

In Corn­wall, this isn’t a prob­lem. Usu­ally you need a fleece even in Au­gust and there’s al­ways some­thing to do, from study­ing the ful­mars and gan­nets to catch­ing a wave on the body­board. If the surf’s a mere rip­ple, I grab the prawn net or try for a bass on the fly.

Distress­ingly, none of th­ese op­tions were run­ners when the fam­ily de­cided, back in Jan­uary, that it was time for a “hot hol­i­day” on a for­eign beach where the only ac­tiv­ity seemed to be ap­ply­ing more sun­tan lo­tion. The tim­ing was ex­quis­ite. With at least six days’ shoot­ing still to go af­ter what had been a busy sea­son I’d lost the moral au­thor­ity to ex­er­cise a veto and, be­sides, the sum­mer was a long way off.

In­evitably, the months trun­dled by and the sit­u­a­tion had to be faced. We were go­ing and there was no es­cape. The night be­fore de­par­ture I checked out the re­sort (the very word con­firmed my fears) on Google images. There was an ad­mit­tedly golden shore but de­void of any surf and pop­u­lated with skinny types, ger­bils stuffed down their Speedos, parad­ing through a spin­ney of beach um­brel­las.

The next day our host met us at the air­port and I donned my bravest fa­cial ex­pres­sion, one per­fected af­ter years of din­ner par­ties lis­ten­ing to women bang­ing on about their chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion. A kind and un­der­stand­ing friend, he’d planned a visit to the lo­cal fish­ing shop on the way to his house and its wares im­me­di­ately promised sport­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. for stacked in a cor­ner, op­po­site a tutti-frutti of carp baits, was ev­ery im­ple­ment known to mankind for fore­shore for­ag­ing: vast shrimp­ing nets, prawn nets and a med­ley of hooked rods for ex­tract­ing lob­sters and crabs from rocky crevices at low tide.

His 19th-cen­tury house, rooms lined in old, pol­ished pine, nes­tled in the old part of the town, 90 sec­onds from the empty end of the beach and 10 min­utes from the fish mar­ket. The fol­low­ing day we strolled through port to col­lect the break­fast crois­sants and I stopped to buy two-dozen na­tive oys­ters, a bar­gain at six eu­ros a kilo. Next to them were piles of cock­les and clams, the lat­ter a hefty 14 eu­ros a kilo. “Are they lo­cal?” I asked the im­mac­u­lately groomed lady man­ning the stall. Some­how de­ci­pher­ing my aw­ful dog french, she ex­plained that they were and could be gath­ered right here on the beach.

Here, then, was a chance for a lit­tle hunter gather­ing, with­out which no hol­i­day is com­plete. Back at the house, my friend re­vealed that his un­cle, a french­man, had been an ex­pert clam gath­erer but that he’d not re­ally paid at­ten­tion. He did, how­ever, have a cou­ple of rakes that might help.

The fol­low­ing day, at low wa­ter, we walked over to the chan­nel, the sup­posed mother lode for shell­fish. Not a sign of ac­tiv­ity but on the other bank a chap with dread­locks was feel­ing about in the mud and slip­ping things into a small sack. Wad­ing care­fully over, my friend ap­proached the Gal­lic Rasta, who seemed as pleased as a fore­shore fowler to have his patch tres­passed upon by in­com­ers. How­ever, the french are gen­er­ally cour­te­ous and re­luc­tantly he showed us how to knead the silt with both hands, feel­ing for the clams’ shells and af­ter an hour of cut fin­gers we’d gath­ered half a bucket.

Not quite enough though for the planned spaghetti von­gole, so the fol­low­ing day we changed tac­tic and tar­geted the cock­les, soon fill­ing both plas­tic buck­ets.

That night, I com­man­deered the kitchen, threw the pasta in boil­ing wa­ter and steamed our spoils in a brew of Mus­cadet, gar­lic, shal­lots, lar­dons, olive oil, but­ter and pars­ley. My host­ess was thrilled not to cook and I had dis­cov­ered yet an­other way to make a beach hol­i­day a plea­sure.

The Gal­lic Rasta seemed as pleased as a fore­shore fowler to have his patch tres­passed

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