I have frequently heard and seen mention of the Great British Seaside Picnic. But I have never been on a proper one. As this summer has essentially been cancelled due to rain, a friend suggested we make the most of what appeared to be yet another dull, rainy, weekend.
In the Guardian recently, there was a funny feature about British seaside holidays, or something similar. Readers were invited to send in their pictures. And the pictures they sent reminded me of what I love about living here: a perverse, and perversely dry sense of humour. I showed the pictures to The Mom, and chuckled as I scrolled through. Images of tents washed away in floods, children wrapped up as though it were the middle of November, people looking forelornly at the sea through fogged up car windows. The Brits are so used to dismal weather that they know if they wait for a sunny day, they may be waiting some time. Though, when the sun does come out, it’s a stampede to the nearest shop to buy a shit BBQ, sausages, beer, crisps, and sunblock.
When I was up in Scotland in late May, we were all joking that as it was sunny and mild (no jackets! In Scotland! In May! No brollies! No rain!, well except the one day where there was hail and rain, but out of four days, we counted ourselves extremely fortunate). Anyhow, we were all joking that we’d managed to be up there on the weekend Scotland hosted summer.
Anyhow, the forecast was checked, and the Black Cloud of Doom – with two raindrops, not just one – hung heavy in the forecast. In no way deterred, my friend and I joked about how I could finally start to round out my British experiences. Until now, the only times I’d ever been the the seaside had been, for the most part warm, and always dry. My friend brought along some boiled eggs and cheese and chutney sandwiches, I brought cookies and a beach towel.
We left Bristol and headed for the coast and it kept brightening up, but then the clouds would return. By the time we got to the seaside, a miserable old, properly down on its luck seaside town, because it wouldn’t have done to go somewhere nice. That would’ve missed the point entirely. We wanted a pier, amusements, people with no teeth and a bad smoker’s cough, down market chain pubs, and donkey rides on the sand.
We found happy, healthy families playing cricket in the sunshine. I was slightly disappointed I must admit. But I got over it quickly when the smell of the sea reached me and instantly my brain was no longer able to process anything else but the fact that we were at the beach.
At The Mom’s there is no seaside beach where we might picnic if we managed to get our act in gear, but there are several lovely spots in the out-of doors. Like every other time I go home to visit, whilst I was still in the UK, many, many ambitious plans were bandied back and forth. We would go here, we would do this, everything would be a dazzling and exciting adventure. But, as always happens, we were infrequently able to get our act together, and the minute I entered The Mom’s home, what my siblings and I refer to as the Waterloo Coma quickly went into effect. This coma is basically the combined efforts of hay fever, exhaustion, sun, summer, and the general sleepiness of the house all bearing down on you. It induces long, deep afternoon naps. The kind where, when you eventually you wake up, you drag yourself out of bed as though you’d been sleeping in quicksand. And for me, much as I love a good picnic, the naps were essential. My annual visits also double as the only times of the year when I get to rest, and so instead of picnicking, I slept. Which was very good indeed.