There are lots of different signs of Summer, those from nature, the first juicy red home grown strawberries of the year, sporting, Wimbledon, cricket and cultural, Trooping of the Colour, Glastonbury. However when you live in a small seaside town there are other signs of Summer you quickly recognise as heralding the season.
Sand – despite how much I sweep, tidy and clean there is always sand on my kitchen floor, shower tray and car in the Summer months. As you walk you hear the crunchy steps following you around. However it’s a small price to pay for living in such an amazing place and being able to go the sandy beach everyday.
A Garden Full of Drying Beach Gear – After each trip to the beach, our garden is full of drying swimming costumes, t-shirts, life jackets, spades, surf boards etc.. Its not simply drying but shaking out the sand ready for the next trip.
Empty supermarket shelves – we have one large supermarket, Co-op, one medium supermarket and a convenience store. The Co-op causes me stress throughout the year but my levels rocket sky high in the Summer when the shelves are frequently empty of fresh fruit and veg, milk and bread. It’s like a game of dare when you enter, already this year I haven’t been able to get milk or bread on a number of occasions, I can’t believe ordering and stock replenishment is so difficult. I am thankful for online grocery deliveries and that Mr S works in the big town for emergency supplies.
Parking – Normally it’s quite easy and free to park in town, however once May 15th comes, all our favourite spots are under no parking regulations and parking becomes an issue and an expense. In Summer, once parked at work I daren’t pop home at lunch or I’ll never get a parking space near work for the afternoon.
Driving – Our town has an interesting one way system and the main route for most of the residents is through the town centre, there is no alternative. In the Summer, tourists forgot it is not pedestrianised and small roads and busy pavements mean driving can be a challenge, you drive slowly and are always ready to slam on brakes as pedestrians walk in front of you. The one way system means you are also predicting what unfamiliar drivers will do at junctions. It drives Mr S mad, I just smile.
Themed weekends – To extend the season we have lots of themed weekends before and after the main holiday season, they are musical, blues, jazz, folk, transport, steam galas and sporting, regattas, cycle races and a marathon. These are fantastic and can make the weekend seem like a little holiday.
Staying local on a Saturday. Saturday is swap over day and in the 6 week holiday the traffic in and out of town and the surrounding areas is so heavy that a trip out of town is ill advised, there are only two routes in and out of town and both will be heavily congested for miles, best to stay local.
School Trips. Lots of school children visit our town in the summer for language schools and geography field trips. As a teacher I am sympathetic if I get caught as they all cross the road and smile at the frazzled teachers, counting and keeping them safe. I am also pretty good at answering all the surveys they have to do as part of their coursework although they are often disappointed that I’m not a tourist as the theme is normally tourism and what ameities the town should have.
Summer is brilliant in a seaside town and whilst some of the signs may be a little frustrating (Co-op!) I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. It is the best time of the year and I love that so many people want to be in our town too for their holidays and to create happy memories.
We regularly walk along the beach in all weathers throughout the year, so today wasn’t really our first trip to the beach this year. However it was the first bright, sunny and warm day of the year which meant we got to wear our swimming costumes under our shorts and t shirts and brought the beach toy bag out of hibernation and headed to the beach to play and paddle! The nice thing was that it was totally unexpected given we were wearing winter hats and coats for the Easter egg hunt on Sunday! As is often the way in our small town, once on the beach we met up with other children and soon there was a little posse building sand castles and digging channels, holes and moats to trap the water. The little ones love the beach and can quite happily play for hours, imagining and creating sand worlds. For me the beach is a simple pleasure; feeling the sun on my face, walking barefoot on the sand and just looking out to sea. Until I lived at the seaside, I never appreciated the beauty of the sea and now looking out at it is the most relaxing thing I do.
Living on the coast, it is quite unusual to have snow, so I tend not to get too excited when it is forecast around the country. And so it was this morning, I was following my usual morning routine when Little Man rushed in to say it was snowing, I hadn’t even looked out the window! I presumed this was a little flurry but was really surprised to see lots of snow falling and the roads and pavements blanketed in white. After wrapping up warm, I left DH to do the school run and walked to work. The steam trains looked beautiful covered in snow and other features which normally look so ordinary looked special. School started a little later today but once we had all arrived, we decided to make the most of the weather and had one of those amazing moments when we all piled into the playground for a snow ball fight, the giggles, screams and exhilaration, a perfect moment. Once we had used all the snow, it was back into class to dry all our soggy gloves and to warm up with a hot drink. Sadly, that was the end of the snow, the temperature quickly warmed up and by 10.30am there was no sign that it had ever snowed. However it was the memories ( and photos) of the day that will linger on, an unexpected magic moment.
Today is Remembrance Sunday and I feel strongly about honouring and remembering our armed services who have served in conflict around the world. This afternoon, I took the children to the annual Remembrance Day parade in town, it was a wet afternoon but there was an impressive crowd of all ages. It was a simple parade, an old WW2 vehicle leading, enabling some of the more infirm veterans to participate, a pipe band providing the music, a group of veterans proudly parading in their uniforms and medals, local dignitaries and public service organisations and then current soldiers from a local garrison. We watched the parade, which paraded first to the parish church for a short service and then to the war memorial for the wreath laying ceremony. During the service, I took the children to the war memorial which already had a number of wreaths around it despite the official ceremony not having taken place. I wanted to show the children the memorial up close, Little Man had been talking about soldiers names and I wanted to see if we could find a soldier who shared his name on the memorial, unfortunately it was simply initials for the first names so we weren’t able to but we did find multiple entries for some family names, it was quite emotional discussing with the children that these men may have been brothers, cousins etc..
Finding a soldier with your name or birthday was always an activity we used to do when as a French teacher, I helped to run school trips to Normandy. The rows of graves at the Commonwealth cemeteries was so powerful and we liked to think that this activity helped our students have a special link with a fallen soldier, rather than be overwhelmed by the sight of all the graves.
There has been much in the news of the art installation, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London, where in the moat they have planted more than 880,000 ceramic poppies to represent the Commonwealth dead of WW1. I have not been able to visit it but it is stunning and such a powerful and emotive memorial. I have purchased one of the ceramic poppies, which will raise money for armed forces charities and am looking forward to displaying it in our home. We will remember them…
The first weekend in September is the annual Folk Festival, one of my favourite weekends. My memories of the weekend over the years have been of hot, balmy weather, friends and family visiting and folk music filling the air. I listened to the open air concert in bed last night and just felt relaxed and happy, I’m not sure who was playing but the reception was very warm. All over the weekend, there are many bands playing in various locations and one of the highlights is the procession through town of the folk dancers ending at the beach. Little Miss and I went down to the festival this afternoon to visit the main area, stalls, bars, music tents etc.. The craft tent is always very impressive and gave me lots of inspiration. We finished the afternoon on the promenade to see the dancers. There was such a variety of dancers, music, styles and colours in the procession, I lost count of the different troops. Little Miss did enjoy most of the dancers although she found some of the mummies rather frightening preferring the more traditional Morris dancing and the straw animals which were mascots. The music is so simple with the accordions and fiddles and the whole weekend does make you reflect on and celebrate our cultural heritage.
Wednesday was the children’s first day back at school and I try to make these days special and memorable, well whilst the little ones are small enough to humour me! The day starts with the obligatory back to school photos in the morning, when we are all are clean and tidy, no uniforms on before breakfast today. These photos are diligently emailed through to the grandparents so whilst they don’t live near us they can share in the excitement of the day too. For Little Miss this is the third year of school and the change in her is significant in the images we have. After the poses and pleas for genuine smiles, our other tradition is much more appealing, after school we head to the ice cream parlour for a well deserved ice cream treat. On the walk down to town it feels gorgeous to hold their little hands after a day apart. This year it was exceptionally hot and sunny so the beach was busy and the little ones had an audience to play cute to as they licked their ice creams and chatted about their day. Given the school holidays are over it is a more mature tourist in town now, but they were enchanted by the children still in uniforms and carrying their little book bags and many came over to say hello or smiled at us. Its always a tiring day as we get back to the routine of school so baths and early nights all round but a happy day and I’ve got gorgeous photos too!