Tag: seaside

Do seaside towns have genders?

This is a very weird thought. It might even be in the top ten of weirdest thoughts I have had since I started this blog.

This weird thought came to me while I was writing my last blog entry. I was thinking about our holiday in Borth and trying to work out why I prefer Borth to Aberdovey.

Aberdovey - a lovely place to be and wear boating clothes

Aberdovey – a lovely place to be and wear boating clothes

For people who live in Shropshire and Staffordshire (and other counties in this area) North and West Wales are very popular seaside destinations. When I was growing up, in Stafford, we ventured to West Wales a lot. I remember going to Aberdovey and later on, to Borth. I also remember Clarach Bay and Tywyn. My thought is about Borth vs Aberdovey.

On paper, Aberdovey seems to beat Borth. Aberdovey is posh. It is full of boats. It has nice shops. It has a Fat Face and a shop that sells Seasalt clothes. It is always sunny there. It has lots of sand. People enjoy sitting on the beach with their picnics there. Borth does not have so much sand except when the tide is out. It isn’t posh. It has just a few boats. It has some nice shops but also some rather run-down tacky shops. People are more likely to be walking along the beach than sitting on it there. It rains in Borth. It never rains in Aberdovey. Aberdovey tinkles gently in the wind. The wind blows harshly yet silently through Borth. Houses in Aberdovey sell for more than houses in Borth.

We prefer Aberdovey to Borth

We prefer Aberdovey to Borth


However, I’d rather live in Borth than in Aberdovey. Why? I ask myself: wouldn’t you rather hang out with the posh kids and be in the sunshine wearing Fat Face clothes? I think I prefer Borth because Borth is more masculine than Aberdovey. Aberdovey is pretty. Borth is gritty. I’m not a girly person. I don’t like girly things (Equally, New Quay is quite feminine in my mind and I much prefer Borth to New Quay as well.) I don’t like pink. I don’t wear much makeup. I have always struggled with girly things.  Aberdovey strives for perfection in appearance. Aberdovey cares about its appearance. Borth doesn’t. Borth demands that you either like it or hate it. If you hate it, go away. Also, Aberdovey isn’t quirky. Borth is.

The pebbles of Borth

The pebbles of Borth

I’ve always generally preferred male company to female company. My closest friends have mostly been male. I do have close female friends now and I have done in the past but more often than not, my closest friends have been male. At school and then at university I got on better with the boys than the girls. Girls sometimes confuse me because I’m not like them. I live with four boys. I’ve only got male children. So, I suggest that I prefer Borth to Aberdovey because in my weird synaesthic mind Borth is more masculine than Aberdovey. Aberdovey is pretty and sunny and bathed in a pink hue. Borth is grey, broody and solid. Borth sits in a bluey grey hue.

Borth makes me think of Morrissey whereas Aberdovey is Katrina and the Waves.

So if ever we decide to move to the seaside (not likely but in my dreams) I think I’ll get much more house for my money and be much happier to skim stones on a pebbly beach rather than ride my yacht past the sand dunes and Fat Face.

Fat Face on the beach

Fat Face on the beach





Fear of future nostalgia

This is a weird thought I’ve had during this week while in Borth.

We visit Borth every year, thanks to the generosity of my dad and step mum who own a caravan there. I love Borth. I love Borth because I went there for two, or maybe three, years running as a child and teenager in the 1980s. I went with my mum and grandparents and we stayed in a tiny cottage on the main road called Myfanwy. That cottage is still there. I would love to see inside it again. I have such lovely memories of those holidays: spending hours in the sea; sitting in the window reading library books; foreseeing a future of me and a handsome young man walking hand in hand along the beach; browsing the old, dusty seaside shops. I also remember the smell of bacon in the morning, my grandma sitting on the stones in her deckchair sipping tea and the Laura Ashely decor in the cottage which we all admired so much.

Borth - a small Welsh seaside town that many love

Borth – a small Welsh seaside town that many love

The last time I’d been in Borth before I returned as an adult I was 14 years old. I didn’t return for 21 years. I’ve now been with my two then three children every summer for the last eight years. Borth is currently firmly in my children’s childhood memory bank, in fact it is more firmly in theirs than it ever was in mine.

The cottage where we stayed, as it looks now

The cottage where we stayed, as it looks now

Nostalgia is a strange emotion: warm and melancholy at the same time. My strange thought is about future nostalgia not current nostalgia. I can deal with the nostalgia I feel for my time in Borth as a child. But if I imagine myself in years to come, an elderly lady, revisiting Borth I feel deep sadness. I don’t like the image. Because in that future my children have grown up and they no longer live with me. So I see myself in Borth alone and remembering bringing them. For all the complaining and sighing I do at the moment about how tiring parenthood is, I can’t envisage the end of it without feeling deeply sad. I don’t like the idea of sitting on the sea front with the echo of their voices.

I don’t want to be an old lady sitting on the beach in Borth with tears in her eyes remembering carrying her middle son over the stones while six months pregnant because he didn’t like them or watching her three sons skimming stones very badly on the shore line. I need someone to reassure me that if I become that person in 30 years time that I won’t have that moment, or if  I do, it won’t be sad.

They need skimming lessons

They need skimming lessons

I would like to think that I will return and that Borth won’t have changed much as it hasn’t since the 1980s. Perhaps even my children will return as old men and remember how badly they skimmed stones.


The myth of the good family day out at the seaside

All through the Easter holidays I’ve been promising my children that we would go to the seaside before school starts up again. I wasn’t just promising this for them, I was promising it for me too. I love the sea.

This urge became all the more intense as during the two weeks we were rumbling around at home together I saw many photographs on Facebook of happy, smiling children paddling in the sea, playing in the sand and happy grownups basking in the sunshine. I wanted to be them. So many of my friends had headed to the coast over Easter. They looked so happy.

The urge gradually became so intense that today, two days before school is due to start up again, we decided that we just had to go. So under the pretense of being spontaneous, today I got the children up earlier than normal, forced them to get dressed quickly, eat, get ready and shooed them off to the train station. We were going to have a nice, leisurely family day-out to Aberdovey.

I chose Aberdovey because I love Aberdovey. We’ve been to Aberdovey many times before, most memorably, in a snowstorm (albeit a little one). Can you tell how cold we are?


Do we look cold?

Do we look cold?

Do I remember that day fondly? Yes, I do. Do I remember being cold? Vaguely. But more than that I remember seeing  snow on the mountains, drinking warm coffee in a cafe and the lovely sea in October. Do I love Aberdovey? Yes, it has many great memories for me from my childhood and beyond. It is a beautiful, slightly bohemian, slightly middle-class, quaint little Welsh seaside town. It is picturesque. It has boats, crabbing, shops, Fat Face and cafes. It has plenty of sand and a long stretch of calm sea water (not quite ‘the sea’).

Would I live there if I were rich enough? Perhaps.

However, today Aberdovey let me down. I will sum up today in four words: cold, windy, moany, children.

Today, we had a crap day. I’m not usually very moany. I would say that I’m a cross between a Piglet and a Tigger. I’m not an Eeyore. But today I feel like Eeyore. I didn’t have a fun day today.

Here is how the day went:
The train journey to Aberdovey starts off well, but is a little fraught when we realise that we are in the wrong end of the train. We are in the end that hurtles off to Aberystwyth not the end that goes north to Pwllheli. That is normally a problem easily rectified but number one son finds that experience very stressful. Even after we move carriages he isn’t happy in case we are still in the wrong end.

Our train

Our train

We arrive in sunny Aberdovey at 11.20-ish, in time for a quick stroll along the beach and perhaps a sit and a play before lunch. The plan at this point is to catch the 5.30pm train home so we have plenty of time.

However, we soon see that the beach is deserted and worse than that, it is freezing cold. The sun is shining brightly, but it is cold. With the wind, it is even colder. And  also with the wind, it is like being in a desert storm. We last ten minutes sitting on the beach. Nobody wants to play.

This is Aberdovey should look like in the sunshine

This is Aberdovey should look like in the sunshine

‘Let’s go around the shops’ I suggest. The children heartily agree that that is a good idea. We last another ten minutes. They don’t like the shops in Aberdovey much (not even Fat Face). It is now approximately 11.50am. Too early for lunch.

‘Let’s just walk,’ I suggest. So we do. We walk up the street that runs alongside the sea front until number one son points out that there is no longer any pavement and he is scared for his life. I persuade him to persevere. We walk for another ten minutes. At that point number one son starts to panic that we were going too far away and there is ‘nothing this way anyway so what’s the point?’. We turn around and return to the main street in Aberdovey.

The time is now 12.08pm. Still too early for lunch. We see a nice brown bench (brown = absorbs sunlight so warm). We sit on it shivering until number three son gets bored. So we then resume our walking and as we get closer to the sea, the wind picks up again. Number two son starts to complain about the cold.

The time is now 12.25pm. We decide that we can now legitimately have lunch. The children want to go inside for lunch. However, I don’t have quite enough cash to pay for a sit-down-everyone-will-want-a-drink-as-well-as-food-and-it-will-be-overpriced lunch so I tell them that we can only really afford fish and chips to eat on the beach.  Number two child starts to protest ‘but it’s far too cold to eat on the beach!!’. But we have no choice. We walk all the way along the main street of Aberdovey until we come to the one and only fish and chip shop. We order. Everyone seems perky enough. We find another bench to sit on to eat (bench number two). However, this bench is less sheltered than the brown bench mentioned earlier and is less brown (i.e. absorbs less heat). Number three son then drops his chips all over the floor before he’s eaten one. This causes tears. So we use the ‘three second rule’ liberally and cope. We eat. The wind then most kindly blows my hair into my ketchup and batters against my glasses smearing ketchup all over them. This is not fun. I am not happy. The children moan. I moan. We all declare in unison that we want to go home. The next train is 1.30pm.  Far too early. We compromise on the 3.30pm train.

The time drags itself to 1.15pm and we decide to walk around the shops again. After a quick toilet break we walk up the hill past Fat Face and find another lovely warm bench (bench number three). We sit on it. We last twenty minutes before number three son gets bored.

‘Let’s try the beach one more time’, I suggest. We try the beach. We last a whopping 30 minutes. I’m crying by this point (with the wind and sand in my eyes).

How Aberdovey felt today

How Aberdovey felt today

Now it is about 2.30pm and I tell the children we need to head for the train station at 3pm for a 3.30pm train (it doesn’t take 30 minutes to walk there).

‘Let’s go around the shops again,’ I suggest. So we do. We manage to stretch this third shopping trip to 3pm including the purchase of sticks of rock for all and then we get the train home. We are at the train station for twenty minutes. The journey home is fine.

Today was not a good day on the beach. So my weird thought is (in the toilet of course), is it me, or was it the wind, or are all those other people on Facebook who claim to be having a fantastic family togetherness day out in April at the beach BIG FAT LIARS?

The next question to ask is: did I post a happy on-the-beach photo to Facebook today? Of course I did! The myth needs to be perpetuated.

This is our 'smile for facebook' photo

This is our ‘smile for facebook’ photo