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

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