Monday, April 11, 2011

I do love to be beside the seaside...

Errr, actually, after yesterday, maybe not so much! This is a pretty epic post so perhaps prepare some sandwiches and a flask of tea/coffee/whisky before continuing...

As I am off to live in landlocked Buckinghamshire for the rest of the year, I decided to spend my last Sunday on the coast at the beach. Saturday was unusually warm and sunny for early April and by 10am on Sunday morning it was already obvious that we were in for Summer temperatures, so packed my Ma in the Ka, ha ha, and headed down to Gronant to pick up my nephew, Jamie, for a day at the beach. It was also the first time this year I have had the chance to wear my Monsoon Flip-flops, my favorite pair, black with red beading and sequins and tiny rosebuds all over, I love those flip-flops, and they are perfect for a walk on the beach.

It being so early in the year, the place should be deserted of tourists. The big perk of being born in a country with such a great coastline and more sheep than people surely? Actually the sneaky perk of any coast dweller the world over, those of us who get to enjoy blissfully empty stretches of sandy heaven at this time of year before the crowds of land-lubbers descend. We got to Talacre Beach and from the car park it was obvious that a few other locals had also spotted the potential of the weather and were already enjoying a vast stretch of golden sand devoid of screaming children and even more loudly screaming parents from Merseyside and Lancashire. So we were looking forward to exchanging smug glances with our fellow Welshies and the few retired Seargent Majors from England who carve wooden Lovespoons to whittle away their retirements (and so are naturalised Welsh).

If I'd realised I would be blogging about this trip I would have taken my camera, but as I didn't, here is a beautiful shot of Talacre Lighthouse taken by John Roberts, see it here. The first place I parked was a little slippery under the wheels, from grass running down from the dunes, and so we parked in a fairly central spot, on a kind of sand bar between two little streams. The car park is a kind of beach-behind-the-beach and you walk through pathways cut into the dunes to reach the beach proper. Talacre is a really long stretch of beach with great vistas out into the bay, ghostly white windmills at intervals far out to sea. The beach has an abandoned lighthouse, built in the 1750's, which now seems oddly stranded in the middle of a flat expanse of sand, as if the victim of it's own ironically careless voyage.

So far so idyllic, but then it was still before midday! We wandered across the sands toward the Lighthouse to check out something glinting in the sunlight up on the observation deck. There hasn't been a light there as long as I remember so it was worth checking out. It turned out to be what looks like a suit of armor, standing up against the railings, looking back landward. Rather odd, presumably it hasn't been there long or it would be covered in rust? Being so close to the lighthouse, we walked around it carefully avoiding a deep pool on the perimeter closest to the sea. A large shaggy dog enthusiastically trotted my way before disappearing up to it's waist in a deep puddle. It bounded out and made straight for it's owners where it rigorously shook sloppy sand all over them to dry it's coat.

I was now lagging behind Jamie and my Mum, when suddenly the ground beneath me gave way. My right foot was engulfed by cold sloppy sand and the left continued to sink right up to my calf! I yelled for help, worried, as I could feel my right foot beginning to sink further, I would soon be buried knee deep. As Jamie ran toward me (laughing) I lunged forward and managed to free my right foot and somehow pulled my left leg free, only to take 3 giddy steps toward him and sink deeper still into the slop! This time my heroic right leg was the deepest and I could feel a pretty strong suction working on my left ankle. I had visions of other beach users puzzling over the glinting C3PO on the lighthouse tower just as we had done, and now the nearby sparkles of the sequins on my floaty top as I sank glamorously to my death nearby. Jamie managed to pull me free, thankfully - but just me, not my lovely Monsoon flip-flops, which gurgled down into the frigid sands with a few desperate bubbles, never to be worn again!

Jamie did make a brave stab at rescuing them but they were too deeply embedded and there was a risk of him going down with them. I had to weigh up my fondness for either my flip-flops or my nephew and Jamie narrowly won, so we gave up and headed off toward the sea. A very long way off on the horizon. That walk was horrible. My legs and accompanying leggings were encased in dark goo and the stretchy fabric was hardening under the sun. Every time we walked across sloppy sand I had visions of us as 3 talking heads, stranded, waiting for the tide to come in and drown us. The realisation that I have an over active imagination in no way made up for the loss of those flip-flops!

Eventually we reached the sea, which was surprisingly warm, and cleaned off all the terrible gook in an instant. I felt pleasant of foot and stretchy (if cold) of legging again and set off back toward the dunes feeling happier, but still grieving for my departed footwear. By the time we neared the dunes it became obvious that Wales has been invaded early this year. Not even Easter yet, but the incomers have already breached our borders, the hoards now pouring onto the beaches armed with lilos, buckets, spades and mobile phones, into which they screech excitedly to each other over every fresh crab corpse found on the sand. Was there reception here - why hadn't I thought of my mobile while sinking into the icy sand? We were almost knocked flat by this Mersey-evacuee onslaught.

As we neared the car park it became depressingly obvious that the Ka, previously standing lonely between two shallow moats, was now surrounded on 3 sides by other vehicles. The "puddle" in front of us was actually a very deep pond, murky and bottomless, into which Jamie began to sink when we sent him to test it. More worryingly, there was a set of tyre tracks entering from the left, but non exiting on the right? Was this the finally resting place of a 4x4 full of holidaying Mancunians too eager for their first glimpse of the sea to be more cautious?

We weren't going anywhere. The car park was completely full and a twinkling stream of slow moving cars, bumper to bumper was heading down the narrow access road toward the dunes. The gap between the 2 erratically placed cars behind us narrowed alarmingly to exactly the width of the back bumper of my car, no extra room for wing mirrors! I measured it several times, with my bare, scratched and now once more gook covered feet. Still, I made a pointless attempt at reversing through this gap, only giving up when my wheels began to skid on the wet sand. We would just have to wait for the owners to return... except it was only nearing 1pm on a truly hot afternoon, not a cloud to be seen on the horizon and only the slimmest chance of a snowstorm (This is Wales after all) to bring the beach lovers back to their cars before Sun-Down!

So we walked over to the Holiday camp and it's accompanying gift shops and Chippy. I say walked, 2 of us did that and I limped behind, squealing and gurning at every sharp boulder, still in bare feet. The big upside of gift shops just behind beaches is that they sell very cheap gaudy footwear and I managed to pick up a pair of sandals with foam platforms so thick I felt like I was walking on two tiny trampolines, this was bliss after the barefoot trudge from the beach over shingle, sharply crushed shells and razor like dune grass to get to the hot sticky concrete pavements of the Holiday complex. We consumed chips and sugar based products for roughly an hour then headed back to the car through the dunes again, amazed that the stationary line of traffic pointing toward the beach car park. Talacre is a huge beach but the car park is not that big, it should have been obvious to passers by up on the coast road that there was no room left to park until quite a few cars actually left the beach, surely? When we got back to the Ka it dawned on me that it was now or never for us, as some brain-deads were now parking in the lanes between the other cars, so blocking any access or exit for anyone else. Sun doesn't always bring out the best in people.

There was one glimmer of hope, as a huge white van that had not been our neighbour before, was now parked next to my driver's door. It had obviously made it through the murky abyss in front of us and so we needed to seize this fading chance of escape before the last of the exit routes was blocked by some selfish parker. I pressed down hard on the accelerator, closed my eyes (some would feel this part was fool hardly but who wants to witness their passengers drown?) and gunned forward before making a sharp left turn. I heard a loud and ominous splash, felt the car tilt freakishly downward and opened my eyes as a tidal wave of sandy water obliterated the windscreen. Just as suddenly, as my stomach lurched at the feeling of wheels locking in the slop below, the car tilted sharply back upward and sped out of the watery ravine, I just managed to hit the breaks, narrowly avoiding piling into the back of a 4x4 driven by a startled Husky!

Actually, the Husky was just a passenger in the back of the vehicle but my powers of observation were somewhat impaired by the instant euphoria of realising we would live! Happy happy joy joy! We followed the Husky, as other weary travellers, would no doubt, have followed a St Bernard in years gone by, and eventually, after a lot of shouting and swearing and angry arm gestures from the driver in front, we cleared a path and made it off the beach, away from the coast to safety. You can keep your seasides - Buckinghamshire, here I come!


Janet Ghio said...

Yikes--what a story!! Was it quicksand? You always read terrible stories about quicksand, but never knew anyone that it really happened to!! Glad you got your ka out!

Yve said...

Yes, Quicksand, it looks completely normal until you are in it! I just heard that a local man got sunk in to waist level a few weeks ago while walking his dog near the lighthouse.