We had a great week on ‘Boden’ beach, near Salcombe Devon. I say ‘Boden beach’ because Johnnie Boden would have been proud to see the amount of devotees to his massive online clothing empire who were out and proud and dancing about on the beach. Families were striking poses identical to those pictured in his catalogues that come crashing through UK letterboxes with relentless regularity. The kid’s knee length towelling tunics were popular this year, as were the shorts, t-shirts, bikinis, ladies skirts, crop trousers and dresses. By the way, we fitted in a treat as I have to admit my kids wear Boden too. We too are slaves to the aspirational lifestyle marketing... My brother in law said that holidaying in Salcombe without a boat is like visiting a ski resort without skis, but we survived nonetheless.
The one other indispensable item of clothing required for a UK beach holiday is the wetsuit, particularly for children crazy enough to want to spend extended periods in the icy British water – acceptable makes were O’Neal, Gull, etc... My husband was very proud to have found his ancient ‘Solar’ wetsuit tucked into the back of a cupboard at my parent’s house in England, which he gamely poured himself into having not worn it for fifteen years. However, it quickly became clear that ‘Solar’ is definitely not a make that is very ‘in’ at the moment and there were smirks amongst friends as they teased about the ‘eighties look’ and neon orange panels. I did not swim, but chose to hunker down with all the other mums at the high water mark and watch from a safe distance. We borrowed some buckets and spades from my Mum too which were invaluable, but my shopping savvy eldest daughter said when we got to the beach; ‘why has everyone else got bigger spades with wooden handles.’ Laying out our Masai rug on the silty sand and donning sunglasses, I soon became aware that I was in ‘people watching’ heaven. The situation improved for me as the tide came in swiftly during the afternoon and the entire holiday making beach going contingent were compressed onto a small sliver of sand at high tide. During this golden hour you could hear other people’s conversations even better! On one rare sunny (not drizzling) afternoon, glamorous holidaymakers scudded into the bay on small, inflatable speedboats, presumably fresh off their yachts for a spot of lunch and a glass of chilled white wine on shore. Mothers on the beach chatted about their babies, fathers took up bat and ball or bucket and spade to mastermind and construct ever more complex sand castle arrangements with their children, to rival all others. A couple of grannies were there on beach chairs huddled in jumpers to protect themselves from the cold onshore breeze. Couples brought dogs to the beach, then proceeded to fuss over them endlessly in anxious tones. ‘Should I take Bella off the lead?’ ‘Yes I will take it off, it would be nice for her to run about’ ‘Hang on Bella, come back!’ ‘Bella, don’t shake water over those poor people’ ‘Who is that dog that Bella is talking too now?’ ‘Oh my God, they are fighting!’ ‘Come back Bella!! Stop it Bella! Naughty Bella’ followed by, ‘Oh dear, Bella!....’ ‘Has anyone got a doggy poo bag?’ A veritable frisson ran up and down the beach at high tide when a lady with undulating curves wearing a tiny mini skirt, with accompanying tattoos, facial piercings and a pushchair shambled out of a combi van and down the concrete ramp onto the sand. She had six children of varying ages in tow and used the most colourful language whilst smoking a fag. Without meaning to be too derogatory, she was the personification of Harry Enfield’s famous character ‘Waynetta Slob’. ‘F***ing Hell Jaden, come back ‘ere!’ she yelled at her five year old son, followed by, ‘What do you mean you left it in the car Michelle? Do you expect me to f***ing well go back and get it for you, for f***s sake!’ After ten minutes of the rolling expletives continuing without a breath drawn, I whispered to my husband: ‘You’d think she should stay at home if going to the beach was going to give her such a stress attack!’ I caught the end of a neighbour’s covert whisper that finished with, ‘...shouldn’t be allowed out.’ Secretly we were delighted with such a refreshing side-show and a break from the relentless middle ‘class-ish-ness’ of it all up until that point.