Before I answer the proposed question, I will ask it of you. What do you consider a picturesque beach day to look like? What is the weather like? What are you eating? What activities are you doing? What clothes are you wearing?
Me? The weather is HOT. The sun is blazing. Not a cloud in the sky. I feel so hot that if I don’t get into the water, I am going to melt into the sand. I am eating bags of crisps, cold apples, Chic-fil-a takeout, and gulping lemonade (British and American lemonade are different, mind. American lemonade is far better). I am sitting on a towel, with my eyes closed, and measuring the intensity of the sun against my skin. I may wade in the water to cool down, but quickly return to sunbathing after I consider all the sharks that could be on the lookout for their next prey. I am wearing a swimsuit and flipflops, and possibly a cover-up if I need to pop to Chic-fil-a for a refill of waffle fries. That is my ideal beach day.
And then I moved to Wales. The land of rain.
Dave and his family and the rest of Wales also enjoy the beach. So the first few times I made beach trips with Welshies, I obviously expected similar treatment as my beloved North Carolina beaches.
(As an aside, the Brits refer to the beach as the “seaside”. That took some getting used to.)
I recall my first beach trip in Wales. It was a church BBQ. In the “heat” of the summer. No-freaking-one would have guessed it was summer. It was freezing cold. And yet. Most of the fellow churchies who came on this little BBQ wore nothing more than a swimsuit. And they happily waded in the icey waters that I swore would not even touch my toes. I had about 6 layers on and stayed as close to the BBQ as possible. Perhaps this was a “one-off”. Surely.
But no. Over the last seven years, I have come to realize that people in Britain find ways of enjoying the beach in all conditions. In the rain. In the cold. And for the most part, I have HATED going to the beach. Each mention of going to the beach fills me with dread. Why would I want to be cold? And wet? And sandy? All at the same time? I have put off trips as much as possible.
However, if you were to ask a typical British person what made a good beach day, they might list the following components (some of which are similar and some of which are drastically different than my beloved East Coast beach days):
- Wellies and a rain jacket. If you have boots and outwear that keep you dry and comfortable, why not go onto the beach even when it is cold and wet?
- A walk. They walk for hours on the beach. I guess it is active and healthy, but most beaches look the same if you are walking on them or sitting and drinking a cold beer. Which would you prefer?
- A kite. Since the wind is horrifically strong, a kite provides hours of entertainment.
- Fish and Chips. A day to the beach is not complete without a greasy, delicious packet of fish and chips. Americans won’t know the pure enjoyment until experienced. Each time we go, I say to Dave not to buy too many chips as, ofcourse, I will only have a couple. Good job he never listens.
- A nice swim in the sea. They love getting out the flippers and feeling the icey chill of the undercurrents.
- A beach game. Volleyball, cricket, rugby, football, or catch. They love it all.
And that seems to be a perfect British beach day. Sure, there are a couple of heat waves that might hit. Moments of sun that warm the British seaside. And on those days, you should plan for hours of traffic as each British individual will be tempted by a day at the seaside.
I am slowly adapting to the British beaches. By putting on some weight (fat retains warmth), layering up on clothes, slipping on gloves, and standing in waterproof boots, I am learning to love the British beach. Dave is liberating me from bondage to the American sunshine and giving me an appreciation of rugged seasides and incoming storms. So much so that I requested a beach day for my birthday. One step at a time. Give the British seaside a chance and you may just find that you love it that bit more than expected.