31 Jan 2011

Beach-Bound and Fancy-Free

Last Friday Tickle and I went down to the local beach. I reckon that last time we were there was a good couple of months ago. Funny how you can take local curios for granted once they're part of your local scene (in our case, slightly over a year!).

It's easy to get stuck in the complacency rut, especially when you live on a narrow peninsula with Blue Yonder stretching across the horizon at your leisure, for your viewing pleasure: you end up not noticing it anymore! That's why I needed to check this beautifully scenic beach again, and reacquaint myself with the fact that I should take advantage of the privilege I have as a resident within close proximity to nature's best.

It's rather ironic because once upon a time back home in Northern France with my parents, we'd make a point of spending a Sunday at the seaside against all odds, driving a 5-hour round trip, getting stuck in traffic and stressed out looking for a parking space, just for a breathless glimpse of the Channel.

Later when I took home in Manchester, a day trip down to the local resorts of Southport, Blackpool or Conwy was an exciting adventure, if only to get out of the car, traipse down the sand for a moment and breathe in that sea air while sharing a bag of chips or cotton candy, or munching on sweets from the candy stalls.

In Manchester, during snatched lunch breaks at my desk, averting my eyes from business parks, motorway underpasses, urban wastelands and never-ending car parks, I'd picture a familiar beach instead, a beach I would walk down footloose and fancy-free... A familiar beach from Calvi (Corsica) to Cayo Coco (Cuba), via Laguna Beach (California), Benalmadena Costa (Costa del Sol), Peroulades (Corfu), Merlimont (Northern France), Kintyre (Scotland)... Or maybe push the daydream to a beach similar to that from the eponymous film/ book...

Posidonia oceanica

To me the beach symbolised not only a holiday and generally an escape from work and ambient greyness, but also fuelled poetic inspiration, regeneration, freedom, liberation. Now that the beach is virtually on my doorstep, handed on a plate to me, I hardly go... So what happened to the day-tripper, seaside lover, beach fanatic, keen swimmer and passionate scuba-diver? Has she lost her mojo?... Is it due to the fact that too much of a good thing is never a good thing: it makes you blasé and unappreciative of your own blessings...

In times like these, I need to remind myself of where I come from and why I'm here, on this island. I know, we've had that discussion before, but for the record one of my original motives was for a higher quality of life, in brighter, sunnier, cleaner, calmer, less populated surroundings. The beach was one big magnetic attraction in my moments of Mancunian despair, when I could take no more of the rain, the fog, the crowds, traffic chaos, road rage, long working hours, ungrateful bosses, never-ending suburban belt, high cost of living, disruptive neighbours, insecurity, pollution, etc. The beach typified an Eldorado of promise, a Vegas of happy ending, a personal and metaphorical solution to all my problems... I was determined I deserved it and would get it some day. And wahey, that day finally came by the way and did I make the most of it?

In passing I have 'since' realised that the beach is no magical problem-solver although it gives you head space. Wherever the future might take me on the next leg of my personal journey, I may - in the meantime - revisit that beach like I would as a visitor: with gratitude and contentment. With the added advantage that since I have become a local resident, the beach has become a privilege within reach, so while I'm here, I'd better make a habit out of it, and acknowledge my luck, if only in matters of panorama enjoyment. Remind myself that a sea view beats that tree-less green-less thrift store view in Levenshulme or that fume-choked one-bus-a-minute gasp in Withington (amongst countless other personal experiences of the sort!).

Now me and Tickle are heading back to the beach. You joining us?


  1. I wish I were joining you! Can we make a detour to the cheese shop and get some bread and wine too? Walking on the beach is always best with a dog and with refreshments.

  2. The pleasure is all mine, Christine! I've packed some home-made pastries for the excursion (in the Summer we'll get the ice-creams!).