I collected Tim from work and took him to Aberconwy beach with a picnic. The tide was on its way out and we were in the lee of the land, so sheltered from the wind.
“Have you got a book to read?” Tim teased me as we left the car. I didn’t realise “child free” was synonymous with “book time”! I grabbed one of the children’s Tintin books off the back shelf of the car and put it on top of the picnic basket.
Eating our mini pizzas (better than ham sandwiches, he’d said) we discussed our beach colleagues. Each new arrival to the sweet sixteen year old’s birthday celebration barbecue over to our left were tagged with observation. The girls came in pairs the boys came alone. Some were more self assured than others. Some gave the birthday girl a hug, others didn’t, just a “Hi Alex”. The less self assured did not greet the birthday girl’s parents until they’d found confidence by greeting the family’s whippets first. Watching the tableau unfold made me remark that I am looking forward to having teenagers in our house. Then we can do birthday barbecues on the beach with a mixture of shy and self assured up and coming adults.
Our other observations extended to the dog population on the beach. Variety was great. An intelligent spaniel showed all the instincts of a working dog as it searched for the ball it’s owner had thrown for it. Two English Sheepdogs bounded around with their hearthrug coats following their every move at a four second delay. How the owner of those two dogs could tell the difference between them, I don’t know. There were the whippets, to our left which drew our admiring remarks to their grace and speed as they did circle laps of the beach. We learnt that there was a Milly and a Molly but no Mandys amongst the dog population that day.
Sound carried clearly on the beach. One young French woman was shouting in English at her child. They were on the beach with another woman and child, clearly holiday makers in the area, and as both mothers vocalised their instructions very loudly to their children we wondered where the Dad’s were or if these were single Mums. The shouting from the mothers provoked no response in the children. Even as one disappeared to the knee in quick sand and his mother shouted at him to get into the sea and wash the mud off in haste, we wondered why it was necessary to wash it off so fast. “Quick, quick, quick” she was shouting, “Wash it off, quick!” But the child didn’t appear to move any quicker. Then when it was time for them to leave the beach the idle threats and hollow statements in an attempt to get the children to move fell on deaf ears. I did wonder how much all the meaningless shouting has numbed the children to learning to obey instruction.
There was another family directly between us and the water, clearly enjoying family time together. The children were quite far apart in age but altogether the family were making an elaborate sand castle. It amused me that the children lost interest in it before the Dad did and he was still creating fine architectural detail long after the others had gone off to do something else. It was the Caernarfon Castle of sandcastles and very impressive.
Having enjoyed our picnic and the entertainment provided by the other beach occupants, our books were untouched. We packed everything away and took the sand in our shoes back to the car. It was a beautiful evening with still plenty of time and sunshine for further dalliance with the day. So we decided on a drive a round the Great Orme. After a certain time, the toll road is accessible without needing to pay and we set off passing several rock climbers, who gave me the heeby-geebies when I looked at their climbs. I teased Tim about attempting to climb where there is netting to stop falling rocks. He said that it looked like an exciting climb!
The road rose and we left the power walkers, in their attempt to make it around the Orme before the sun set, behind. When we reached the junction with the road from the summit, we decided to stop and admire the view, before it becomes a sea of wind turbines. There was no one else about, but two fantastic specimens of wild Orme Kashmiri goats. We climbed out of the car, over the wall onto the cliff edge and grinned at the goats who stared back at us, ruminatively. One had such a cheeky face. He was a really handsome fellow.
A car pulled up behind ours and a family got out. I remarked to Tim how the British seem to have a habit of following the crowd and so where one car is parked they will park another, almost as if it is too uncomfortable to be different and think originally. But, I couldn’t have been further from the truth as the family got out with two young sons, who stared at us and another mother who could not speak quietly to her children. She began instructing them, gesticulating for them to have their photo taken right next to where we were. We weren’t in the photo, but I didn’t understand why they were choosing their family photo shoot to be right next to us. The mother was shouting at the oldest boy not to screw his face up in the sunshine with tirade of words I didn’t understand. I couldn’t identify the language they were speaking and I think that turning the volume control onto loud was a part of their culture.
We decided it was time to move on. So we drove further up past the Lighthouse and stopped beyond. We walked again to the cliff edge, a further walk this time, and sat on a rock to enjoy some treats left from the picnic. The sheep moved out of our way so fast, I was worried they might do a lemming run off the cliff edge, by mistake. The wind got to work buffeting and wobbling us on that rock, right on the edge of Wales with nothing between us and Ireland but sea. A sense of security was missing! We finished our treats and moved on, slowly savouring the last of the Orme before reaching Llandudno’s wide streets. I saw seals sunning themselves in the estuary, but they turned into rocks the closer we got.
We purposed to drive back along the prom and as we did so saw that the town band were playing in the band stand. Lots of people were enjoying the entertainment, lounging in the deck chairs put out, or sitting on the benches that line the promenade. Tim speedily pulled over into a parking spot.
“Come on! Let’s go and listen.” He was excited! We checked we didn’t have to pay for parking and strolled down hand in hand to join the listening crowd. The conductor was telling jokes and Tim suddenly realised he knew who the conductor was from his council work. All the deck chairs were taken. Some poor old dears were in them for life as the seats are so deep they couldn’t get up out of them to stand for the Welsh and English National Anthems that concluded the evening performance. A child ran around beside us in her pyjamas as the last of the sunlight came from the sun resting on the top of the Orme. A very elegant lady in a cloche hat drove a specially adapted wheel chair forward and took a picture of first the band, then her husband and daughter as they listened. An old bearded man in a very dirty high visibility jacket, woolly hat, wellies and grimey trousers danced around his bicycle. He waltzed with his imaginary friend, conducted his imaginary band, shimmied in his imaginary night club, and drew plenty of attention to himself. I reckon that was a pretty good night out for him.
The sun dropped behind the Orme, the band finished with patriotism, the people scooped themselves out of the deck chairs and the bench occupants dispersed. We went home to an empty house feeling like we’d just seen a photo, from a typically British seaside resort, come alive from the past and a photo of what our future might be like in 20 years (or so) time, when the children have left home.