It was probably all that talk about sea gulls last week (correction, sea herrings) that saw me hankering for a mini coastal break even though I am lucky enough to live by the sea all year round.
To be honest, this hankering may also have been caused by that pompous Chelsea Tractor driver who stole ‘my’ car parking space at Bicester Outlet Village last Sunday. I know I should let this go, but I was positioned nicely to arrive on time to meet Favourite Daughter and niece for a cheeky girls’ shopping trip, when Mr Arrogant turned the occasion into something that would require much more than retail therapy. He and his puffa-jacketed wife seemed set on some Sunday morning mission to cram their empty Louis Vuitton hand luggage full of enough designer labels to shake a stick at Christmas, when I had the temerity to cross their parking path. Suffice to say, all thoughts of my extra hour in bed and it being the Lord’s Day, temporarily left me and I let myself down badly with some choice ‘for my ears only,’ idiolect and horn hammering. I knew then that the coast was definitely calling.
I can’t really class a trip to Cornwall as a case of Dora the Explorer venturing forth intrepidly to pastures undiscovered, for Dora knows the Lizard tip of Cornwall very well indeed, however, Dora has never ventured so far South West at this time of year before and it was also a first to visit the area with Favourite/Fortunate Man – FD (delete as your sympathies tell you is appropriate).
We checked into a little coastal hotel that I always used to run past when, with children still at toddling age, I would take summer holiday lets with supportive grandparents. Back in that day, this hotel used to have an ‘adults only’ sign clearly demarking the boundary between tired holiday parent running to get cornflakes from the local shop (that would be me), and an older and wiser clientele looking down to their harbour from the hotel restaurant window as they deliberated between scrambled or poached eggs on brown.
It felt really grown up to be checking in at the same hotel, even if the proprietors have now wisely lost the ‘adults’ only sign.
When I say ‘checking in’ I really mean ‘begging the receptionist to unlock the front door’ because we arrive in the midst of a Cornwall squall that threatens to take the hotel door off its sea-side hinges. While the receptionist is apologetic for having to lock the door behind us to stop it being blown open again, we are quietly excited to be potentially locked in to a warm hotel bar over night; it feels totally legit’ to be tucking into alcohol and peanuts at 3 pm on a midweek afternoon.
It turns out that you do in fact need to be quite intrepid to be staying at this hotel, and there is only one other couple brave enough to risk battening down the hatches with us. At one point, the husband hops down from his bar stool defiantly and announces that he will take a stroll to the harbour wall. His wife ignores him and focuses on her complementary peanuts. Five minutes later, her husband returns; his sou’wester is drenched and he is sporting a Davy Jones covering of Cornish seaweed. He looks pleased to be reunited with his pint of sherry.
Next morning the squall has cleared and I take a morning jog for old time’s sake – perhaps hoping to jog past some child-weary parent en route to get their morning pint of milk. Instead I run straight into a swarm of sea weed flies and skate across their shelf of kelp algae before realising that the village shop is locked up for winter and I am the only person mad enough to be outdoors so early.
Back at base for breakfast (the best part of any mini break in my book, particularly if there is home made granola), I realise that the restaurant is now comfortably full – mostly with families who have decanted from their holiday lets during last night’s storm. Thank goodness the Adults Only sign has come down; there is plenty of room at this Inn and thankfully not much Laver bread…but give it time, with all these seaweed flies it could make itself onto the menu as a delicacy under a different spelling in the near future.
Despite severe weather warnings we are rewarded with clear skies and the only brave thing we do is to return to beaches that resonate with memories of our respective children learning to crawl, escape push chairs or squeeze into their first wet suits. Such beautiful beaches and such beautiful memories, it is right to return, even for such a short time.
Kynance Cove works like an advertorial tie-in of Boden and the National Trust and – although we have no chocolate brown labrador in tow – we blend in nicely. Church Cove, despite the drizzle and wind, is full of other intrepid families playing beach cricket and building dams across the river. A party of eight teenage lads runs in to the sea in their boardies; not a wet/dry suit in sight, just their hormonal pride and peer pressure as insulation. Their pile of clothes is guarded on the beach by two intrepid parents fighting off hypothermia with a tartan picnic blanket and thermos.
Bicester’s Mrs Puffa Jacket and Mr Chelsea Tractor, you can have your prize parking place for we are on a retail holiday. There is plenty of room down here even if the labels are not cutting edge and even if the catering offer comes in the shape of a pastie and a mug of coffee. FM may have a bit of sand (and perhaps some seaweed) in his car but he also has a smile on his face, despite the prospect of a wet return up the M5. Yet again he passes the gold standard of travel companion and I find myself happy to return to my usual sea view and high tidings of comfort and joy – without any imminent danger of seasonal retail therapy or parking rage.