Once upon time, before we emigrated to Australia, it was my mum and dad's thing, to sojourn into Wales each summer for the Annual Holiday. I was only 11 when we moved here and remember at least three annual holidays of this kind. My mother being Welsh, it usually comprised a couple of weeks on the Mid to South Wales coast and visits to ageing aunts and uncles who smothered us in wet kisses and let us pick raspberries in their gardens, play on their harps (yep Aunty Ruby had a huge harp in her parlour) and loaded us with Blackberry and Apple Pies and 'sweeties'.
One year, we rented a little old Welsh Cottage. Clearly there was not Internet to check the accommodation out but we were assured that this sizeable slate cottage was in picturesque Mumbles with ocean views and had plenty of sleeping room for our family of three kids, two parents, Babysis in-utero, one large Labrador and for some obscure reason, my father's parents . My 'always seemed old' yet gorgeous and bossomy, ever-so-clever knitter and cuddler Grandma and blind Grandad who did amazing magic tricks and told tales of times hard and wars fought but shared his egg sandwiches with me on a whim.
I don't remember much about the little house other than I think three of us slept in a large bed, it was damp but being kids we didn't care and it rained a lot. My grandma complained, being in the habit of draping her knickers over the end of the bed, that they were damp in the morning (no credit given to Grandad of course) and for some reason the stove wouldn't cook hot enough to brown chips. Weird what you remember.
Anyway, being the typical British Holidaymakers, hell bent on a good day at the beach and acquiring that oh-so-obvious strap tan . .we wondered down to Mumbles beach. Deck chairs were erected, the gaz stove lit (Can you imagine? Actually making tea at the beach!), the wind breaks fastened and small children cajoled the reluctant old man, who really was very brave in hindsight, to splosh among the breakers in the freezing Atlantic . . or was it the Irish Sea . . either way it was cold!
Grandad was escorted to his chair, dutifully sat and offered a cuppa. The 'ladies' remained on the beach gasbagging no doubt whilst we exhausted our poor dad in the water, made wonderful sand boats and castles and prevented him from actually benefitting from the boiling kettle on the Gaz stove.
Hours must have passed and as the sun faded and even our non responsive nerve endings began to make us shiver . . or was it the ocean washing over our beautifully carved four seater sand speedboat? I don't remember. Either way, the time had come to down buckets and spades and head back for some warmth and succour. Then we saw him . . .
Unused to sunshine . . poor Grandad had been sat in the same spot for over 3 hours and had acquired a delightful duo complexion, red as a beetroot on one side and white as a lily on the other. Clearly the heat wasn't enough to alert him to the fact that he was being burned. Not being able to see, he hadn't followed the path of the sun. God everyone felt awful but he just sat there with an inane smile on his face, he'd had a wonderful day sitting in the sun, sipping tea and listening to the ocean and children giggling and seabirds squawking.
We pulled him out of his deckchair when he finally protested "How much sand is here?" . . my dad replied "plenty why?" Grandad asked: "is it pretty flat?" . . .again my Dad assured him there was plenty of beach . . "Well you could run for a mile without tripping over anything. Why? " . .My Grandad then asked to be pointed in a safe direction and . . .he was off . . he ran . . . he ran as fast as a man of 70 could run . . he did those funny Charlie Chaplin heel kicking things . . he waved his arms . . .his thick mop of white hair springing off his head like the spray from the see . . . this half painted man, red on one side, white on the other let go of the hands that had led him for so long and just ran along the beach. The dog barked, we squealed with delight, Grandma worried. My father ran with him . . .then ahead of him . .and caught this amazing free man in full flight on film.
You know I had to think a bit about this one. I'm very grateful to being forced to write for a theme because it makes me think about things I haven't thunked about for a long time. Watching the video (now transferred from film) of my Grandad enjoying such freedom with no fear of falling, no need of an arm to rest upon was indeed wonderful, even if we had left him out to burn until he looked like 'two-face' is priceless.
Not the best summer I've ever had but when combined with home made buttery 'watch-while-they-made-it, ice cream in Harlech (complete with a family rendition of the famous hymn . . just because!), a nice red-and-white striped, straw boater hat and a lump of Swansea rock . . it wasn't a bad summer at all!
Happy 21st Paduan!