Are You Currently in the Middle of an Obligatory British Bank Holiday Activity Too?
It’s the start of two months of seemingly endless 4 day weeks in the UK - and with the sun coming out, it’s time to complete a mandatory bank holiday activity. Maybe this year, I’ll got for the jackpot of all three of the classics…
Don’t get me wrong, this is very much a family or (whisper it) middle aged bank holiday activity list. But I guarantee all of my friends and fellow xennials/millennials will have contemplated one of the following to fill up those lovely long British bank holiday weekends we all now get to enjoy:
take a trip to the seaside;
spring clean - including the mandatory tip visit; or
gardening - including the mandatory trip to the garden centre*
I’m not going to delve into all three today - just the one that frustrates me the most. And I’m only frustrated because it's the harder one for me to achieve. I’m talking about that elusive trip to the coast.
I love my home town of St Albans - I’ve been here 10 years now and love our little terraced house, nicely situated in walking distance to the town centre and a stones throw from our glorious cathedral and the myriad of bars, shops, restaurants and entertainment that the place has to offer. And it’s such a pretty city - I really can’t recommend it enough for a day trip (and I’m sure I’ll talk/brag about it on here at some point). But the problem with St Albans is that we’re in the middle of land locked Hertfordshire and are, what seems like, a bazillion miles away from any coast line (and as picturesque as Verulam Lake is, it ain’t no ocean). A trip to the coast from here generally takes a bit of forward planning, possibly an overnight stay and usually a very early start (or else you run the risk of spending less time at your chosen destination than you do actually getting there and back).
I know, I know... in the grand scheme of things, this is very much a first world problem.
But as with most things, the heart wants what it’s most denied - and my inability to get to the coast quickly drives me potty. Not that I’ve got a huge history that binds me to the seaside - growing up in Essex, my closest seafront was Southend (“seafront”’- ha, it’s on the blooming Thames estuary - you can see Kent from the bloody Southend coast). It is however a proper seaside town - with Kiss Me Quick hats, fish and chip shops and slot machines a plenty. As a child we had some great times there - especially at the annual carnival and Peter Pans playground (though eating winkles and cockles are definitely something my dad can keep - it’s like eating tiny bogies - bleughhh). However I also have more recent** memories of the town - clubbing at Churchills and TOTS, followed by cheesy chips on the way home (all which paint my memories of the place in a slightly different light).
So it’s not like I’m trying to relive wonderful memories of the seaside - in fact, I hated spending time on the beach as a teenager. To the point that I’d sit in baggy jeans and t-shirts, reading and silently seething at the injustice of being dragged to Camber Sands by my parents, before munching on bread and banana (and sand) sandwiches (point of note - the banana was never in the bread. No, we essentially ate a butter sandwich with a banana on the side - I don’t know whether this is normal but then my family has always had quite an odd relationship with food).
However, as I’ve got older, my appreciation for the seaside has changed. I’m not looking to go there for a fresh doughnut and a sea shell ornament (though, those fresh doughnuts are *chefs kiss*). And I’m not looking to go sunbathing (certainly not in the UK - give me a beach in Mauritius, Cuba or Kefalonia any day of the week for that sort of business.). No, if I’m in the UK, I now hugely value the calming effect being near open water has. There’s something just so freeing and peaceful about being near the ocean - and my OH and I can spend hours walking along the coast, taking in the scenery and just generally decompressing.
It’s the sort of activity I’m happy to pursue in all weathers. I’ve had some spectacular days in places like Aldborough, in the late gloomy autumn, wrapped up in cosy Parker’s as waves have crashed against the beach on a stormy afternoon. Or running across a snow covered beach in Rye, marvelling at the unworldly spectacle of it all, before diving into the Mermaid Inn for a pub lunch and pint of something or other. Encountering eerie long forgotten and derelict theme parks in Mablethorpe and looking out for vampires in Whitby. And not forgetting sitting on the stony Brighton beaches, with my uni housemates, and a cheap bottle of wine as we tried to distract ourselves in the depths of December from dissertations and exams.
More recently late summer excursions to Bournemouth and Swanage have meant some beautiful walks along stunning parts of the Jurassic Coast - and the opportunity for me to indulge in my other creative love of photography (my only problem is that I REALLY struggle to get out of bed early enough in order to capture photos without a billion people in them). Trying the find the most isolated beaches, the best fish and chips, the nearest crazy golf and taking a picture of an ice cream in front of the sea are all must dos on these types of holiday.
And there’s the kicker - all of these memorable trips - well, they aren’t trips are they? They are holidays. All planned out, with a hotel or apartment to stay at the end of a long day of exploring. None of these excursions have been day trips from what’s almost the most central part of the UK. So all I’ve done with this blog is make myself even more frustrated because I know that the chances of me seeing a British beach anytime soon is pretty remote - unless I’m going to forego the holiday abroad this year (sacrilege!) and spend an equivalent amount for a trip to Barcelona on renting out accommodation 250 miles away in St Ives (Cornwall, if you don’t know - and the site of some glorious family holidays many years ago).
So if you’ve been lucky enough to escape to the coast this Easter weekend - don’t tell me about it. I’m going to be raging with jealousy - and the fact that I now have sparkling windows and a front garden that doesn’t look like it’s been sat on by an elephant is not going to make up for my lack of seaside air this weekend.
*as at 9am Easter Sunday, windows have been cleaned and curtains de-catted (not a word but took me an hour to remove all the hair from the conservatory curtains - all whilst the biggest hairy culprit sat and watched me do it). Plants have been brought from the nursery, planted in the front garden and the old decrepit plants taken to the tip. So I’m currently 2 for 2.
** ha - 20 years ago now