This is not a sexy, controversial, headline-grabbing, or cause-driven article. It’s an article about an ordinary family, doing ordinary things, in extraordinary times. It’s not jazzed up to attract ‘likes’, there is no punchline and it may or may not inspire you. And that’s ok because I’m writing this for me and my family. To remind ourselves of the importance of simplicity, making the best of what we have and that joy does not have a price tag, it’s accessible to all should we choose it.
And if the authenticity, the simplicity of this article inspires others to find their joy, then I’m delighted. If not, please move along and find something that will.
This is my journal of an idyllic beach day with my children. On Monday, I checked the weather forecast for the week – hot, hot, hot. So, on Tuesday we decided to turn our school day into a school trip and an hour or so later we were at our favourite beach.
The beach is not posh. It does not have sunbeds, cafes or themed attractions. It’s simply a stretch of sand on the east coast, on the outskirts of a small coastal village. And because it doesn’t have any of those things, to us, it’s perfect. It’s also the same coastline that my parents took us to when we were kids – overseas holidays were so rare back then. So, it holds a special place in my heart. Every Sunday my parents, who had f*ck all in material terms, but were rich beyond words in their imagination and innovation, would pack us up and off we’d go for long, lazy Sunday’s playing at the beach.
I distinctly remember the last restaurant we went to with him, the last place we sat on the seafront, the last cafe we drank coffee in and the last sweet shop we went in to buy rock.
This coastal village was also the last place my mum and I took my dad to, just a few weeks before he died. One of his dying wishes was to return to the place where so many happy memories were made, to feel the sea breeze on his face and remember the happy times we had all of those years ago, when life seemed infinite and death has not entered our world. I distinctly remember the last restaurant we went to with him, the last place we sat on the seafront, the last cafe we drank coffee in and the last sweet shop we went in to buy rock. I remember my dad insisting on getting out of his wheelchair for the pictures we took, I remember taking the long route back so we could make the most of the day and I remember breaking my heart after leaving him at home, knowing there wasn’t a f*cking thing I could do to change the course of events, that were about to change our world forever. But most of all I remember the bittersweet experience of watching him, as he sat by the sea, daydreaming about all that had been before. And so, I continue to go back there with my children, to capture the simple joy that my parents showed me, knowing that one day I too will stare out at the sea remembering these days and all of the drama’s, trials and tribulations of life, will pale into insignificance in comparison to this.
And so, on Tuesday we find ourselves back at our beach, in our spot with virtually no one else there. We had packed our cool box with freshly made eggs sandwiches from eggs which our ducks laid, homemade lemonade excitedly concocted by my daughter, lemon drizzle cake from the local market, and of course, the essential Jaffa cakes. We made a bed on the sand with blankets and pillows. We ate our picnic, we swam, we napped, we read and the kids played hide and seek. We didn’t browse our phones, send messages, make calls, or think about the next day, the next week, or even the next hour. We took pictures, lots of them and just enjoyed the moments, one after another. And for a while, the rest of the world ceased to exist. It was just us on a beach, that was it.
At the end of the day, we treated ourselves by popping to the local chip shop. We then sat in the car eating fish and chips, drinking milkshakes and watching Friday night dinner. No five-star hotel, Michelin starred restaurant, or world-class concert could compete.
And even the drive there and back was beautiful, luscious green fields, small villages, quirky shops, places that time has forgotten. Not a designer boutique, flash car, or gold plated tap in sight. My god, what a relief from the materialistic, comparison based boll*cks reality, that we have all brought in to.
And the point of all of this is that life doesn’t have to be complex, over-planned, overly posh, or live up to the Joneses. It just has to be simple, creative, and real. I’m sure we shall remember these days always. Just living in the moment, taking whatever life offers us, and doing the very best we can with it.
That’s all that ever really matters. And it’s so important to take it while you can because time is not infinite and death lives alongside us all. So, please step out of the Truman show and create your own world in your own way.