All my life I’ve had this image of the perfect day at the beach. The sun is shining and it’s deliciously warm (not too hot, definitely not raining). The sand is soft and I’m lying on the dear old tartan rug in the shade of rocks (Celtic skin doesn’t do sunbathing) listening to the waves softly slapping the sand. Nice things are sizzling on the barbecue and I have a glass of bubbly in my hand as my boys splash merrily in the sea, their laughter floating on the gentle sea breeze.
It was there, it was absolutely (well nearly absolutely) there. On a beach in Cornwall just last week. This is it, I thought. I have finally, FINALLY achieved the dream. This is the day that will wipe out all the failures and disasters; it will sweep aside the days of lashing rain and jellyfish and turds floating on the waves. This is, quite simply, It. Bliss.
Adrian and James were snorkelling. Adrian very James Bond in his new wetsuit and, dare I say it, ever so slightly vain about his newfound sub aqua prowess.
‘Now James,’ he said, in strong paternal tones. ‘There are several rules you have to follow. These are…..’ pause for effect…
‘One – stay close to me – don’t go swimming off on your own.
Two – don’t go out of your depth.
Three – keep an eye on where you are – water can be deceptive.
Four – don’t stay in too long – you’ll get tired and cold.’
James nodded solemnly and off they went. I pulled the top off my ready mixed G&T and lay back with my book (Marion Keyes’ This Charming Man – one slightly irritating POV but her usual mix of humour and hardhitting issues). Every so often I bobbed up, turned the sausages and checked their progress. Two little heads, like seals, a long way off.
I have a morbid imagination, I can’t help it. I played out this horrible scenario in which I couldn’t see the heads anymore, in which they had vanished. I got as far as the bit where I’m being sedated by the doctors and then driving home alone to an empty house and weeping over my ex-family’s scent on the clothes in the overflowing laundry basket. It’s an awful habit and I slapped myself on the wrist. Stop it. It’s a perfect day. All is well. They are together. Adrian would never let James drown. Pulled the ring-pull off the second G&T and sighed with pleasure.
‘Hi Mum,’ James padding up the beach.
‘Hi love. Want a drink?’ Not a G&T I hasten to add.
We sat and sipped, watched the waves.
‘No idea. I was getting cold so told him we should get out but he wanted to stay in.’
We both peered. No sign of a head. No sign of kicking feet. Just the far off rocks, waves crashing into them.
‘He’ll be fine, Mum.’
‘Of course he will.’ I will NOT succumb to neurotic obsessive behaviour.
Twenty minutes later he emerged, staggering up the beach. Gone was the cocky surf-god demeanour. He looked knackered – and shaken.
‘Hi love. Want a sausage?’
‘I nearly drowned.’
‘Ho ho, ho.’
‘I nearly DROWNED.’
James and I looked at each other.
Turns out he had been quietly snorkelling along, blithely disregarding all his own advice. Came up and didn’t know where he was – couldn’t see the beach. However hard he swam he felt himself being pulled out. Panicked. Swallowed water. Found the beach and called ‘Er, hi,’ in a very British embarrassed voice to some people on the shore. They didn’t hear. Swallowed more water and tried again.
People smiled and waved.
‘Er. Help.’ In a small voice.
‘What? Sorry, can’t hear you.’
‘Help.’ Still couldn’t bring himself to shout it.
At this point, he said, he was overcome with a sense of complete and utter unfairness. How totally ludicrous to drown within sight of a beach, with your wife and child merrily prodding the barbecue. He wondered if his body would be found, bloated and nibbled by fishes or whether we would go home leaving him in a watery grave.
‘Worse of all,’ he said. ‘I knew you wouldn’t do me a memorial.’
And then, just as he was saying his final goodbyes, looking wistfully at us far away, clinking cans, laughing totally unaware of his plight, he stopped trying to swim and put his feet down…..and (yup, you know what’s coming) touched the sandy bottom. Stood up, shook himself down and walked out perfectly alive and in a right palava.
Poor chap. Since we got back, he’s been telling everyone about his near-drowning and is very reproachful that I haven’t been more sympathetic. I would be, I really would – but somehow the comedy elements are too strong. Still, it’s a cautionary tale and just goes to show you CAN nearly drown in an inch of water. Oh, OK, three foot. But, serious voice now, DO take care.
Slightly insane footnote
Now this may seem a bit bonkers, given our ‘heatwave summer’ has collapsed into a soggy mess. But, ever optimistic, I’m going to offer you free suncream! Nivea have brought out a new pocket size children’s suncream (factor 30 and 50), designed to be popped into handbag or rucksack without weighing you down (or spilling all over the shop). The first ten people to click the link will be sent a free full-size sample (all Nivea ask in return is that you give some brief feedback on the product).
So, come on, let’s be optimistic eh? If we wear it, it will come (the sun). Maybe. No? Nah, I’m not sure either…..but what the heck. Click here and let's bring on summer:
PS - pic is James, not Adrian.......I may be cruel and heartless but I'm not THAT cruel and heartless.
PPS - Beth, if you're reading this, DON'T tell your Mum or Doris - you know they would be worrying themselves into early graves.