Somehow, somewhere I have stitched together the sea with the notion of family, so that I now cannot imagine the waves lapping at the shore without hearing the crunch of footsteps behind me – my parents foraging for driftwood, one or two dogs darting around our feet and Tom striding along, gazing out to sea. My parents live a couple of roads back from the seafront so a visit to them almost always involves a stroll on the beach, and our weekend walks by the sea closer to home are always with Tom and Bodhi, my slightly smaller, day-to-day version of a family unit.
In some ways my associations with family are so because the sea feels like home. I have never lived far from the sea and so the call of circling seagulls and the roar of the tide feel comfortable and reassuring, like a favourite blanket or a memento from your hometown. Feeling sea air on my face and salt on my tongue feels like walking through my front door, there is calm through familiarity.
So it goes without saying that our visit to my parents’ house over Christmas was not without a long stroll along the beach. Coats were pulled on, dogs were bundled into the car and our eyes, dulled by incessant rain were awakened by the first day of sun in what felt like weeks.
The sun glistened and bounced off the ripple-pressed sand. Stones, glossy, smooth and wet under our boots. The patter of dog paws on wet sand, making tiny imprints as they fly along together.
My parents and Tom spent their time searching for beachcombed treasures, hoping that a landslide might have exposed a dinosaur fossil or some other relic from the past.
The beach feels alive with creatures of all sizes who have been tempted out by the promise of sunshine and cornflower blue skies. Geese glide by, honking at the seagulls gently bobbing on the waves. Dogs gallop towards other dogs, gasping in the sea air and barking with excitement.
Bodhi and Henry as always, have a whale of a time, gleefully running along the beach. Henry goes much further out into the water, chasing seagulls. Bodhi is always waiting for him on his return. They make tracks through the shallow shoreline, water spraying and splashing behind them in identical arcs.
It warms my heart to spend this time together with some of the people that matter the most.
As the sunshine dips behind clouds and wanes with the onset of the afternoon, long shadows are cast and we looked like giants as we ambled back to two cars that would soon be full of stolen sand and soggy dogs.
It was a wonderful day and a perfect opportunity to blast the cobwebs away. I will certainly be making the most of our beautiful surroundings and going for more beach walks over the coming months. I can’t wait for the warmer sunshine and longer days to arrive – a spring/summer punctuated with more family time, more salty-seaside air and a few obligatory ice creams will be perfection indeed.