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The school holidays have begun, with the children spewn forth from their academic prisons and handed back to their families while the teachers head for a sunny oasis unencumbered by the noise and fury that is youth. Across Britain we scrabble around to find things to stop our progeny from getting bored and eating each other, finally it’s decided that a trip to the beach is the answer. What could possibly go wrong?

For many years now the British seaside has been portrayed as a refuge for city dwellers, replete with golden sands, nectar flavoured candy-floss, and a merry sense of communal affection between the holidaymakers. A quick trip to one will soon have you realise that the sands are often stones, the candy-floss comes with a full complement of wasps to guard it, and your countrymen would much rather you left them alone rather than encourage them to join in an impromptu sing-song about cockles and muscles. The kids of course will tear across the shrapnel and happily build sandcastles, albeit without sand…possibly making the results actual castles, then cavort in the sea seemingly impervious to the ice floating around in its thunderous waves.

This leaves the weary parents to try in vein to make a comfortable sitting position upon the shale armed only with a towel that appeared much bigger at home. Once you’ve settled among the crags you can attempt the herculean task of trying to read while keeping an eye on the children, your valuables, and that strange looking fellow slumped in his deck chair wearing sunglasses. Either he’s a descendant of a spider and able to sit perfectly still for hours on end, asleep, dead, or plotting your grisly demise. Only time will tell.

After you’ve completed a couple of chapters of your opus, removed any stray mountains from your bottom, and maintained a safe distance from Shelob Man, it’s time for lunch. You notice the family of seasoned travellers next to you have brought their own food, a hamper filled with the finest french breads, parma hams, vegetables that seem fit to burst with healthiness, and even a nice bottle of wine. They seem godlike in their splendour and appear to have a small patch of sand beneath them, with extra warm sunbeams glancing off their silver coolbox which contains a perfectly chilled strawberry pavlova. You search your bags for similar delights but only discover a bag of Hula Hoops and a Werther’s Original sporting rather too much pocket fluff to make it edible.

So, like Captain Oates, you venture from this place of relative safety in order that others may eat, traversing the rockface in search of fish ‘n’ chips. Following the enticing scent of vinegar and cooking fat you finally track down the purveyor of Britain’s finest delicacy and hungrily order Cod ‘n’ Chips four times (not because the chap is deaf but because you want four portions). Condiments are applied, papers wrapped, you pick yourself up off the floor after being told the price, then grumble all the way back to the quarry where your expectant family await the fruits of your hunting and gathering.

Then, unwrapping the bounty and sitting back on the smoothest stone you can find, the white flesh of fish gently burning your fingers, you smile and realise that life’s not too bad after all.  Maybe we’ll come again next year….

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