We went swimming at the beach last week, twice! Both times were exhilarating. Whatever the conditions, being in the sea is somehow life-enhancing.
But beach swimming is a logistics palaver worthy of the most talented expert in the field. To start with, I must check that my cozzy still fits – it’s a year since I last dug it out. And check there isn’t inappropriate hair sprouting from places now made visible by the costume. I always put my cozzy on at home – I’ve seen these cute little sundresses that slip over a bathing costume perfectly, but, needless to say, I don’t have one, so settle for shorts. Must remember my knickers, I tell myself. And my neoprene beach shoes, which look ghastly, but my feet are rubbish on stones. Then there’s all the other essential paraphernalia: the towel, the sunscreen, the hat, the sunglasses, the bottle of water.
I arrive at the beach, but should I leave my phone/watch in the car? Is the car park safer than the beach bag I’ll dump on the sand, then turn my back on for hours to swim? I hang onto the car keys, certainly, stuffing them into some obscure back pocket of my shorts I hope a robber won’t find – and I probably won’t find either, of course.
At last, I’m ready. Cozzy on, shoes on, sunscreen and sunglasses on, towel and clothes piled neatly. ‘Left of the yellow blow-up boat’ I remind myself as I skip off to the waves – hoping the family who owns it doesn’t go home before I get out of the water, because the tow on our beach is really strong. Even a good swimmer is swept along without realising it and gets out miles from where they went in.
The swim is gorgeous. I splash and frolic in the waves as if I were twelve again and when I get out I’m glowing and invigorated. But what to do next? If it’s boiling hot, I could sit on the beach and dry off. But we’re talking British summer here. I don’t know about you, but in all the many decades I’ve been swimming in this country, I’ve never mastered the beach-towel juggle that involves dragging a wet cozzy down over wet limbs and replacing it with dry knickers without revealing acres of naked bum to various innocent bystanders – probably traumatising the family with the yellow blow-up boat into the bargain. It’s just not possible. I could do it in the car park, of course, crouching by the open boot in vain illusion of shelter. But the same applies. Just at the moment the towel slips off, is the moment a whole gaggle of gawping teenagers saunters past.
By the time I get home, there’s sand in every nook and cranny of my body and my clothes – which I then deposit on the bedroom floor to crunch over when I go to bed. My hair is stiff and creaky with salt, my skin dry, my cozzy cold and nasty, and I’m shivering because I forgot my hoody. But I’ve loved every minute and as soon as the sun comes out, I’ll be off to the beach and start the whole seaside rigmarole again.