A childhood of Nice Early Starts to Beat The Traffic is hard to throw off; as a child I can remember getting caught in traffic just once or twice, and that was when something really unforeseen and terrible had occurred to scupper my father's Timetable – say if he lost his propelling pencil - in which case nothing else really mattered...
I still like a nice early start - which is why on the August Bank Holiday I insisted we should set off for Hayling Island with enough time to reach the South of France. 7am and we were on the road, thanks to a very long-suffering husband, and a deal involving Nintendos (which of course I’m going to get rid of very very soon..), handed over when the family chitchat and joke-telling died down at the end of our road - to all except Maddy in the front seat (car-sick) who had free rein with all ground controls, to Pilot Alan’s consummate delight.
We were on the beach before the locals. ‘Ha ha! Nice Early Start!’ I jabbered (‘Seven!’ they were counting my gloats). ‘Just look at the hundreds of yachts on the glistening water! – and the beach is totally empty!’ ‘Exactly!’ they muttered, stamping their feet and huddling together for warmth.
Alan nobly sacrificed swimming time to do a recky of the island’s fish and chip provision. I ran the troops through the hypothermia drill. When he returned he carefully folded the largest towel into a cushion, and sat down in a spot sheltered from the tearing wind with Alfie. The men sunned themselves and discussed whether Beberbatov or Drogba had the best shorts (or was it shots) while the girlie girls greased up for an exhilarating dip in the North Sea.
Alfie and Bonnie shared the one tiny sand-bucket remaining from my latest sort out when I chuck everything that’s not mine, and I curled up with a book while the children played for a few hours in the sand. I lost all sense of time for a few seconds, when would you believe it, one of them deliberately patted the bucket out of turn, so that was it, the sandcastle was stamped on in a mighty act of revenge! There was sand in eyes and I had to offer Alan's sweets around, which got him all upset because he'd given up sweets last New Year, (fine figure of a man, now!) and just bought these for a little treat for himself. Now Bonnie had eaten three of his favourite kind!! ’They were mine’ he blubbed, ‘It’s not fair’. ’We’ll get you some more’ said Bonnie, patting him ‘It’s good to share’.
We moved on to the throbbing heart of Hayling where the crooning of Cliff Richard’s ‘Move It’ drew us to the opening of the new rain shelter on the Prom…And that wasn’t all; when the applause had died down a mixed-ability dance troupe took the stage! But all that jiggling about was spoiling our appetites, so we took our fish and chips and sat on the beach. Alfie balanced pebbles on my head while I munched my cod, Maddy was under a towel, sibling-endurance over-stretched by now, and Alan pretended to be fast asleep in between chips when the phone rang and we all perked up because it was Josie! She’d declined to come on the grounds of destination and travelling party. The door knob she’d thrown across the room the night before because she’d dropped a stitch of her knitting didn’t work any more, so she was trapped in the front-room at home! We tumbled back into the car to rescue her from her predicament. 'You should have come with us, Josie' I said on the phone 'You missed a great day!’