Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside!
I do like to be beside the sea!
Oh I do like to stroll along the Prom, Prom, Prom!
Where the brass bands play, “Tiddely-om-pom-pom!”
Woke early, the sun was up and the heat of the day was beginning to build. I had my morning cup of tea sitting in the garden but I didn’t linger. Derek arrived tooting his car horn at 7.45. We have been discussing having an outing together for ages, but trying to co-ordinate our days off has been a nightmare. Derek often works on a Saturday and his Saturdays off seemed to clash with when I’m doing library duty. I left Charles Dickens stretched out in a sun puddle, with a large bowl of water and some biscuits. I bet he spent the whole day asleep, too hot to go off wandering. It’s only a 35 min drive to Broadstairs. We walked along the esplanade and admired all the brightly coloured beach huts. I remember as a small child on a family holiday my parents hired a hut for a week. Can’t remember which seaside resort it was, I think it might have been the Isle of Wight. When Derek and I reached the Viking Bay beach, I took off my sandals feeling the warm sand under foot and between my toes. The sun was high in the sky and there was not even the slightest wispiness of a cloud to be seen. We managed to find an unoccupied patch of sand for our packed lunch. I may not be any good at cooking but I’m a mean sandwich maker, wraps with marinated chicken in a katsu sauce with home grown cucumber and shredded lettuce. We found an ice cream stand selling exotic flavours. I had blackcurrant with marshmallow and popping candy, while Derek opted for ginger with macadamias and crystalline ginger. There were throngs of families with children on the beach making sandcastles, running in and out of the sea, playing tag or ‘it’ as we used to call it, kicking brightly coloured balls. Derek squeezed my hand and asked if I had ever wanted children. I thought for a moment and replied, as time goes on, less and less. I love my nieces, Hilary’s girls and enjoy doing things with them but I also value my privacy, peace and quiet. It made me wonder about Derek. Did he want a family? We had slowed almost to a stop and I looked straight on, not daring to look at his face in case I saw something I didn’t want to. Before I could ask he explained he had spent much of his childhood and youth in various foster homes. Some good and some best not to dwell on too much. I yearned to ask more about his childhood but didn’t dare interrupt his flow. He continued slowly and deliberately to say he wasn’t sure you should bring kids into the world unless you were really certain you could provide the long-term emotional commitment they deserved and he wasn’t at all sure he was. It felt like we had come up to a potentially thorny issue but both of us had stepped over it neatly and cleanly. We could move forward with that particular hurdle cleared and behind us. We watched the surfers riding the waves, Derek said he fancied having a go. I made a mental note as a possible birthday present. His birthday is in November, I’ll have to check if it’s open. We walked up to Bleak House in Fort Road where the real Charles Dickens stayed and wrote David Copperfield. I looked out the window in his study where he would have sat, and I imagined him dipping his quill pen into his pot of ink. Bought 2 sticks of pink rock for Hilary’s girls with their names through the centre. It has been a glorious day in so many ways, the sun was beginning to set as we drove home in companionable silence.
Went with Hilary to Knole on my day off this week. Lord Sackville’s private gardens are only open a few days a year. We wandered arm in arm around the enclosed herb garden and onto the shade-giving trees and a well-positioned bench. We decided not to go round the house this time but save it for another day. Lunch in the café was disappointing, I didn’t think anyone could mess up a jacket potato but I was wrong, it is possible to overcook them! And, I do not call a lump of tuna straight from the tin with a solitary slice of cucumber perched on the top ‘Tuna and Cucumber Mayo’. Hilary didn’t fare much better with her toasted panini. In the shop I bought a book on ‘Flowers of Kent’, described as a ‘New Revised Edition’, a possible birthday present for Mum or maybe I’ll keep it for myself.
Hilary invited all the family over for lunch to celebrate Mum’s birthday. Derek was included as part of the family. Any worries or snide comments I might have had concerning our age difference have not materialised. Dad enjoys hearing about the unusual items brought into the auction house. Apparently last week a man came in with 5 shoe boxes stuffed to bursting with a collection of the paper tags you find on tea-bags. Derek said he was asked to do a preliminary valuation (he’d been tempted to say £2.50, the cost of a cup of tea) and during his research he found a site on the web listing 40+ of the weirdest collections, including: umbrella covers, banana stickers, nails, traffic cones. He couldn’t remember them all. I know he would like to progress in the business but without much formal education he isn’t sure what the bosses will think. As ever Hilary put on a delicious spread of salads and fruit desserts. There was birthday cake, but with no candles, we sang a raucous rendition of Happy Birthday and For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow. Derek, Dad and the girls played games, there was much screaming and shouts of ‘great shot’ interspersed with yells of ‘cheat’. Mum loved the flower book, she spent the afternoon flicking through it. I offered to help with the washing up but was trumped by modern technology aka ‘the dishwasher’.