We set off to the beach: Me, The Toddler, The Baby and my Mum, who is a fully signed up member of Team Fantasy when it comes to days out with small children. She is picturing gasps of amazement as sandcastles are revealed and squeals of delight as freezing water rushes in to tickle tiny toes. I tried to warn her, really I did. But she persists in creating fairytale scenarios in her mind – who am I to destroy them? She will simply have to find out for herself.
It’s an hours drive to the beach. Both kids fall asleep, so Mum and I get to have a blissfully uninterrupted conversation. So far, so good. We arrive and Mum takes The Toddler to choose a bucket and spade as promised. He chooses a pirate themed set, and Mum buys little moulds in the shape of sea creatures because they remind her of her childhood and she believes The Toddler will be just as enthused by them. You can see where this is going.
The weather is mostly overcast and windy. Mum puts out her picnic blanket, ready for the fun that is sure to unfold. The Toddler shovels sand into his bucket but it’s not wet enough, so Mum dutifully heads to the sea in her thoroughly beach-inappropriate ballet pumps. They are ruined upon her return but, no matter! This is all about adventure! The Toddler is bored with his bucket so pours sand over his head, which gets blown into The Baby’s face. The Baby is scooping the beach into her mouth and is grimacing yet continuing. I am mainly repeating the words “no” and “don’t”. Mum has disappeared into her own world by turning her back on us and making crab shaped sand moulds. The Toddler bashes them into oblivion with his pirate spade and grins. This upsets Mum and she starts complaining to me “He’s just ruined my crab!” Apparently, I’m now dealing with three children. By this point, we have been on the beach for 7 minutes.
The cafe is tantalisingly close, so we stick it out for a little bit longer before packing up and heading for the safety of food – something that will generally keep everyone quiet/happy. We buy four overpriced greasy toasties and I silently suppress the guilt that The Baby is not having the same nutritional start as The Toddler did. She has ingested many, many cheese toasties in her short time.
The Toddler is promised a go on the bouncy castle as a
bribe reward for good behaviour. He happily bounds around shouting “YOU CAN’T TAKE MY TREASURE!” at imaginary pirates for the allotted 10 minutes.
We all bundle back in the car and I suggest driving Mum out to a town about 15 minutes away. I won’t name it, but it’s an extremely unusual set up and makes you feel like you’ve landed in a different dimension – it’s kind of fascinating. It is made up of flat, open land peppered with thorny bushes and rickety shacks. And a nuclear power station. Tourists trickle through, possibly for the lighthouses that rise up out of the oddness.
And here, it all goes particularly pear-shaped. On our way out of the Twilight Zone, The Toddler announces he needs a poo. This has never happened in the car before, and I haven’t brought the travel potty. There is nowhere to take him. I can’t just let him poo in the grass, I just can’t. I pull over and find a plastic BHS bag in the boot (sorry BHS, I know you’ve been through enough already). I take The Toddler out into the prickly plains and pretend we’re having some kind of Enid Blyton adventure. I hold onto the handles of the bag and get The Toddler to squat into it, while I try to make sure there’s a decent seal around all edges. Anyone passing would cotton on to what is happening, but we have no choice. It turns out that, for the first time in his life, The Toddler has clearly eaten something that has disagreed with him (I blame the aforementioned greasy toasties). I cannot believe this is actually my life. Somehow, somehow, I manage to close the bag and dispose of it, saying a fitting farewell to BHS in the process. This definitely wasn’t factored into my Mum’s Idyllic Day Out. It sure as hell wasn’t factored into mine.
Breakdown of costs:
- Filling up car with petrol: £40
- Car Park: £5
- Bucket and Spade: £7
- Sand moulds: £5
- Greasy toasted sandwiches: £15
- 10 minutes on a bouncy castle: £2
- Total cost of beach trip: £74
- Total time spent on beach: 16 minutes