Saturday, 16 May 2015

Off to the seaside

"We didn't go anywhere together as a house family, last year," Harriet scolded. "Please can we, this summer?"   She was right.  But the trouble was that every Saturday seemed to be booked up with weddings or Jesus Centre events. 

We found a compromise.  Mary and I were due to be in Liverpool, so if everyone headed west for the coast - instead of east as we usually aim - then we could arrange something.  Jack's idea of a day out consists of canoeing, cricket and digging up sand.  Steven's involves an art gallery or museum and nice coffee shops.  Hoping to broker some sort of compromise, I suggested, "Southport has a lot going for it."  The weather forecast predicted rain and low temperatures.

Barrie's orders were that transport should leave at 8.30am.  This meant that Mary got up at 6.00 to fill flasks, while other saints whiffled downstairs at 20 past 8 to start looking for breakfast.  No matter: habits differ.  We set our satnavs for The Atkinson, Lord Street, and headed off.  It proved to be a convoluted route.  In fact, there's no direct route - say a decent dual carriageway - from Sheffield to anywhere.  Oh, except Rotherham and Chesterfield.  I rest my case.  Powerhouse of the North?

Mary and calculated that we'd arrived first, despite rain and cloud on top of the Snake Pass.  So we explored the sea front for picnicing potential, and then parked next to Debenhams to use the (impressive) toilets.  Ian, in Liverpool rang me about Lois, who, having spent the week there, planned to join us.  He announced that he could arrange no lift for her, and a train was the only option.  Then Jack rang Mary.  "Nothing here but a stretch of mud.  Andrzej and Sharron want to go to Formby."  "Tell him to let Barrie know, and confirm with me, asap, 'cos of Lois," I snapped. 

Barrie banged on the car window.  "I've lost Ray and Malcolm.  They got out at Sainsbury's car park to use the toilet, and then disappeared."  "Jack and Andrzej are saying 'Formby'," I replied.  "I know.  What a flippin' game."  He disappeared.  'Meet at the Crispy Cod, Queens Street.' read Jack's text.  I contacted Ian to divert Lois - just in the nick of time, it emerged.

The proprietor seemed somewhat shaken by 16 separate orders fired at him, as four waves of passengers clamoured through the door.  By 12.30 we'd parked up at Life Boat Sands ("no toilets" muttered Jack), and were picking at our chips and mushy peas with plastic forks.  At the final mouthful Lois texted to say she'd arrived.  Mary and I headed off to locate the station carpark.  You'd think it would be easy.  You'd think that this popular little spot, attractively accessible to Merseyside's multitudes, would signpost the station's whereabouts and direct you smoothly to pick up visiting friends.  No chance.  Wearily we got back to the beach much later, having driven straight past the Crispy Cod and Lois's lunch.  Five hours since we left home.  I fell asleep. 

The sands, including dunes, offered a little compensation.  Lil and Ray took their electric trucks over the boardwalk right up to the tide line.  Our happy party huddled in the wind - tempered by some welcome sunshine.  Jack and Mary dug in the sand with the kids.  Steven found that he enjoyed joining in the cricket.  Titus exercised his recently-developed swimming skills.  Lil flew a kite.  Ray scowled from behind a blanket like Grandma in the Giles cartoons.  Gormley's iron men remained out of sight, but Malcolm rehearsed details of his exhibition at The Baltic.  Andrzej and Sharron disappeared for a walk.  Harriet changed the kids' wet clothes for the third time, and handed round flapjack.  Barrie relaxed.  Lois reminded Mary about her luggage again.  We were all doing our bit.

But, even happy days come to a close.  Mary and I duly headed for Lighthouse in Liverpool, and everyone else headed for petrol stations and toilets.  "Did you see the red squirrels?" Ian enquired at Lighthouse.  "We saw stonechats..." I tried, hopefully.  Ah well, maybe another time.

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