house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Weekend at the Beach

The beach is 40 minutes away. Moona thinks that's way too far. He drives there and when the van grinds to a halt in the sand, he flops over the wheel with a heavy sigh. He drives back and as soon as we park in front of the house he is hit by a sudden journey-induced complaint: stomach ache; sore back; that foot is agony; the eyes sting; fatigue simply fells him. He rubs his temples and groans. The sea is too far. He needs to be closer to the sea. He goes and talks about it with estate agents in town. He does WHAT???

To write down my reaction – itself only the tip of the iceberg – would take pages and ages and might send me into a spin. The gist of it is that I love our house and he would have to sell me with it if he wanted to buy another place at the beach (who knows, he may even afford it if he throws me into the deal). It's quite a statement, I know, but so far it killed the discussion, every time. This, and perhaps the fact that every place for sale he has seen at the beach has been dry, small, ugly and overpriced.

The North Portuguese coast is neat and quiet. Large beaches with fine sand, very pretty. A cold, cold sea. Still, days are still and sunny, and summer is long. Late October, and people were still swimming at Ancora yesterday. But the little coast towns look new, ungainly and deserted. A tangle of tall cement and metal, with cafes and shops thrown in – but never quite achieving the effortless picturesque of older communities. I cannot imagine Moona wanting to live there, not even for the joy of opening his windows to check out the surf every morning...

However, to grant him that exact joy, I agree to spend the weekend at the beach, camping in the van. The weather looks great, the waves are promising and we hear there are no surfers out in the morning. Not one, ever. I think this is suspicious, Moona thinks it's great. We are off.

We make the journey in 35. This earns us all a half-smile and an amiable grumble from the skipper. But then, guess how long it took us to pack. We ran around the house all Saturday morning, after a while no longer sure what we were doing or why. We took too much stuff and left behind essential things. We were haunted by what we might have forgotten (without yet knowing what that was) the whole journey. We talked about it and got cranky. And we still needed to stop at the supermarket to stock up: a traumatic event at the best of times.

The weekend went well, I think. Well, apart from the sleeping-in-the-back-of-the-van part, and that time on Sunday morning when I saw Moona's footprints going into the sea and was convinced he was never coming back.

The sleeping saga: 'How can you say you had a bad night?', they ask with innocent, incredulous faces. 'After all, we brought the futon mattress with us!' Sure, futon mattress and three different family members kicking and elbowing you, squashing and pushing, snoring and mumbling in their sleep. I don't know how such young children can snore so loudly. And then there's the bit about having to go to the loo in the middle of the night. I don't want to talk about it.

When we finally open the door and tumble out of the van in the morning, the air is strong and salty and a fine mist wraps around us like a shawl. Moona has already gone for his morning surf, huge-waves-no-surfers-out routine. He is happy.

I take Kira to see him, but by the time she is dressed and ready he has vanished. We walk in the sand, following his footsteps, clear all the way down to the sea. He was out there and now he is not. The waves are suddenly huge and wild and roaring, rocks jutting out with glaring, murderous intent everywhere. A lot of foaming, raging sea rearing to swallow any black rubber gnat on a bouncy plank.

I panick even as I smile and chat to Kira. We walk on. Eventually we see a black dot scratching about at the other end of the beach. We run towards it, until it takes the shape of a scrawny, gasping jogger. At this point we are both deflated, and one of us dead worried. I expect to see slices of surfboard float in with the next wave. In the distance, we make out another black dot. It's unbearable: I make myself look down at the sand for a hundred steps, Kira takes off again.

When I finally look up, she is in Moona's arms.

I breathe once more. The mist clears as we walk back to camp. We are having a really good weekend at the beach.


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