Summer in Australia #2 – the beach (HLD 313)

30 Jan 2021

We started our weekend this morning with a swim at the beach. A hot day was forecast, and for most it was the last weekend of the school holidays, so people were out in force.

There are some things that have been synonymous with visits to the beach for a long time – parking, sand and shade.

I have mentioned before my husbands ‘optimism’ regarding parking places (aka dislike of walking any distance). The main parking lot closest to the beach was packed, the surrounding streets were packed, the other beach parking lot a 15 minute walk away from the beach we wanted to go, was also packed. We did laps, until miraculously a spot became available very close to where we wanted to be. The optimist lived to fight another day.

Anyone who has spent time at an Australian beach in summer will know that, no matter how cool the water looks, how inviting the soft white sand may look….. that sand is going to burn your feet like a ************er. You will know to leave your footwear on as long as possible. Or use your towel as footwear. Or run.

Shade at the beach is the ultimate dream for most of us. Yes, back in the day, tanning yourself at the beach was a thing, back before the days when we became fully aware of skin cancer. I remember as a child we had a beach umbrella which was deployed if a longer stay at the beach was anticipated. The standard beach umbrella of my childhood provided ample shade for two people, maybe three if they were small, and relied heavily on being firmly buried very deep into the sand at the correct angle, so it didn’t blow away. And it had to be rotated every half hour or so to make sure the shade area was still protecting the three small bodies. It was almost a full time job for someone to be on umbrella duty. Actually, from memory, prime spot in the shade under the umbrella was almost always reserved for the esky containing the polony sandwiches.

The beach visits of my childhood also involved car tyre tubes. There was nothing better to float around on in the water. Or to play human quoits with.

I don’t remember taking hats to the beach. I do remember rolling up my beach towel on my leg, creating a turban style fashion statement. It never lasted very long, but it definitely had the dual purpose of keeping your back protected from the sun, and meant you didn’t have to carry your towel. You could then help carry the tyre tubes or the beach umbrella.

The towels very quickly became a soggy sandy mess. One of the first lessons we learned as kids was to move away from other people when shaking all the sand out of your towel. And then learning to pay attention to which way the wind was blowing, so that all that very considerate sand shaking didn’t become very inconsiderately blown sand straight back into someone’s polony sandwiches.

Oh – and the beach visits of my childhood involved pain, too. A lot of our summer beach visits happened in Busselton, also the home of stingers. The memory is still strong, of standing still when thigh deep in the water, looking for the telltale lines in the water that told you stingers were around. It didn’t stop us swimming, but splashing methods were used to disperse the stingers in the direction of someone else, and stings were treated with sand rubbed vigorously over the sting.

Beach visits have changed in some aspects, but not in others. On our beach visit this morning, I still witnessed small children creating an absolute stink about having to walk on hot sand. No matter how many times the parents would tell the kids to run, or at least to keep moving, they stood still complaining about their burning feet.

Shade shelters have improved. A lot. The downside is that now a lot of beach is required, because everyone has a shade shelter that will comfortably keep ten people protected from the sun. They are apparently very easy to put up, withstand cyclonic winds and are available at Kmart as well as fancier establishments.

Towels have now become sand resistant, or very light and quick drying. They can roll up into a small pouch, even! Towel turbans haven’t been sighted at the beach for decades.

Many people seem to have pull along beach buggies nowadays, containing everything they need for their beach trip – their shade houses, their modern equivalent of polony sandwiches, drinks, towels and other beach requirements.

Stings aren’t treated with sand rubbing nowadays. Maybe they never were, but it was just my parents way of torturing us in retaliation for getting sand in their sandwiches.

Sun protection is now a big thing – not only the shade shelters, but the rash shirts and even hats are the norm.

What hasn’t changed? That amazing sense of relaxation that comes from salt water, (cool) sand, a gentle breeze, fish, and the giggles of small children.

Oh – sand in the car on the trip home hasn’t changed either 🙂

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