The sun is shining. The last burst of warm-ish sunshine basting the golden sands and smurf-sized waves on the doorstep. Never has there been a better time to step out and seize the day before winter encroaches with its chilly gloom. Surfers are pounding the pavements of Newquay, leaving hangovers indoors as they are sucked towards the corduroy swell lines surging onto Fistral beach.
Meanwhile, on the homefront, mum is dreaming of unlocking her surfboard from the shed as she unpeels mushy banana and weetabix from the kitchen floor following the breakfast furore. ‘Just waiting for my chance to come…’ she sings along to the radio, planning a picnic and beach walk as a compromise – knowing the surf will never happen. Not in this life.
The next hour passes elbow deep in poo, projectile vomit and the battle of wills that getting two small wild things dressed entails. The toddler wets his pants for a second time. Then there’s another change for the puking baby.
‘Tonight’s the kind of night, that everything could change…’ mum continues to sing as she takes a breath of air outside on her way to clean up the dog’s shit. Leaving the tots to beat each other to a pulp, flood the hallway with the dog’s water and eat the toilet duck – all whilst reserving some of their attention for Bob the Builder and Postman Pat – mum throws a few sarnies together along with the usual selection of processed cheese and chocolate biscuits she knows might actually get eaten during the lunch mayhem.
Leaving the scene of destruction in their wake, the two children and dog are piled into the van. Mum heads back inside to swig a cup of tea where the noise can’t be heard. Nearly lunchtime already. On the short drive to the beach (it wasn’t worth walking, that can take half a day carrying half her own body weight as well as provisions) she cranks up the tunes and gazes at the surfers, café-bound now to refuel for their afternoon session.
Up on the headland the picnic rug is slowly turned into a tapestry of dough, cheese and snot, while mum catches the odd glance of the waves peeling to shore. Out of the corner of her eye she notices the baby car seat – with baby in it – being dragged sideways along the grass with the dog attached. As she trots off to the rescue, by now a spectacle of many a sniggering glance, the wail of the two-year old comes from 100m in the other direction where he’s careered over the handlebars of his bike.
Finally traipsing beach-bound, one babe on her back, the other on her shoulders demanding ice cream through siren-loud wails, mum pads barefoot through the hoards of happy families and dips her toes in the sea. At the edge of the ocean everything is momentarily how it should be. The two year-old ditches his clothes and wallows in rock pools. The baby is drowsy with sleep on her back. The dog… Oh s***, the blimmin’ dog’s run off.
Eventually she spies him, a tiny black dot chasing a kite about a mile down the beach. The two year-old is heaved back onto her shoulders, kicking and screaming at the prospect of leaving his rock pool. Halfway to the dog mum’s shoulders can hold no more and she drops her toddler by a rock stack to play where she can keep him in sight while retrieving the hound. Keeping her eyes scanning from dog to child, the waves don’t get a second look. Looking sheepish the dog idles back her way.
Turning back to the child, now 500m away, she sees him start to scamper up the mussel-clad rock stack at the foot of the cliffs. Her pace faster now, waking the babe on her back and he starts to whimper again. An onlooker moves towards the abandoned toddler scrambling up the cliffs, scanning the horizon for an irresponsible mother. Mum arrives; red-faced she helps her boy out of yet another scrape. By now he is howling, his feet and knees scraped and sore from the mussel shells.
They walk back up towards the van hand in hand, the boy protesting as if being brutally tortured, the dog a mile behind them, chasing the kite again.
The sun was shining. The day was seized. It was just a different sort of day.