Weekends are the days when we seem to make the most of our spare time, especially through the shorter days of autumn and winter. Weekdays are all too easily consumed by work, and our free time in the evenings occupied by chores or lazing in front of the television.
For us, Saturdays are usually a day of errands – the weekly shop, posting any letters or cards, and the odd spot of DIY. During the summertime, we can make these tasks last the whole day, as we’ll still have time for a late dinner before a sunset stroll on the beach. But in late September, no can do.
This time of year it is when we must get our back sides in gear, rush the chores first thing, and whip up a light lunch to take out on a trip to somewhere that satisfies the soul. The fair weather is far from frequent, so we must make the most of whatever we get. Wellie boots become our trusted companions now, especially for my wife. She detests feeling cold, yet there’s a half-smile that I notice when she cosily puts on her 2nd pair of thick socks before we head out. Her flip flops are mothballed until next year. My hobbit feet will brave out the winter, gleefully sockless unless formality demands it of me.
We are lucky this weekend, as the skies have cleared from the incumbent pigeon-chested grey. Patches of blue are surounded and mottled by scuds of fluffy white, framing the occasional burst of direct sunlight. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was a pleasant day, but the breeze pushing along the coast carries the usual salted Atlantic chill. Layers are layered on, and double-socked feet are suitably booted. Tiki can sense a long sandy walk. Her tail wags accordingly.
Woolacombe beach is our destination today. It’s a place that we hold very dear in our hearts. My wife holidayed there every summer for 20+ years, which was the main reason she moved here as an adult. I had the fortune of growing up in the area (well, I spent my childhood here – I never did grow up!) so I too made many childhood memories on the same sandy shoreline.
A couple of years ago, it became the scene of our engagement. It seemed only appropriate that I asked her such a meaningful question in a place that we both shared an attachment. We like going there together. Plus the dog loves the massive expanse in which we can throw her tennis balls, so we’re all happy visiting Woolacombe really.
The weather hold out for us, affording us a relaxing leisurely stroll along the sand towards Putsborough. We’d forgotten Tiki’s extendable lead, so I wrestled with her ceaseless tugging on the short lead until we reached Mill Rock. One quick flick of the clip, and she’s flying down the beach like a rocket. The sheer excitement she exudes as she bounds is only broken when she remembers that we packed a toy to throw for her. She turns on a sixpence, bounces toward us, then crouches down expectantly. The games begin.
My wife and I meander along a route decided by wherever Tiki chooses to stop with her toy. Each seemingly random waypoint is punctuated by the flinging of a neon green PVC stick, hardwearing enough to bear the agressive playing tactics of our beloved Border Collie. Just the right amount of vigourous exercise to keep us warm on an autumnal afternoon.
We find a spot to sit for lunch, at the foot of the dune. We look out toward the sea. The tide was far out, so the waves were a distant backing track. Ahough quiet, we could still hear them, as the drone of thousands of tourists was absent. The summer season is over and we feel like we had our peaceful idyllic beach back again. The sun dips behind a cloud for a moment, and the wind gusts. A reminder that the summer season is over.
Nevertheless, we make the most of what we have. The wellie boots serve us well as we backfill the holes that Tiki has dutifully dug around us while we were snacking. As we start the return leg of our walk, the wind picks up again, beating on our backs to help usher us back to the car before the weather worsens. It reminds me of my favourite Nordic saying, one that we abide by in our household – “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing.”