As a child I was never more excited than when we were heading to the UK seaside. I would swim in the sea, even though it was usually pretty cold and probably not that clean, at that time. I would play in rock pools, catch small crabs and walk for miles looking for driftwood and objects washed overboard from some foreign and exotic ship which at some time had passed our shores. I looked at the different seaweed and small crustaceans gripping tightly to the exposed rocks but what I really enjoyed was the crashing of the waves; the noise and the spectacle of the water shooting high into the sky; then the roar as they crashed down and soaked the rocks again.
This past weekend I went to the north yorkshire coast of the UK and I walked along the beach enjoying the ozone and the sound of crashing waves just as I did as a child. It was really gratifying to see, in these days of computer games and mobile phones, children doing exactly the same as I did when I was their age. Running into the cold surf, splashing and laughing whilst their parents warn them of the dangers and to be careful.
Whilst watching this scene I thought about what is it, about the seaside, which draws thousands of people, of all ages, to it? Fortunately for me, living in the UK, I’m never very far from the sea. It’s about 70 miles from my home to my nearest beach so I have the opportunity to visit, on a regular basis, and have done all my life. So that deals with the ability and convenience of travel but it doesn’t explain the desire to go. After all, I could do other things with my time. Whilst I realise that we are an island nation, steeped in the tradition of the sea;and of its wonderful history, but we also have a great tradition of mining for coal, lead and tin. Mining has been carried out in this country for centuries but I have no desire, on a sunny day, to visit a mine. If I did, I’m certain that there would be very few others in the queue.
Perhaps it’s in my blood, passed from father to son, generation to generation, down through the ages. As an island we have been conquered many times and always by sea, by seafaring people like the Vikings. But, if this is the reason, why don’t I get on a ship and spend my free time crossing our oceans and seas? In reality, I have little desire for anything more than an occasional boat trip around our shores, anything further I find boring and judging by the amount of entertainment provided on cruise ships, the majority would agree with me.
So where does this need to spend time by the ocean come from? I really can’t say; it’s something I have always done, along with thousands of others like me. It’s like a drug that I have been hooked on all my life but don’t want to give up. I would really like to know the answer but I suspect the sea will always draw me to it.