Kate Simon: Woman About World - News & Advice - Travel - The Independent

Kate Simon: Woman About World

Oh, I do hate to be beside the seaside

I have a secret to confide: I only discovered the joys of sunbathing in adulthood. No, I haven't lazed on the Copacabana or seen the beautiful bodies on LA's Venice Beach. I've never caught the rays on Bondi or played in the waves off Koh Samui.

I have a secret to confide: I only discovered the joys of sunbathing in adulthood. No, I haven't lazed on the Copacabana or seen the beautiful bodies on LA's Venice Beach. I've never caught the rays on Bondi or played in the waves off Koh Samui.

I haven't even hired a sunlounger in St Tropez. And it's all the fault of my Dad and the humble windbreak.

Well, it may seem like an inoffensive length of fabric and poles to you, but to me it is the nadir of the holiday experience. After all, if it's going to be so cold and uncomfortable that you have to lug a special piece of anti-adverse-weather apparatus along with the buckets and spades and parasols and deckchairs and towels, what's the bloody point of being there in the first place?

Let's face it, some beaches aren't meant for sunbathing. They're meant for wrapping up. And by some, I mean most of Britain's beaches. I realise that this will make me Public Enemy Number One with the Go On Summer Holiday In Britain brigade. And, yes, I am aware that the sun does - sometimes - shine in this part of the world. But no, I'm sorry, huddling behind a windbreak may be a national pastime but it offers only one perspective on holidays: they aren't meant to be enjoyed.

And that's exactly the lesson my father set out to teach us - with the aid of his windbreak - back in the Seventies. What a jolly good job of it he did, too, because it didn't occur to me to go near a beach in the pursuit of pleasure until my friend Jo dragged me off to the Greek island of Kos when I was 26 and showed me sun in a cloudless sky.

Oh happy days, when Dad would bundle us into the back of the Vauxhall Victor and set off on the six-hour drive from Cheshire to the north Devon coast and a fortnight's purgatory in a dank house in Hartland. Poor old Mum did her best to create a holiday atmosphere on exactly the same housekeeping money as we lived off for the other 50 weeks of the year, rustling up picnics of cheese and pickle rolls, cheese and pickle rolls and ... cheese and pickle rolls. Then, off we'd go to the beach, Dad squeezing into his swimming shorts with the little motif of the diving lady, chivvying us into the "bracing" (read freezing) waters of the Atlantic, before retiring to the shelter of - the windbreak.

Do I sound bitter? Well, I mean to. After all, how would you like to get back to school to find yourself sitting next to Sarah Taylor with her tales of exotic holidays in sunny Mallorca and adventures with Cold War policemen extorting "speeding fines" from her father on the highways of Yugoslavia?

But try as we might to persuade him that there were alternatives to the Devon coast (like how about the rest of the world?), my father was resolutely opposed to this new-fangled idea of leaving Britain in pursuit of good weather and broadening the mind until his dying day. "Why would I want to go abroad? I did that during the war," he would retort - and he wasn't joking - while rolling up the windbreak (OK, I put that in for effect).

And so it has become my quest as an adult and a parent never to go on a summer holiday to the north Devon coast and never to own a windbreak. Well, that's not quite true, I have been on holiday, in summer, to the Devon coast and very nice it was too. But the windbreak is a definite no-no and, it seems to me, can easily be avoided by doing the bleedin' obvious and going somewhere hot for the summer holidays.

Like Spain. Except last month, when we headed down to the beach on the Costa de la Luz, on Spain's southern coast, we were confronted by a sea of windbreaks. So it was blowing a Force 8 gale (I exaggerate, though not by much), but you don't go to a Spanish beach to sit behind a windbreak. Even if it is the notoriously windy Costa de la Luz. It's hot. The sun's out. Don't these Spaniards realise that the very sight of a windbreak can bring Los Blancos (that's us) out in the kind of goosebumps only seen in the grey seas off the British coast.

Somewhere up there, my Dad must be having a good old laugh.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week