Meet the beach tribes: A who's who of the British at play on their annual seaside holidays

Are you an Adonis in Speedos or a Frustrated Foodie? John Walsh presents a satirical who's who of the British at play beside the seaside

The Speedos Adonis

You can see him wading painfully out of the North Sea at Aldeburgh or Southwold, subconsciously mimicking Daniel Craig's emergence from the waves in Casino Royale. Unlike Craig, he cannot quite get a purchase on the shingle in the shallows and has to wave his hands in ungainly semaphore to stay upright. More damningly, he is wearing swimming trunks. Something in the summer air, in the balmy zephyrs of Suffolk, has persuaded him that his body has not gone to ruin at 50, but is in the peak of fitness. If he remembers to suck his white, crêpe-y stomach in and maintain an upright posture at all times, he'll look good in tight trunks – easily as good as Mr Craig, in his celebrated blue budgie-smugglers.

Because the beach is boiling hot, he has walked down to the water's edge in his Jesus sandals, which he now retrieves. They are preferable to flip flops, which he thinks are common. The grey hair on his chest and his head, the professorial poise, the demagogue footwear, all proclaim that he is a serious, intellectual cove, just as the tight trunks advertise that he is a virile dog. All he needs to complete the ensemble is his Panama hat and Boots sunglasses. With them he tramps along the beach for an hour, stopping to talk to friends from the BBC, resting golfers, fellow civil servants. He notes the jealous admiration in their faces, a raising of their eyebrows in approval at his choice of tight swimwear. If they show any signs of life, he thinks, he might suggest they have a little game on the beach. He'd even consider throwing a frisbee around, if it didn't make him look like that pitiful middle-aged git, Sir John Sawers of MI6, whose tragic torso was plastered all over Facebook by his wife.

The Hot Lolita

Matilda is too warm. She is wearing her plain grey bowling shirt and white shorts, and has to keep her arms and legs covered because she was very silly yesterday and slathered some Tanfastic on her limbs last night and it was a clear ointment so you couldn't see if it was making any difference, so she just put more and more on, and when she woke up her arms and legs were all streaked and awful so she can't let anyone see, but it's just as well really because her Mum bought her this really gay pink bikini and it just looks stupid when she wears it because she hasn't filled out properly yet, and the horrible boys stare at you and make gross remarks.

She can feel her face burning in the sun because she hasn't really put enough Piz Buin Factor 50 sunscreen on. Her Mum insisted she rub in lots of it, but that would mean no sun at all would come through and her skin would stay the colour of putty after a week at the seaside, instead of becoming a lovely caramel shade like Anna who's so lucky, her skin never goes all lobstery and she's got boobs so she can wear her bikini, unlike some people.

Matilda is so hot, she would love to get a Slush Puppie but she can't because there are boys all round the refreshments shack, because that awful girl Ellie is there laughing in that stupid affected way and letting on she's 16 when she's only Matilda's age. How can boys be so stupid to be taken in by such an annoying little bitch? Her hair is beginning to itch and sweat is starting to drip down her face in an unbecoming, unladylike fashion, and dear God, how she hates being 13...

The Game Old Birds

The Thermos flask and the picnic blankets are in the boot of the CV. His binoculars (ornithology and furtive voyeurism) are in the glove compartment, with the ginger biscuits, the Kendal Mint Cake and her emergency sou'wester in the event of sudden squalls in Cardigan Bay. Their books – he is halfway through the complete Patrick O'Brian seafaring sagas, she is not making much headway in the new Sarah Waters – are on the back seat, bookmarks in place. Their Ordnance Survey maps and copies of Wainwright's Walks still accompany them on every holiday, though they seldom hike far these days.

Gerald and Margaret are in their seventies, but they still believe in the efficacy of the seaside trip. They believe in the power of ozone, the magic of gull-cry and pong of bladderwrack, to heal their souls and lift their dispirited hearts. Reaching the end of their lives, they cling to the beginnings: how the sea and sand once inspired them to run like dogs across the sun-mirrored mirage of the beach and eat Sky Ray lollies watching the distant sails of yachts. Now, no matter how rubbish the actual weather, they will walk on the strand, shiver on the beach, perch on the esplanade benches and patronise the tearooms as if the heat were tropical and the crowds abundant.

Gerald and Margaret don't need the actual summer to be summery. They bring their own summer and live in it like Second Lifers, ignoring all evidence that the real-life promenade is lashed with hail and the yachts in the bay have capsized. As long as they have a rug and biscuits, a warm beverage, the adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey and a chocolate Magnum apiece, it will always be Holiday o'clock inside them.

The Loping Dude

Marcus is 18 and is into, like, everything. Now his A-levels are over, his text books torched and his brain cleared of the rubble of learning, he is ready for experience. Glastonbury was a hoot, and sleeping rough wasn't too bad in his uncle's Winnebago, but there were so many of his pals from Marlborough around, it might have been the school sports day (only with more Neil Young).

This is different. Marcus is at the seaside, at Padstow or Rock or Fowey. He's here with Quent and Baz, and soon they'll be joined by Danny and Torka, and then they'll see some action. They'll drink Coronas all morning, Penis Collapsos all afternoon and Flaming Sambucas all night. With any luck, some fit girls from Bedales or Cheltenham will join in horseplay with surfboards in the shallows, and, if they're real sports, might get their norks out to sunbathe. After that, Marcus isn't sure what'll happen. He likes making girls laugh with his crazy antics, but if they're not big laughers, he's not sure how to proceed.

So Marcus lopes slowly along the beach in his long purple surfer pants from Fat Face, and his Transformers T-shirt. To the onlooker, his rolling gait, as he sways this way and that, suggests a youth in the grip of dreadful melancholy; but no, it is only a hangover. Sometimes he wishes he didn't always have to wake up with a Grand Prix rally crashing round his head. This is his heyday. These are the best days, of friendship and fun and getting your end away. What was that film on the box, about the kid shagging the war widow? Summer of '42. What's that Bryan Adams song about meeting his first girlfriend? Summer of '69. This'll be Marcus's summer, the unforgettable Summer of '09. If only he could remember which bit of this bloody beach he arranged to meet Baz and Rocky on. If only he could remember anything...

The Frantic Foodie

Bella absolutely loves the Isle of Wight, just adores its quaint atmosphere – like stepping back into 1956 – and its funny place-names (Blackgang Chine! So piratical!) but if you really press her, there's one teeny thing that annoys her: the food. Nobody must think her a snob, and of course there are some dear little fruit and vegetable shops in Bembridge and Ventnor, but frankly, if you want the best British seasonal produce, you're not going to get it in the VG supermarket in Cowes, are you?

Bella knows sorrel is in season in August, as is rabbit. Can she get fresh sorrel anywhere? Can she hell. The little shop people look at her in a funny way and offer her jars of dried oregano. So primitive! And why is there no rabbit in the butchers? She has a lovely recipe for gigot de lapin with calamari (and sorrel) that would be perfect for welcoming friends to their rented farmhouse – but can she buy a bloody rabbit? There must he hundreds of bunnies hopping about the island. Did nobody have the sense to shoot some? She returns home with some frankly third-rate pork (not even organic, my dear), feeling a little frantic. If there's still no sign of sorrel tomorrow, she'll have to climb along the cliffs with a pair of scissors, looking for tufts of samphire to snip.

Bella's husband and children race off to the beach with inflatable dolphins soon after breakfast every morning; she shudders to think what fast-food atrocity he'll buy them for lunch. Bella stays behind (she likes the sun "but it doesn't like me," she explains to all) and broods. Tears prick her eyes. Her life has a hole in it. Without proper Brazilian medium roast coffee from Whole Foods, she just isn't herself. The toast here isn't wholegrain and whatever marmalade they have in the shop, it just isn't Ottolenghi's Lemon and Vanilla. It's not right. Surely Ottolenghi must have opened a branch down here. Has nobody but Bella any sense of what's important?

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Sport
nflAtlanta Falcons can't count and don't know what the UK looks like
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
News
news

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

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

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London