Brian Viner: Country Life

Share
Related Topics

We all have different reasons for loving it, although high on everybody's list is the friends we have made; friends who, in most cases, we don't see for 50 weeks of the year, yet who for a fortnight are daily rock-pooling/ beach cricket/ getting mildly drunk late at night companions. The children, I should add, are not yet of an age to get drunk either mildly or in any other way, but when they are, it will be interesting to see whether they still clamour to come to Cornwall. Certainly, there is a thriving teen culture that we have yet to encounter, of surf dudes holding raucous beach parties after dark. Indeed, we've heard that all the local beaches are being closed at 10pm this year on account of the detritus found on the sand the following morning: potsam and jetsam.

For now, for us, the beach means more wholesome family activities, like searching for crabs and trying to make cheese rolls with sandy penknives and watching other families. Constantine Bay is marvellous for people-watching. I suppose all popular English beaches are at the height of summer, but the presence of surf dudes lends an extra dimension. It's interesting to watch these lithe, toned, tanned youngsters striding to the shore past acres of sunburnt blubber; humanity in its many and varied forms. And of course, while it's unacceptably fat-ist to make muttered asides about elephantine women laboriously changing into frilly blue sundresses, it is also irresistible. We all watched in silence yesterday as this particular spectacle unfolded 50 yards or so away, and then my father-in-law, Bob, a man of South Yorkshire, quietly informed us what his late mother, Nellie, would have said had she been with us. "She'll tek some britching."

My parents-in-law have always come to Cornwall with us, and just as every beach holiday needs sun and ice-cream, so it needs a grandma and grandad. When they are grandparents themselves my kids will remember Bob's sandcastles: enormous yet intricate, with forbidding dungeons and slate staircases and windows framed with empty mussel shells, to the construction of which he brings all the skills he acquired in nigh on 50 years as a mining engineer. They are not your classic English crenellated jobs; more your Saracen fortresses, invulnerable to all infidels but not, of course, to the incoming sea.

Incidentally, on a beach holiday in Maine a few years ago, we realised that Americans build sandcastles inspired by Disney. They have a different technique entirely, fashioning tall, improbable towers by carefully drizzling wet sand, until they have a structure which might conceivably house Sleeping Beauty.

The European sandcastle tradition is more historically accurate, clearly based on the fact that we never needed Uncle Walt to show us what castles look like. Not that Bob has visited any Saracen fortresses, but had there been any passing Saracens in Constantine Bay yesterday, I'm sure they would have vouched for its authenticity. Meanwhile, our children were able to put on proprietorial airs when other people came to look and admire.

There is kudos, too, in having the best encampment. In our eight years down here we have seen people, including ourselves, become more and more sophisticated in the ways they set up for the day. Where windbreaks were once enough, now the tent-and-windbreak combo is commonplace, and the tent-windbreak-brick-built barbecue combo is catching on. We are waiting, with baited breath, for the first tent-windbreak-barbecue-Portaloo combo. It can only be a matter of time.

'Tales of the Country' by Brian Viner is out now (Simon & Schuster, £12.99)

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
“I just wanted some chicken wings,” Tan Shen told the assembled media. “But once I got in there ... I decided I needed time to think.”  

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Ellen E Jones
Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay's Chris Martin “consciously uncoupled” in March  

My best and worst stories of 2014

Simmy Richman
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015