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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing, ambitious, en...

Day In a Page

Read Next
An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai  

China has exposed the fatal flaws in our liberal economic order

Ann Pettifor
Jeremy Corbyn addresses over a thousand supporters at Middlesbrough Town Hall on August 18, 2015  

Thank God we have the right-wing press to tell us what a disaster Jeremy Corbyn as PM would be

Mark Steel
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

Berlusconi's world of sleaze

The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

Could gaming arcades be revived?

The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

Heard the one about menstruation?

Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage