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: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

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

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A pack of seagulls squabble over discarded food left on the beach at St Ives on July 28, 2015  

Number of urban seagulls in Britain nearly quadruples: Hide food and avoid chicks to stay in gulls’ good books

Tom Bawden
 

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms