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: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
Serena Williams  

As Stella Creasy and Serena Williams know, a woman's achievements are still judged on appearance

Holly Baxter
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones