The caravan site is set in a small valley close to a surfing beach. A wide stream runs through the middle, and there are swans, geese (one of which isn't bluffing) and so many ducks knocking about the place it must be the local foxes' equivalent of an out-of-town superstore. There is also one free-roaming guinea pig, which I nearly stepped on this morning; two or three guilty-looking cats; half a dozen peacocks; and some of the most impertinent seagulls I've ever come across.
Most of these creatures appear to be compulsive eaters. Even the peacocks come stepping into the caravan with a lordly air, seeking tribute. Yesterday I was seated on the lavatory when one of them put his head round the door and looked at me inquiringly. I shook my head at him and he immediately withdrew. I try not to fall out with the peacocks because theirs is a peculiarly malevolent form of intelligence. They remember a slight. And they get even with you by going for a stroll on your caravan roof in the middle of the night or by shrieking at you when you are least expecting it.
I am a mostly absent father. So Mark's and my annual week away in a caravan in Cornwall is the highlight of our year. Our chance to eat, sleep and watch TV together without having to keep an eye on the clock. To "bond", if you like. And this year we have further cemented our relationship by surfing together for the first time.
Until this year we haven't really felt up to going surfing. It has been either too cold, or the wet suits have been too expensive, or we didn't want to get our faces wet. So what we did instead was hold hands and stand in the water up to our knees and watch everybody else surfing. We've done this every year for the last five years.
But this year things have been different. We've suddenly grown taller for one thing, and the waves don't look quite so terrifying. Less terrifying too (owing to Dad's recent embourgeoisement) is the price of a junior wet-suit in one of the surf shops. And getting our face wet is no longer the big issue it once was.
So we've gone into a surf shop, one whose young assistants are so cool they can barely bring themselves to talk to the customers, and we've kitted ourselves out with wet suit, surf board and all the trimmings. And half an hour later we're out there breasting the waves with the best of them.
I once asked a photographer what he did in his spare time. "Surf," he said. Then he put his hand over his heart and added, "It's soulful, man." I marked him down as a bit of an ice-cream for that, I remember. But I now see this as the reaction of a philistine.
Our first surf was in the late afternoon, and we faced the waves with the sun directly in our eyes. The tops of the towering waves came wobbling and boiling towards us, and where Mark and I were waiting for them, they became great tottering sun-shot wind-torn walls of water that rose up and flung themselves at us with considerable violence and a deafening roar. "Blimey," I said to Mark after we had withstood a few of these.
As beginners we were using body boards, not the stand-up ones. Mark was the first to catch a wave and successfully ride it. One moment he was standing beside me, and the next he was a hundred yards away, gliding towards the shore. "You could have got us a couple of 99s while you were there," I said when he came back out.
We've been surfing for three days now, and we're both completely hooked. It's brilliant, as they say. I'd even go as far as to say that it's soulful, man. It's sea and sun and wind and water all coming at you at the same time and doing your head in in the nicest possible way.
Those peacocks could do Riverdance on the caravan roof every night now and we wouldn't wake up. From now on we'll have our noses up our bottoms and we'll be surfing in our sleep.Reuse content