24th July 2013
I love the beach. I have a whole shark thing going on, and as such hate going in the water above my knees. Yes, I know I live in the UK and so this makes very little sense, but there we have it. I was talking to Mum and Dad recently and remembered two incidents that may have contributed to this sort of fear. We used to camp a lot when I was younger, and one year we camped right on the banks of a small river. My darling brother decided to tell me that Jaws lived in that river. Thanks Stu. Then separately, I'm not sure if it was before or after, my godfather told me that sharks lived behind and under the grilles in the local swimming pool. I loved swimming, but I remember having certain misgivings about getting the pool when thinking about it the night before.
Besides the shark stuff, I love going to the sea. I could sit and watch waves for hours on end, they're just so mesmerising. Happily then, I ended up going to university in Portsmouth. It wasn't a part of the decision as such, more of a bonus. Our first weekend in halls we took ourselves off on a jaunt to find the seaside and got spectacularly lost, and at one point spectacularly wet, after being caught by an enormous wave.
I loved the summers in Portsmouth, after everyone had finished their exams and handed in all their coursework. We'd pack ourselves up in the morning, wander down Elm Grove to the seaside, picking up food in Tesco on the way. Our preferred beach was the one in Old Gunwharf, it was sheltered by an enormous wall so we didn't suffer too much in the immense winds one can expect in Pompey. We'd set ourselves up for the day, and I loved every second. Well, almost every second. I burn if someone mentions the sun, so I would spend most of my life covering myself in factor 5000 and covering up where possible. Once I had been as diligent as a person can be about their sun cream, probably over diligent (if that's a thing), and yet what did I find late in the day? I had been wearing shorts and sitting with my legs propped up on the pebbles. The sun had spotted this weakness, and shone up my shorts and burnt my knees. I walked around with two crescents on my knees for a week or so - I also never fade to brown, I fade to dirty. Where is the justice?!
So with all the warm weather and a month before I moved back to Kent, I decided I needed to go to the beach, and the beach I fancied going to was Southsea. Bex, being a teacher, had finished work too and decided to join me in visiting the birthplace of our friendship. We drove down, past our lovely house in Southsea and discovered our trusty parking spots were all 3 hours max. Quoi?! Yes, I may not have visited since graduation 3 years previously, but no things are allowed to change! We ended up driving further towards the beach and found plenty of streets that had done the decent thing and stayed restriction free.
Our first stop was at Tenth Hole. This wonderful spot does the most beautiful, wonderful, mahoosive cakes you can dream of. We arrived and queued for a fair while, it has become hugely popular since we started going there, with good reason. Being fairly close to the sea it can get cold outside, but they provide blankets and hot water bottles to patrons wanting to sit outside. Just the little things, isn't it?
My favourite was always the Toffee Lumpy Bumpy, but I fear this is now a thing of the past. Sob. I went for Chocolate Lumpy Bumpy instead, and it did not disappoint. Well, maybe a little, but not on taste as such. Just because it wasn't Toffee. They give you enormous portions, that's one "slice" in the photo above. It was an incredibly hot day, and sadly, it didn't last too long. We took our cake down to the beach to enjoy as we watched our beloved Solent wash in and out.
I paddled! It wasn't the warmest. I remember saying whilst at uni once "it feels like brain freeze on my feet" and it hasn't strayed far since then. The standard trick of burying my feet in the pebbles worked, but I certainly regretted not bringing flip flops I was happy to get wet, because OW OW OW I forgot how much pebbles hurt. In some ways I prefer a pebbly beach, it's less messy, nice and easy to make yourself out a little groove for yourself, and plenty of scope for skimming stones or just throwing them into the sea. But, man, they hurt.
We spent awhile throwing stones into the little pool that had formed in front of us, desperately trying to catch the splash. It's not a fantastic photo, but it took so long to get that it had to be included.
After the beach we meandered all the way along the seafront from Southsea to Gunwharf as we used to do so many times. I love that walk, and miss taking it as a route home. A longer route home, but a much more interesting one. My abiding memory is of walking the length whilst the sea worked itself up into a storm, huge waves nearly drenching me head to foot, and debating the whole time whether to abandon it and walk through town. I didn't, and I'm so glad.
We wandered around Gunwharf Quays for a little while, then decided to walk back to the car through town. Danielle, another of the girls we used to live with, still lives in Portsmouth with her fiancé, Paul, so we got in touch to see if she wanted to get some food. Waiting for a reply from her, we mooches through the high street. It's not particularly nice, as high streets go, but it did the job.
Hearing that Danielle wouldn't be able to join us until a bit later we decided to try and find somewhere along Elm Grove to eat, which meant taking the route past our old house that we would have taken on a daily basis. It was an extremely odd feeling, walking a way we knew so well, but had changed slightly in these tiny ways. Well, mostly tiny. At one point, walking through Somers Town we found our way blocked by a huge structure...a weird sort of squashed cylinder. We had to walk round it a bit before we could get back to the route we knew and loved. A route I remember walking at barely 1mph in snow that had been trampled by streams of students into ice, listening to Fleet Foxes and planning a Greggs sausage roll as a reward for deciding to take the trip into town when so many others would have snuggled back into bed.
We ended up at a diner I don't remember being there before, but was pleasant enough. Danielle found us, and regaled us with stories in that fantastic way she does. Food and some tasty milkshakes consumed, it was finally time for us to head home. Finding the car was a bit of fun, parked as it was in the rabbit warren that is Southsea.
Our journey home was easy and was less traffic than one might expect. All in all, a successful day trip, full nostalgia and cake. Sounds like an album title.