Beaches are often an important part of a holiday. But why do we love them so much? And does our relationship with them evolve and change?
The soggy sand sucks at my feet, things are moving around down there. Blind sea creatures are inspecting my heels and toes with tickly feelers, monsters with narrow jaws and razor claws are searching for the tenderest meat. I pull out.
I take giant strides, trying not to touch the ground long enough to be sliced and bitten.
He swings me up onto his shoulders.
“It’s just wet sand, silly. Look, here’s a dry bit.”
He puts me down. I curl my toes, trying to turn my feet into tight, inedible balls. But the ground is firm, the sand warm and dry.
I dig with my finger. The sand isn’t a thing, it is millions of mini multicoloured jewels, like brown granulated sugar mixed with bits of shells and rockflakes. Close up like this, I love it.
Mummy catches up with us, my little brother trotting beside her. He is giggling, eyes scrunched into crescents. Oblivious to the danger, his feet and legs are covered in greyish brown slime from the wet sand he’s been kicking about.
“Come on, let’s paddle!” says Mummy.
I’ll have to navigate through it on the way back, but I put all thoughts of the grasping sand out of mind as we run towards the waves on Westgate’s perfect beach.
The guide book says this stretch of sand on Kos is six miles long. There are no hotels here, just guest houses, so there aren’t many tourists. But they seek each other out, setting out garish beach towels at one end of Kardamena beach. By lunchtime a coconutty Hawaiian Tropic oil slick floats on the sea round the bathers. UB40 blares from a boombox.
“Red, red win-i-ine…”
Topless girls bounce around on the beach, showing off to the boys hiding their excitment in the waves.
This morning Mum and I walked for half an hour until the noise and oil were behind us.
Now the sand is so hot that my right foot, when it slips off the reed mat, burns. I move it back to safety.
“Perfection,” says Mum from the prone position.
I lower my paperback to check my watch. Thirty minutes.
During our do-nothing annual Greek island holidays, Mum and I each polish off book a day. Nothing too taxing: we’ve both giggled our way through Tom Sharpe’s The Throwback, but now I’m getting stuck in to The Name of the Rose. By the end of the holiday we’ve read everything we brought with us, so I try something from the shelves in the guest house. Despite reading withdrawal symptoms, Hollywood Wives by Jackie Collins is too awful even to skim, so I put it back where I found it.
Our other activity is sunbathing, and it’s time to turn over.
The heat is well into the nineties. I should swim to cool off, but apathy has set in. Sweat pools on my skin. Mum lies next to me, wallowing in the sun’s rays and a state of nothingness.
I lift my book up, using it as a shield against the sun. Beyond our perfect beach, I can make out Turkey’s coastline.
We drop the anchor and reverse Esper towards the shore of a jade-green cove along Turkey’s Lycian coastline. I slip into the flat sea and swim towards the rocks. Looped over my hand is one end of the yacht’s 100m shore line; the other end is fastened to Esper’s stern. I climb across slippery boulders, hands and knees balancing on the slimy weed.
Ugh, sea urchins everywhere.
Glad that I remembered to put my jellies on, I secure the line round a tree. My part of the manoeuvre over, I signal an OK with forefinger and thumb to Jamie at the helm. He inches the yacht forwards, taking up the slack on the line and tightening the forward chain. We are anchored 20 metres from the shore. There are no other boats around.
Trees grow almost to the sea, and there are pathways up through the hills. The heat is intense and cicadas trill in waves around the bay. A great place to explore, perhaps we’ll come across some hidden archaeological ruins, this area of Turkey is littered with them.
We’ll have a beer and relax now. Tomorrow we’ll bring our walking boots over and have a look around.
I sit on the rock and look for an appropriate landing area. The sand is flat without any sharp rocks, a perfect beach to land our inflatable dinghy.