Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Obelix was right!

To more or less quote the formidable Obelix: “These British are crazy”! (Imagine, if you will, the toc toc toc sound of his forefinger tapping against the side of his head).

Why else would thousands of them flock to the seaside – the British seaside, not balmier shores - in weather that is distinctly unsuitable for dallying on the beach or swimming in the sea, or going outside the shelter of your house or, come to think of it, even getting out of a warm bed?

Common sense doesn’t enter into it. If it’s Easter, one must go to the seaside. Preferably in one’s caravan – or, if one has a static caravan, that is where one must stay.

No matter that Easter has arrived unseasonably early in the third week of March, rather than later in April, as in previous years. No matter that the freezing wind is straight from the Arctic. No matter that there is the occasional flurry of snow or spatter of hail. No matter that (in Borth, at any rate) there is barely even a beach, because the waves, whipped into a suicidal frenzy by the wind, are hurling themselves against the strip of shingle and sand in a welter of foam and froth. You wouldnt really set foot there because said foot, followed by the rest of whatever it is attached to, would be washed away in an instant. No - no matter what, the first long weekend of the year, as the harbinger of warmer days, has to be enjoyed by the seaside.

Tradition – or is it some sort of irresistible, if inimical, instinct? – demands it.

Given these conditions, but of course the seaside was the destination for our long Easter weekend too. How else could it be? Pete and I went to Borth, a tiny village by the seaside, in Wales. I had my reservations about the sanity of this plan, but any feeble appeals to Pete’s reason were blown to shreds by the wind. The only thing I could do was be stoic and put up with the seasonal outbreak of bulldog Britishness.

The weather in Borth, for most of Thursday and Friday, was as described above, except that it was even more so. Our caravan was cosy enough, with plenty of heating. The noise of the rain splattering on the roof of the caravan was absolutely amazing… it wasn’t difficult to imagine some insanely playful giant outside, who sometimes threw little pebbles on the roof, and sometimes poured bucketfuls of water - and always there was the wind, making our caravan rock gently from side to side. There was no danger of the caravan toppling over, stable on its eight sturdy legs as it was. But still, when the wind gusted extra strongly, I have to confess that I braced myself instinctively for that which would remain unvoiced...

It certainly was an experience to remember. Saturday and Easter Sunday weren’t bad, with only the occasional rain shower, but the wind remained steady. Wind without rain is actually rather fun – that is, if it isnt the icily freezing North Wind that doth blow. (I don’t have any first-hand information on what poor robin did then, poor thing. But, if
the poem is correct in its prediction, robin probably sat in a barn and tried to keep himself warm by hiding his head under his wing, poor thing.)

Monday was sunny and bright and windy – and still very cold. But since it was so clear, we went for a drive. Borth and other seaside towns in Wales seem to have their own little weather conditions, so depending on which town we stopped at, we alternated between feeling a little too warmly bundled up (when the sun shone) and feeling a little too thinly clad (when the clouds came in and the wind blew)… and mostly I watched in utter amazement the surfers and rowboats in the water, and the kids on the sand, digging enthusiastically or building sandcastles. As a sideshow, there were all these serious cyclists with their ridiculous helmets, enthusiastically riding cross-country, battling the winds and winning.
(What are these people MADE of?)

When I’d had my fill of gaping in admiration at the stubbornly sporty lunatics in and out of the water, we went in search of icecreams. If you’re at the beach, you’ve GOTTA have icecreams. It's written in the Constitution. It's the LAW. (Honest.) And there’s nothing like icecreams that have been made locally with real cream, instead of the generic Walls or Carte d’Or or whatever.

And since I have nothing more to say that’s relevant to the Easter weekend, I’m just going to add that I am not (yet) a British citizen, so I’ll have to wait till next year to see if I’m also overcome by this delightfully insane British urge to go to the seaside in howling winter weather… or if my Indian instincts will prevail.


mumbaigirl said...

Have always wondered at this craziness as well. Stiff upper lip and all that. Have been forced to walk up and down hills in pouring rain by British relatives. Only agreed out of love.

Anonymous said...

Love, insanity - same thing, different words :)

- shyam