I’m sure it’s not an underrated experience, but just in case it is, let me rate it so highly, that its average rating goes well above four stars on Amazon.
I am talking about walking the beach in winter. It is the dog’s proverbial, the absolute JOB, me daza (if the beach is in Cork).
Going to the beach in winter is something I don’t do often enough. I don’t know why. It’s on a list of things that are good for you, but inertia prevents me doing them. Other things on the list include changing into slippers, making pancakes and remembering to drink enough water.
The winter beach is the ultimate two fingers to the clocks going back. There is way more sky, more land, more sea, less ‘stuff’, fewer people.
You are wearing shoes, so pebbles, seaweed and shells are not a problem. You can stride enigmatically and wistfully rather then ooh-ah-hup-oh-OWWWW-ing your way to the sea. Not only are you shod, you are wearing clothes. Big winter clothes. Coats and scarves. All lumps and blemishes and wrinkles and crevices and karst landscape covered up with classic Primark cuts.
On a summer beach, I am Mr Bean trying to change togs without taking off trousers. On a winter beach, I am Michael Bolton romancing yer wan from earlier in the music video.
Skimming stones. Drinking port around a driftwood fire (not the last bit, it’s too windy to get it started).
No-one expects you to swim, so you don’t need to change your clothes at all, or put on sunscreen or stop the towel from blowing away and showing everyone your bits.
There are fewer arseholes on the beach, figuratively speaking as well. The nappy-and-barbecue burying, dune-burning, can-leaving brigade are generally not motivated to travel to the beach in winter, so it’s just sounders on their walks. Some of whom are with dogs WHO ARE SO EXCITED THEY CANNOT EVEN BELIEVE THEY EXIST. Dogs that are experiencing so much happiness they might pee out through their ears.
Then there is the smugness factor. I just don’t believe the positive power of smugness has been studied enough. Private, internal self-smirking at your own correct choices; this should be taught at Junior Cert in the wellness classes. It is present in all sorts of places: cycling past a line of traffic, keeping pace with the Lidl checkout batting cage, picking the right queue at a motorway toll (the automatic one obvs). All of these things are found to reduce stress, according to studies (studies with a population sample of me, but still I think the results can be extrapolated out to include everyone).
The most recent study involving me walking on a beach on a cold day has backed up my findings. Once you stop berating yourself for not doing this more often, you get a nice warm glow about the fact that other idiots are not doing this. They are stuck in a shopping centre trying to get a melted ice-cream out of a toddler’s grasp and then it goes flying into the open shopping bag.
You finish your walk, and get into the car with a HOOHOO IT’S COLD and then turn on the radio and listen to commentary from a county semi-final at a windswept ‘War of Independence Gun-running Priest Park’ . You find common cause with someone else freezing their nads off in pursuit of their Sunday afternoon passion. You are so energised and motivated you put the clock in the car back to Old Time a full three months earlier than you normally do. You might fix the microwave clock when you get home. You are practically Tony
Robbins. You could do a Ted-Talk called ‘Start With The One In The Car – the War on Procrastination’.
Then, round the whole thing off with a carvery lunch and wrestling a melted ice-cream out of your toddler’s hand, but you don’t care if it goes everywhere, because for once, on a grey November day, you’ve been somewhere.
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