Beach Blanket Boxing Day



It has been a long time since Him Indoors and I spent Christmas at our seaside house, but it is good to be back this year. The coast in winter has very special appeal: in good weather the chalk cliffs sparkle like freshly painted walls and the low sun creates dramatic patterns in the sand where dogs, adults and children leave their footprints. In squally weather it is comforting to stay inside and toast oneself by the fire, or to wrap up warm and watch the waves breaking over the harbour arm. Windy days are brilliant for flying kites and blowing the cobwebs away, whilst calm days are perfect for paddling and sitting outside a cafe with a mug of hot chocolate. Generally there are fewer people and cars than in summer and more dogs and human kindness.



Boxing Day dawned clear, bright, still and mild; a perfect day for walking. It appears that most of the town felt the same, setting forth in the lightest of winter attire. There were a few brave men in shorts and an even hardier family braving the sea without wet suits. The admiration from onlookers was enough to warm their cockles as they emerged from the opaque water. Broadstairs seafront was thronged with cheerful families, glad to be out in the open and working off their excess calories. And, for the first time in a fortnight, we were blessed with a lie-in. It really did the trick: I’ve felt almost human all day.



Initially it seemed that our traditional Boxing Day walk might be doomed. Martha required carrying after about 200 metres. Once tempted by sand and water she was off into the shallow waves, which promptly broke over the top of her glittery wellies, soaking her pink tights. Martha found this most amusing, repeating her folly ‘again, again!’. After a very public change of clothing we managed to walk most of the way to Ramsgate, stopping off at Dumpton Gap for a mug of tea and a revitalising satsuma.



When not keeping my eye on Martha I was on the look out for Boxing Day blooms. Sadly, these were in short supply. I spied a handful of yellow wallflowers, some rather weary escallonia, and little else. This surprised me given the diversity we normally experience in London on Boxing Day and how mild the weather has been so far this winter. Returning home I noticed just how many plants I’ve left to fend for themselves whilst I’ve concerned myself with the library. Begonias, geraniums, fuchsias and passionflowers are all still fending for themselves outside, each waiting for the day when my optimism is rewarded by a sharp and devastating frost. I took pity on puce-pink Passiflora x violaceaย ‘Victoria’ and brought her into the garden room for a reviving drink and some gentle warmth.



All-in-all today has been a far more relaxing and enjoyable day than Christmas Day, without the pressure of the main event and motivated by a desire to get out of The Watch House, lovely as it is. As I write we are snuggled up together in the library, Martha and Him Indoors blissfully asleep, me tapping away on the iPad and my sister reading a book with Christmas lights twinkling behind her. A fine and fitting end to our beach blanket Boxing Day.