Castles made of sand


You like my picture? This is me, mere seconds before an enormous belly flop, which may have made some of the locals think the whales had arrived in the bay. I’ll come back to that later, but in the meantime I have to briefly rhapsodise about my holiday.

It’s the first holiday I’ve had like that for a while, just a house for a week by the sea and no fixed plans. Good company, eating and drinking, warm weather, beaches and relaxing. I didn’t realise how quiet the fishing village was: there was one shop and an inn by the harbour, the rest all boats and houses. That was it, not even an ice cream van. It turned out to be exactly what I needed, to do nothing.

Findochty harbour
Findochty harbour

The house was great and the village was beautiful, further along the coast than the place they filmed Local Hero, but very similar.  There were two beaches within a minute’s walk: the small, but fun and rocky Slipshore and the bigger East beach. Neither were ever busy and often we were the only ones there. All of the beaches we visited were the same: wide, bleached white sand with hardly anyone on them. It felt like discovering a secret. Or perhaps everyone knows about it, but all that could afford to went abroad, to guarantee sunshine after this dismal summer.

Roseisle beach
Roseisle beach

We got lucky. The sun didn’t shine all the time but we saw plenty of it. And it was never cold, apart from on the boat trip. And in the sea. It was bloody Baltic in the sea. Apparently, the North Sea is only five degrees warmer in the summer than the winter. All the local kids who came to the Slipshore to jump off the rocks into the sea, wear wet suits with brightly coloured surf shorts over the top. I completely understand why. We had a swimsuit and trunks. Anything above the waistline was a challenge. Instead of feeling warmer after five minutes in, you started to get numb in the legs.

The cold cold sea aside, it was a week to switch off, read, walk and enjoy the views and the sunsets. And the sea, the sky, the sea the sky, the sea the sky…none of the pictures can capture the colour of the sky as I saw it. When it was clear, you could see across to the hilly coastline of Caithness and Sutherland. Further north, places I haven’t been yet.


It was so peaceful and restorative. We all fell in love with the place a little. I could have stayed a month. I did no exercise apart from beach walks, freezing my arse off in the sea, playing boules and one four mile coastal walk. The day after we arrived, I thought about doing the daily 30 burpees, got to nine and thought ‘fuck this’. I will suffer on my first gym visit this week but it will be worth it.

Talking of suffering, my favourite story so far this week is about the woman who ran the London marathon on her blobs without a tampon. She did it to show that women’s periods are just a fact of life we need to put up with and to raise awareness of the women around the world who don’t have access to decent sanitary wear. I think she also couldn’t be bothered fannying about with tampons.

It’s a brave decision nonetheless. At first I thought she had worn red leggings to cover up some of the damage, but then I saw her victory picture on her blog. Maybe not. Some people will freak about these pictures, but what jumped out at me most was three fit and healthy young women, chuffed to bits at what they had achieved in running the race. Good luck to her. And she’s right, even in Britain, it’s a problem. Feminine hygiene products are expensive. It’s worth thinking about chucking a packet into your food bank donation box, if you do that sort of thing. Or in donation bags to women’s refuges.

Suffering brings me round to the picture at the start of this post. I was double dared to jump off the pier into the sea. It’s just over my head in depth there and not too high looking up. Looking down is a different matter. It seems high and scary because of the rocks you need to clear at the bottom. When my turn came, I got the fear really bad. I would walk over to the edge, peer down and then scamper back. Meanwhile, a bunch of 9-13 year olds were jumping in, climbing out and jumping in again. Not afraid at all, warmer in their wetsuits. My son was waiting at the top with me to watch, acting as a sort of five year old Morpheus to my Neo, with phrases like ‘you’re thinking about it too much, just jump’ and ‘the sea is waiting for you.’

The strangest thing about it was that my brain couldn’t override the reluctance of my legs to run and jump. I was willing all my Spartanness about me and I just couldn’t move. I was so afraid. Not of drowning but of something stupid, like bashing my ankle on a rock. It took a long, long time, even longer for my poor dad, holding his phone up to get the picture.

Rightly or wrongly, I didn’t want to disappoint my son, so I had to go through with it. To do the jump, I dredged up some Queen Leda strength and just ran and jumped. But it was as though my legs were disassociated from my body and head. In slow motion, it felt like I was going head first, and I can’t dive, so I tried to straighten up a bit in panic and BOOM! A strange experience. Thankfully there were no small children nearby, to torpedo out of the water, but I made a right spectacle of myself. After you’ve done it once, it wouldn’t be so bad. Possibly even fun, in a wetsuit. Like pretty much everything in life, the first leap is the hardest.


One last thing about suffering. The grit of sand. A little boy covered in it, all of us the same, then all over the house.  I’ll take a beach over a pool any day, but then you always have the sand. Brushing it lasted five minutes before more appeared. After a few days I learned to live with it under my feet. It gave me clarity that in the future, I want to live by the sea.

Sand everywhere, even back in Glasgow. I keep finding little piles of it around the flat and in amongst my things. There is some still in the bottom of my bag. I think I’ll leave it there for a while for luck.

Until next time,


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