After a morning of exhilarating whale watching, we opted for a more relaxing afternoon. Given that we were not far from Cape Cod and that we had never been to Cape Cod before, we determined that should be our destination. We had packed all of the kids’ swimming gibbles in the boot (trunk) of the car for just this eventuality so off to the beach we headed. Mr Pict looked at the map and stuck a mental pin in it and so we headed off to Sandy Neck beach.
Whenever I have to pay to park my car at a beach, I expect something in return. It’s not just that I am inherently frugal but it also establishes some sort of expectation of a quid pro quo, like well-maintained facilities, fine sand, an aesthetically pleasing beach and somewhere you want to spend a lot of time. Now, in the interests of blogging integrity, I must admit that I have a life-long loathing of sand. I despise it. I always have and always will. When I was a teeny tot, my parents were able to sit me in the middle of a blanket and know for certain that I would not wander off it as I did not want my chubby baby hands or knees – or any part of my body – to make contact with the sand. From my perspective, the only sand I like is glass. I. Loathe. Sand. Even worse than parts of my body having to make contact with sand is when someone encourages me to at least attempt eating something at the beach. Sand in the teeth. It’s the stuff of horror. Mr Pict and the Pictlings, however, all love being at the beach so I have to grin and bear it ever so often for their sakes. I, therefore, feel qualified to pass judgement on the quality of beaches I visit.
Sandy Neck was not a great beach. It was not even a good beach. The sand was of the worst variety, gritty, coarse and solid, it was neither comfortable to stand or walk on or good enough for building sand castles. The tide was going out but the beach was just a narrow brownish strip sited between the sea and some sand dunes we were not allowed near. One of our local beaches in Scotland, Westport on the Kintyre Peninsula, had pale, fine sand and dunes we were able to trek across and explore. My kids, therefore, were disappointed when they learned that access to these sand dunes was forbidden. I get that some sand dune areas require protecting to prevent erosion but since this beach had nothing else to offer the whole sand dune thing added to the feeling of being cheated.
Perhaps Sandy Neck beach is great for some recreational activities but certainly it wasn’t remotely the best beach I have been on if all you want to do is chill out, play in the sand and paddle in the surf. The beach was manned by three lifeguards in towers who must have been bored witless since the beach was not remotely busy and no one was anything more than calf-deep in the water. I wonder if bored lifeguards wish for sharks to appear or someone to get caught in a current just so they have something, anything, to do other than stare at the sea. Sand and boredom. I think lifeguarding a beach would go on my list of jobs I am very glad I have never done.
As an aside, that night at something like 10.30pm, when we were all comfortably ensconced in our hotel beds, cosy in our jammies, the fire alarm went off. This would not be worth mentioning in a blog entry at all if it were not for the fact that this was actually the fifth – yes, fifth – time that Mr Pict and I have had to evacuate a hotel because of a fire alarm. The first time was actually my fault. We were staying in a hotel on the island of Mull and the steam from my shower set off the fire alarm. Cue dripping wet embarrassment as we all mustered in the garden. The second and third times happened on consecutive evenings in a hotel in Newcastle. We were hiking Hadrian’s Wall with our three year old and baby so were pretty exhausted and sound asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow. Sometime in the wee small hours of the morning, the fire alarm started blaring. We were in a room on the top floor of a very tall city centre hotel with two small children so there was no time to lose. In nothing but our pyjamas (though the baby was in a sleeping bag thing) we descended flight after flight of stairs and emerged onto the street on a bracingly cold February night (or morning) in the North East of England. A man who had just returned from a stag (bachelor) party kindly gave his coat to our oldest son so that he didn’t perish and a woman gave me her leather gloves from her handbag so that I could pop them on my bare feet. I looked ludicrious, utterly ridiculous, but at least it stopped my toes falling off. It turned out someone had been smoking in a non-smoking room. The following night, the exact same thing happened. This time, however, we were paranoid and so prepared. We had some clothes lying next to our beds ready for us to quickly grab and shove on plus shoes. The shoes were critical. No more gloved penguin feet for me. That has been our resigned routine ever since. So, when the same thing happened the following Spring in Glasgow, we were slick in our response. Warm clothes folded beside the bed, shoes to hand, quick grab and exit and shove on the layers once we had safely exited. That fourth time was also down to someone smoking in a non-smoking room.
So, yes indeed, this was our fifth time of having to evacuate a hotel in the middle of the night. Shoes quickly shoved on, layers grabbed, stairs descended and we were safely outside – though I have to confess that at this juncture I am pretty jaded about the level of emergency involved in hotel fire alarms. At least this time it was warm outside. In fact it was positively balmy which was handy since our grabbed layers did not consist of much. It was a bit of excitement for the kids, however, to see the fire engines turn up, sirens and lights blaring in the darkness, and firefighters leap out of the trucks with all of their equipment on. I write “leap” but actually it was more of a lackadaisical plop as no one moved with any sense of urgency. This only confirmed my cynicism as to the degree of urgency involved. Indeed, no one ever took a register to ensure that all hotel patrons had assembled. It didn’t take long before we were given permission to return to our rooms. By that point, however, we had four wide awake and excitable kids on our hands. Now that’s an emergency right there.