We had the tiniest football you’ve ever seen, a long forgotten one discovered in the depths of the car boot. There wasn’t a bucket and spade to be found, not a hint of a surfboard, not a shovel or a kite, not as much as a tube of bubbles. Just four adults and five children, this mini football and a whole beach full of sand. Initially the fitter among us were determined to go power walking down the strand but as they kept getting interrupted by the pesky ball, they soon abandoned that idea. Coats and sweatshirts soon marked out goalposts and piles of bodies begin chasing this miniscule ball up and down the sand. There ensued an afternoon of riotous hilarity. Had we said to everyone that we were going to spend a few hours with this mini ball, they would all have laughed and gone to the nearest toy shop to spend a small fortune on serious beach toys. Had we even mentioned an afternoon at the beach it would have taken us all morning to get ourselves plucked and coiffed and beach ready. The car would have been packed up carefully with provisions for every eventuality. It would be brimming with sunscreen, raincoats, toys, wellies, towels, extra clothes and the emergency picnic. Not to mention the box of plasters and antiseptic for the inevitable injury. We would have planned it all and organised ourselves to within an inch of our lives and nothing would have been left to chance. Instead we ambushed them and let the beach sneak up on them and left it all up to chance.
Apart from travelling with a much lighter car and arriving while it was still daylight, the spontaneity of all this meant that we had to be inventive. We were just beginning to warm up when the kids had us all organised and had figured out who needed to play with whom depending on various skills and abilities. I don’t take it at all personally that I was voted to be the coat stand instead of a player. I fooled them though with my long hidden and undeniably skilful footwork. No sorry, that was my sprint to the ice cream shop, something I have always been rather skilled at.
At times I couldn’t figure out whether we were playing rugby, soccer or Gaelic football as the rules were merrily invented as we went along depending on who had control of the ball at the time. I believe basketball was thrown into the mix by the girls and maybe some volleyball too. Whatever, it didn’t really matter. The adults shouted and roared and got stuck in with sliding tackles and sprint finishes and that was just us mums. The dads were much better behaved. The kids ran rings around us. They raced up and down the dunes, dribbled the ball along the edge of the waves and passed to each other. The older ones were so thoughtful and made sure everybody got a turn. The parents tried to keep up and pretend we had to search for something very important in the sand and weren’t dropping to our knees in exhaustion yet again.
There’s a lot to be said for making it up as you go along. Yes, we were covered in sand. Yes, we were red faced and sweaty and yes we only had apples for our picnic before the inevitable ice cream but what a day of fun was had by all. I’ll be cleaning out the car for days to get rid of the sand and we all brought the beach home in our shoes, our hair, our eyes and ears. But we also brought home a bucketful of memories of that tiny ball and the day of fun on the beach. I’ll never over-think a trip out again. Sometimes all you need is a ball and a sense of humour and you’re good to go. Time to throw out the rule book and just go with the flow.