Oh, I don’t like to be beside the seaside… and luckily the boy doesn’t seem to either

Séamas O’Reilly
Photograph: Natalia Deriabina/Getty Images

We brought the boy to Wexford last week, for his first time at the seafront. I gamely grinned and made fun, hoping to instil in him a passion for the beach, but also secretly harbouring a hope that he’d see through it all, like I do.

‘I don’t like sand,’ Anakin Skywalker once said. ‘It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere.’ There are few things on which Darth Vader and I agree – I found his destruction of the planet Alderaan, for example, highly unreasonable – but on this we concur. It’s cheap to decry something popular and await the outrage to pour in, but also beaches are rubbish and everyone who likes them is thick.

For one thing, it’s weird that liking long walks on the beach has become a cliché pastime, as if everyone likes the practice. I’m astonished that anyone does. Try it in shoes and you slip constantly, in footwear that quickly fills with abrasive dust if the sand is dry, and slimy beige clay if it’s wet. Do you like this? Do you like wet feet and ruined shoes? And if we’re walking barefoot, then you feel every last squish of the stuff filling the cavities between your toes, or else burning the soles of your feet if you’re silly enough to do so on a hot day.

He stepped on the shifting mulch and grimaced with disdain as he pumped great fistfuls of sand into his waiting mouth

People say they love the smell of the sea, which is odd because, spoiler alert, it smells like a giant roiling soup of salt, vegetation and fish arses. I don’t want to stray into hyperbole here, sea air is nice enough from a mildly distant veranda, or a pleasant little beachfront café, where the full-strength stench of fish foam has been diluted by nice normal smells like traffic and fags. But right there on the shifting mess of fossilised silt that you call a pleasant surface? No thanks.

My feelings on the recent heatwave are well-known – I was against it – so I will concede that being by the seaside in such weather does moderate its effects. Tragically, Irish people go to the beach in all weather and none, meaning we took our boy in 12C heat and spitting wind, under a sky the colour of a switched-off telly. After so horribly letting me down with his passion for the sun, some shameful part of me was glad when he took to the beach in his spangly little wetsuit with a look to his mother that seemed to say, ‘Really?’

‘That’s my boy,’ I thought as he gingerly stepped on the shifting mulch and then grimaced with disdain as he pumped great fistfuls of sand into his waiting mouth. We washed it out with ice-cream from a nicely appointed veranda nearby, and I imagined a lifetime spent happily in each other’s company, enjoying the true benefits of the seaside while less discerning beach hoppers crowd the teeming sands.

Not that this was the last I saw of the sand that day. On changing his nappy that night, I found quite a lot of it had come through the other end. It really does get everywhere after all.

Follow Séamas on Twitter @shockproofbeats