Monday, November 12, 2007

Soccer on a Hot Summer Beach

It's the coldest day of the autumn, so far, so I'm off out of it, thank you, back into a hot summer's day in the early Seventies.

The hotel where we stayed - still stay - where Stephen and I had our honeymoon - where Emily and Gareth are soon to be married - is Park Hotel, on the top of North Cliff in Tenby.

There's a steep path down the cliff and in those days the hotel used to provide coffee in the mornings and tea in the afternoons on the beach, by the simple means of sending down a couple of their strongest waiters carrying a massive tray of huge pots and jugs and cups. So you could get really frozen in the sea, secure in the knowledge that soon a hot cup of tea would arrive to unfreeze you.

It was primarily a family hotel in those days and so all across the beach would be sprawled parents with their children, reclining in deckchairs or building sandcastles in a proper-seaside-holiday kind of a way.

There were always lots of waiters and other young men working for the hotel and when it was their break they would wander down to the beach, one or two at a time, so as not to look too intimidating.

"Fancy a game of soccer?" one would remark casually to one of the recumbent Dads.

"Oh, all right then," the Dad would reply sleepily and clamber to his feet, recruiting a few more Dads to play as he did so.

And thus it would begin. The Park Hotel Rangers versus the Dads.

What the Dads never realised until they were no longer in a position to back out was this:

The Park Hotel team consisted of about twenty young, fit, sun-bronzed men who had dedicated every spare minute of their summer to perfecting their Beach Soccer skills. Inspired by England's success in the 1966 World Cup, they had practised so much that they had skills that George Best would have envied. Also, and very pertinently, they knew which way the sun went round and what time the tide would come in and where the wind was coming from.

So there'd be the twenty young Adonises versus the Dads. The Dads' team was comprised of eight or so white, flabby men in their thirties and forties, all wearing last year's swimming trunks which no longer quite fitted. In colour the Dads were white with red bits, or sometimes red with white bits. They had all played football once and were sure they could recapture the glories of their youth, even though for some reason they always seemed now to be playing with the sun in their eyes and the wind in their faces and seawater up to their ankles.

The Communist, of course, was one of the Dads. So was my mother, who snuck in round the edges pretending to be a bloke and then stayed in the game when they were too polite to mention it. She was by far the best of the Dads and occasionally was co-opted onto the Park Hotel team.

It was a game of two halves: before and after the afternoon tea. One half tended to be longer than the other because everything stopped when the tea arrived. And often the game stopped when the tide came in and there was no beach left and the waves lapped against the bottom of the cliff.

But if the tide was going out, then the game ended when the Park Hotel Rangers had a score which made them happy: usually about thirty-seven nil. Or, if the Dads were lucky, when the Rangers had to go and change into black trousers and white shirts to serve dinner.

Those were the days.


Anonymous Siegfried said...

I bet you found last night even colder? Couldn't believe the frost this morning. I have the day off work, and the building I live in is being renovated and the guy came to sand-down and glaze the front door this morning (at 8.30am). I was told to leave it 'wide open' for a minimum of 2-3 hours. Oh how I froze (well, I shut myself in the spare room where the PC is and turned the halogen heater on, but still).

6:11 pm  

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