We have a loose plan to go back to Southwold beach on New Years Eve. This will be our third expedition.
Should we do it again? Is it worth all the effort? We could just ‘not’ go this year. And stay in.
It’s usually a bit quiet on New Year’s Eve day. We energy-conserve. We all know we want to go to Southwold. We all know we really will most probably go. But, then all goes quiet for a few hours. Communication dries up.
Then, comes the trickle of WhatsApp messages about 7.30pm- ‘I’ve got matches’, ‘I’ve got wood and paper’, and ‘Meet at the old lifeboat shed again’. The BBC weather App is checked and checked again. Rain is forecast at eleven and there’s winds of 20mph.
‘Looking good folks – Thunderbirds are go!’
We pack the blankets, chairs, as many woollens that we can lay our hands on and pack the hot drinks. This year I put a measure of Baileys in one of the kids bottles. In go the toffee chocs, crisps, cheese straws and biscuits. Snack cupboard leftovers. Hiking boots. Matches.
All wrapped up and ready for adventure. As I open the car door I glance up at the black-grey night. The moon is good and the clouds aren’t covering the sky too much. We might be able to see where we are going.
Southwold is empty of people and has a post- Christmas starkness. We drive up towards the harbour past all the shippy houses, and then it starts to rain.
With three cars parked side by side, we wind down the windows and have a quick chat. We then reverse the cars and agree to leave.
Of course we don’t! We just turn the cars to face away from the sea and rain. The white lighthouse sparks through the drizzle every now and again. ‘ Daddy, can we have the Toffee Chocs please?’
I have a few how dare it rain thoughts – and wait.
The wind gets up a bit and then the rain stops. The fourth car turns up, and yes – we are on!
There’s always a bit of a kerfuffle. We all trail down to the sea in the near-dark, carrying the bare-essential camping stuff. One friend awkwardly pulls her suitcase along the beach. Is she going on holiday?
Out at sea there is a static golden ship, like an overly illuminated lightship, and as solid as a cluedo weapon or monopoly piece. Was my friend embarking on a ghostly journey at midnight? Why didn’t anybody tell me? Comical and fabulous. I suppose timber is blooming heavy in the sand, and even heavier against the wind and time of night.
I wonder if the crew have binoculars? I wonder what are they doing stuck out there on New Years Eve? I bet they are warm.
The fire is expertly lit and the Christmas tree branches sizzle. It is pretty cold.
We chat about Christmas, mention a few crazy things, like starting blogs, and I try and fend off the children who are in need of blankets and everything it seems. I just want a bit of peace. This part of the evening goes fast. Out come the crisps, falafels, cheeselets and we hand them round and around.
The stars are great. Not as good as other years, but I’d rather have stars than no stars. The moon is pre-old. The cruise ship quite magnificent. I think the wind stops.
I love to hear the waves. Over and over. I tune in and stay tuned. We’ll be going home soon. This is brilliant.
Five, four, three, two, one. Happy New Year! Happy New Year! We all hug and drink the cava. The kids come to life. They’ve been all wrapped up and quiet taking group cuddle-selfies.
Out at the pier end, the fireworks crack, snap and echo. They are different. More playful than conventional displays. They move more. Maybe it’s because they are just metres above the sea. Maybe the sea makes them better.
We are so far away. I have a full view of beach, sea and sky.
I love it.
We wait a long while for them to stop. They have to be appreciated, fully.
A few of us wander down to the shore. I write 2018 in the sand with my pointed hiking boot, and I chat to the teens. They are happy. And glad we came.
The rest is just making sure the fire is out and safe. We do have a real-life fire-fighter among us so we know we are in safe hands.
We double-check we’ve got all the kids. Then we all convoy home.