Together, they are engrossed, building a sandcastle. First, they dig a rough moat, piling the excavated sand in a heap in the middle. When they are satisfied the scale is about right, they dig the moat deeper, until the castle is almost up to her waist. Then comes the shaping of the rough sand into a smooth-sided bailey, Norman style, steep enough to repel invaders. The moat is filled in at the front to form a drawbridge, the massive doorway picked out in fragments of shell and stone. Finally, the turrets go on. Sand pies from the smallest bucket. They fill it together then level it off, and once he has put it in place, he lets her squeeze the plastic away to leave a perfectly rounded tower.
A train emerges from the tunnel behind the beach. They stand and watch it, hand in hand. He crouches down and explains to her the wonders of Brunelâ€™s engineering, but to her it is just a train. He knows that one day she will understand.
Barry Island, Glamorgan
Theyâ€™ve been going out for almost a month; things happened more slowly, back then. Instead of going to the funfair, they decide to take his motherâ€™s dog for a walk along the beach. It is a fat, white Jack Russell that they call the rat. Itâ€™s real name is Penny, and she wonders why she remembers that across all the intervening years.
Sweet fourteen and never been kissed. But not for much longer. They stop part way along the sweep of sand and let the dog off the lead. He wraps his arms around her and their lips meet. She shivers in glorious anticipation as Donna Summerâ€™s â€˜I Feel Loveâ€™ pounds from the dodgem cars behind them.
Not just lips, but tongues. She hadnâ€™t expected this; too naive, too sheltered, and she doesnâ€™t like it at all. It isnâ€™t so much the sensation, or even the wet dribblyness, it is more the imagery of his firm pinkness invading her, and she wants to retch. But she doesnâ€™t; she perseveres, she is meant to like this.
The kissing seems to go on forever. Her jaws feel stretched by it and his stubble scratches the soft skin around her mouth. She doesnâ€™t know how to bring it to an end and he doesnâ€™t seem to want to. The dog snuffles miserably around their feet.
Hengistbury Head, Dorset
Ok… Day 7, but really for the weekend. And the moment where you either buy in or decide I’m certifiable (there is no right answer!) Remember that beach from yesterday? I want you to describe it to me in detail – you can chose your medium; written words, images, tell me when we next meet – up to you.
As usual, Owen, there was no reply. And when it did come, at first I didnâ€™t recognise it.
â€œI went to the coast on Saturdayâ€ you told me. â€œMy brother and I took our bikes, persuaded my mum to come along too. We started at Hengistbury Head and cycled almost to Bournemouth, but then it got too busy so we turned back, so I went for a swim.â€
â€œIn the sea?â€ (It hadnâ€™t been that warm a day)
â€œI had a rash vest on. But when I was just floating there, about 200 yards out, I did wonder whether it was sensible, because the rash vest was grey. I would have been practically invisible to someone on a jet ski, and there was no-one else in the water.â€
â€œNot everyoneâ€™s as hardy as youâ€ I grumble, and he grins.
So, Action Man, while Iâ€™m texting about thinking about beaches, youâ€™re busy going to one. You buy in, but on your very own terms, and the thought of that makes me smile.
Later, you hug me and tell me how great itâ€™s been to have those daily texts, how theyâ€™ve kept you going when things have been at their darkest. You do things your way, I do them mine. And somewhere in the middle, we meet as equals.