Has anyone else dreamed of moving to the seaside? Waking up everyday to sight of endless blue seas, skipping 10 minutes down the road to find yourself on a glorious stretch of sand and taking full advantage of the excellent fish and chip shops. Author and journalist Daisy Buchanan has done just that! Find out all about her big move to the seaside…
‘I am a prolific daydreamer, and most of my fantasy life takes place in LA. There’s the just about believable 2017 scenario, in which my husband and I spend six months working as screenwriters in a borrowed Malibu mansion. Then there’s the version where I go back in time to the seventies, and pretend to be Celia Birtwell in a David Hockney painting and live in a house filled with beautiful botanicals, float about in silk kaftans, and constantly give the sort of parties where we find Mick Jagger still sleeping in the bath at four o’clock the next day.
In both fantasies I swim and surf every day – even though the closest I’ve ever come to surfing is the time I wore a neoprene jumpsuit to a wedding and had to keep my balance on a dance floor sticky with spilled prosecco. My skin is golden and smooth from a surfeit of sun and sand. I’m a proper beach babe, gorgeous, rumpled, completely carefree, and too in touch with the elements to even notice how beautiful I’ve become.
Now, the universe has granted my wish! Sort of! I think that various higher powers got a bit distracted when I was putting my request in. I’ve moved to the beach, and I’m living in a beautiful apartment in Margate! Which sounds a bit like Malibu if you say it after biting your tongue really hard. My Instagram feed is at Peak Smug – I reckon I lose five followers with every sunset. I see a parade of puppies on the beach from my kitchen every morning, as I’m making coffee. When I curl up on the sofa after dinner, the view of the sea and skyline is so compelling that I can barely pay attention to what’s happening in Eastenders. Everyone wants to come and visit, and when they admire my new flat, it takes every atom of focus that I can muster to say ‘Thank you!’ when they say how lucky I am, instead of screaming ‘I KNOW!’ But Margate is not the California coastline –and living by the sea is teaching me that I could never be a California Girl.
For starters, let’s talk about sand. There have been wet February afternoons when I have stared out of office windows and thought ‘I would give anything to feel the scratch of sand between my toes’. That was BB (Before Beach), when I could exfoliate when I liked, on my own terms, instead of subjecting myself to a full body sand rub every day. It’s like living in a Des’ree song – for a long time I was convinced that a ghost was eating toast in my bed, because my sheets are always so gritty. Painting the Fourth Bridge seems like an afternoon’s DIY project, compared with my eternal battle to get the sand off my dark blue velvet sofa, armed with nothing but a Dustbuster and a growing vocabulary of swear words. All of my peanut butter has turned into crunchy peanut butter, thanks to the sand.
Then, there’s the sun. I know you’re not supposed to tan, and you’re meant to take care, but I still believed that I’d be sunbathing every day, and be bronzed and glowing, even in winter. AHAHAHAHA no. I have learned, through bitter experience, that if I am in direct sunlight for more than 15 minutes I get such bad sunstroke that I fall over. I can solve the problem by wearing a big straw hat. However, the North Sea winds hate hats, and always try to steal them. I have to walk around with my hand clamped to the top of my head to keep it safe, as if I’m about to prove I can rub my stomach at the same time. Luckily, there is a spray tan place two doors down from my new pad, so I can fake some sort of relationship with the sun. Basically, the sun is my boyfriend who went to a different school, definitely not the one your cousin goes to, a faraway school that none of you have ever heard of. My lie costs £10 a time, and it makes me smell of old biscuits. (Well, that’s a guess. I’ve never known what it’s like to have uneaten biscuits for long enough to let them go off.)
But the worst fantasy fail is the discovery of my total lack of sporting prowess. I haven’t been surfing. I haven’t even been in a pedalo. In Margate, sea swimming has become a cultish activity, and the town’s slender, sporty, beautiful people swear that there’s nothing more restorative than taking a dip in one of the tidal pools. Now, I tried to go in and nearly had a panic attack. The combination of cold water and seriously pointy pebbles left me gasping for breath and frozen with panic. I could barely remember how to walk out of the pool, let alone swim further in. But I love the sea! And you can’t live by the beach without getting your feet wet. So I’ve hit upon a compromise. I only get my feet wet. At around 7PM every day, when I’ve shut my laptop and I’m trying to think of what to have for dinner (and desperately trying to remember the existence of any food that isn’t pizza), I go for a paddle.
There is something deeply centering about being at the very end of the earth. The coolness of the water is refreshing and shocking. The texture of sand and seaweed puts me back into my body. After a full day of thinking, planning, writing and panicking, a paddle takes me out of my head and I feel with my skin, not with my brain. I feel like a tiny person on the brink of something vast, and this soothes me. It doesn’t matter that I can’t surf. It’s OK if I don’t want to go all the way into the water. My beach body doesn’t need to be itsy bitsy teeny weeny – I can just be a normal girl with a big bum, running after a hat.
Living by the sea is a dream come true. I can still think about my old fantasies, and embroider them, but it’s important to remind myself to stay in the moment too. I’m always going to be the sort of person who chooses fish and chips over fine dining, the kind who looks more like the Cheese String Man than Jennifer Aniston when their hair is near saltwater, someone who is more likely to be found queuing for a 99 than perfecting her downward dog during a beach yoga session. But that’s OK. When your dreams come true, they’re rarely exact copies of the scenarios you imagined. Sometimes, they’re even better.’
Read more in the #BookendsBeachParty and if you haven’t yet read How To Be A Grown-Up – why not treat yourself to a copy and head to the seaside for a day of reading on the beach!