Oh, it's been a glorious summer!
We've had day after day of warm sunshine and day after day the children have swum out to the surfboard moored fifty meters out in the bay. They sit on that surfboard for hours at a time; talking, laughing, pushing each other off, swimming round to climb back on again...
Sometimes there are only two of them, discussing the topic of the hour with eager intensity. Sometimes there are as many as eight. I think the record is thirteen, but I can't imagine how they all squashed on.
"What do they talk about for all that time?" the parents wonder, staring out at the figures that sway with the movement of the waves. The younger adults, who can remember, just laugh.
Sometimes we swim out there too. Swimming in the sea is different from swimming in a pool. There is so much more of it. It tastes different and feels different. There is seaweed and the occasional jelly fish. The temperature is different. If high tide is late afternoon, then the water rushes over the mudflats which have been warmed all day by the sun picking up heat on the way. There are warm patches in the sea and then cold ones. Sometimes your arms will be in warm water while your legs below feel freezing. You bring your legs up and float in that warm patch. It's blissful. You close your eyes and just drift away for a few moments; only to open them again and find that you have literally drifted away – the current had taken you further than you thought.
The currents are strong around here. By the time the tide is high enough to swim, the surfboard is tugged toward the harbour. You can't swim directly towards it, because you will be dragged away and washed up on the spit of sand that separates us from the port. We always swim when the tide is rising just for that reason. When the tide is going out then, if you don't make Second Beach, five hundred meters down, it's next stop Belgium! All children wear Buoyancy Aids.
And someone is always watching. None of us underestimate the sea, or trust her for an instant. People can drown. People do drown – two of them locally just last weekend. Here on the sea wall there is always an adult with a rowing boat or kayak, ready to effect a rescue or offer assistance if necessary.
Our troubled family life this summer has been just like the sea. We have been swimming in a strong current, hoping to land on safe ground. We have clung onto temporary refuges and we have talked and talked and talked. It's been pretty cold, but we have enjoyed the warm patches. And we have needed constant vigilance to keep holding onto what we know is good and right and true.
The Summer is drawing to a close, but we're still swimming.
It's fortunate that, mostly, we quite like swimming.
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