Driving rain, howling wind, grains of sand painfully whipping your face, toes dipped in the waves instantly blue with cold and the temperatures shivering in the low teens. The joys of a British seaside holiday.
As my boys huddled in wetsuits, shrouded in towels to keep out the cold. As we crunched on sandwiches gritty with sand, licked ice creams that were only marginally colder than the air temperature and watched as the black clouds above opened up their bellies to pour cold water on all notions of a sunny day beside the seaside, I vowed never to darken the shores of my native land again.
The thing is Britain may be beautiful, with is verdant fields, rocky cliffs, pretty bays and acres of sandy beaches, but it is also bloody cold and wet, particularly during the summer holidays. You might think that in August you would have an outside chance of good weather, but you would, of course, be wrong. We had to put the heating on during our week in a cottage in Wales, and I was more interested in ordering warming hot chocolates than a Flake 99.
This is not a summer holiday, this is an endurance test. My poor children can make the best of anything, and my eldest was happy to swim in the frozen waves, lips turning a scary bluish tinge after a few moments in the water, while the twins loved slinging pebbles into the icy stream that ran down the centre of the beach. But this is definitely not grown up fun.
For me a beach is about lying on a cushioned lounger, powder white sand hot between my toes, the sea azure clear and bath water warm. If I take a dip it is among flashes of bright tropical fishes, not at the risk of severe hypothermia. I want to drink cocktails, not a hot mug of tea, and I want a beach picnic to be charcoal grilled fresh snapper, not greasy fish and chips.
I think that our perception of holidays squews with age. The reason we found ourselves shivering in Wales at all is thanks to my dewy-eyed memories of childhood holidays spent on the very same beaches, walking along clifftops decked in wild flowers, endlessly hunting for marine treasures in the myriad rockpools, diving under the waves as we dared ourselves to swim ever closer to a creepy shipwreck. All these memories are bright with sunshine, but surely this can't actually have been the case? It was Wales after all.
I just hope that when they are older their memories of our Welsh holiday will blot out all the rain clouds and simply recall the one perfect sunny day that lit up our week of freezing rain.