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Author's Chapter Notes:

They've visited a real place from many a family holiday of my childhood.  Hopefully, there's enough clues for a few of you to be able to guess the location....

Jo and Jack Maynard were walking along the promenade around the headland. They had managed to find a parking space right underneath the cliff, where the castle overlooked the town. As they strolled along, they passed the harbour with its fishing boats and pleasure steamers, overlooked by the lighthouse.

“Don’t get too far ahead,” Jo called to Stephen as he ran off in front to see if he could see the lifeboat.

“He won't go too far, Jo. We can't lose him here. Keep your eyes peeled for a nice place where we can sit on the beach.”

“There’s a slope little further on. Shall we go down there?”

“Sounds good to me,” Jack agreed before lifting his voice to call Stephen.

The small boy came running in response to his father's call. He came up to his parents, a smile on his face, just as Jo and Jack reached the top of the slope.

“We're going onto the beach here, and then you'll be able to build some sandcastles.” Stephen beamed at his father at this plan.

“Will you help me make a huge castle?”

“Of course I will, son. We'll make the largest sandcastle on the beach.” Jo laughed at her husband's enthusiasm.

“Are you sure we came to the seaside for Stephen and not for you?”

“It's been a long time since I came to the beach and I can’t leave him to build them on his own.”

“I suppose not. Just don't turn it into a competition. I know you'll want to have the best sandcastle around. He's only two, remember. He'll be more interested in just making little castles and jumping on them, rather than the intricate thing you're imagining.”

“I know. I promise not to be upset if he jumps on it.” Jack grinned up at Jo as he reached the bottom of the slope and bent down to help Stephen remove his shoes and socks before removing his own and rolling his trousers up a little at the bottom. He led Stephen along the sand, away from the slope before coming to a halt.

“What do you think to this spot?”

“Can we build a sandcastle, now?”

“Yes. Let me just put the bag down and lay the rug out for Mamma to sit on.” As soon as Jack put the bag on the sand, Stephen was trying to get in it for his bucket and spade. “Just wait a minute, young man.” Stephen desisted but, he was unable to stand still. Jack watched him, an amused expression on his face. He soon relented and pulled out the beach toys for him before throwing the rug onto the sand just as Jo came up to them.

Jo had removed her sandals which she dropped on one corner of the rug before plumping down on it herself.

“It's hot today. I never expected England to produce this kind of weather. It must be as hot here as it was when we lived in Austria.”

“Quite possibly. Find the flask out and we can have a drink before I start on this sandcastle.” Jo obligingly dug around in the bag until she found the flask of lemonade and some cups. Pouring them, she called Stephen to drink his. He did as he was told, his spade still in one hand.

“You'll have to put the spade down first. You need both hands to hold these cups,” Jo told him. He dropped it next to where he was standing and held out both hands for his drink. Jo handed it to him and he thirstily drank the bitter lemonade, before handing the empty cup back to his mother and picking his spade back up. Jo just smiled and let him go back to his digging.

Jack had dropped onto the rug next to Jo and was lying with his hat over his face. The next minute, Jo heard a gentle snoring and just grinned to herself. She left him alone and watched Stephen's attempts at sandcastles. After a few minutes, she rose and came over to where he was sitting.

“Do you want some help?”

“They won't stay up, Mamma”

“I'll show you how to do it, shall I? Then you can have lots built by the time Papa wakes up.” Stephen obligingly handed his bucket and spade to Jo and sat watching expectantly.

“Let's start by digging down a little to the wetter sand. This fine stuff won't make any sort of castle.” Jo dug a hole before she started to fill the bucket. When it was full, she flattened out the top.

“Now, we have to tip it up, quickly so we don't lose any sand. Then, we have to give the bucket some magic taps.” She had tipped the bucket over as she spoke before handing the spade to Stephen. “Will you tap the top three times?”

“One, two, three.” Stephen counted solemnly as he hit the top of the bucket with his spade. Jo carefully pulled the bucket up to reveal a perfect sandcastle.

“There! Do you want to have a try?” Jo laughed as he nodded vigorously and passed him the bucket. “Let's dig round in a circle and then you'll make a moat at the same time.” She watched as he filled the bucket and managed to create another castle next to the one Jo had built.

Eventually, Stephen had half a dozen little castles inside his moat and Jo stood up. Glancing over at Jack, she saw that he was still sleeping underneath his hat.

“Shall we go and see if we can find some shells to decorate those castles?”

“Yes, please.” He jumped up and eagerly took the hand Jo held out to him.

“We won't go far, but since Papa is still sleeping, we'll leave him to it. Bring your bucket with you.” They walked along the beach towards the tide line where Jo had spotted a layer of shells and pebbles. As they reached it, she told Stephen to look for anything nice to decorate his castles with. She picked up a handful of shells and dropped them gently into Stephen's bucket. When they had a goodly number, they walked back to where they had been sitting.

Jack had finally woken and discovered he was alone. Sitting up, he had scanned the beach to see them both looking for things in the tide line and guessed that Jo had taken Stephen down to search for shells. He waved to them as they made their way back up the beach and Stephen let go of Jo to run up and show Papa his finds.

“What are you going to do with them, now?”

“Mamma said they were to stick on my castles. Look, Papa, I made lots of them.”

“They're lovely. You go and put your decorations on, and then I'll come and help you build an enormous sandcastle.”

“Bigger than those ones?”

“Much bigger.” Jack smiled up at Jo as she reached them.

“Awake at last?” she teased as she dropped down next to him.

“I wasn't intending to fall asleep.”

“You've been working solidly for the past few months with hardly a day off. I'm not surprised you dozed off in this heat.”

“I suppose so. I ought to go and help Stephen, now. I bet my sandcastle is better than yours.”

“Since it’s not a competition, I have no doubt that it will be.” Jo refused to rise to his teasing and he just grinned, before moving over to make a start building a large heap of sand with Stephen's spade.

The small boy watched, fascinated as the mound grew larger, the small castles forgotten. When Jack invited him to start patting the sand with his hands, he enthusiastically agreed and came to help. Jack made a flat spot on the top and built a few small castles there, before beginning to sculpt a path up the sides and making spaces for small castles every so often.

Jo watched them both for a while before she dug the camera out if her bag. She took a couple of action shots of Jack and Stephen. When it looked as if the castle was finally complete she called out to them.

“Have you finished it?”

“Nearly,” Jack replied. “We just need to add a few decorative shells, don't we, Stephen?”

“Yes. Got to make it look pretty, like Mamma.” Jack burst out laughing at this sideways compliment and Jo joined in.

“Hurry up, then. I want to take your picture when it's finished.” Stephen picked the shells up from the ground where Jack had tipped them when he wanted to use the bucket and proceeded to put them randomly on the sides of the castle. Jack helped him by decorating the castles where Stephen couldn’t reach. When they had finally finished, Jo took a photograph of them standing proudly at each side of it. Jack came to sit down alongside her once more, and Stephen continued to build sandcastles nearby.

“Shall we start on the picnic?” Jack broke the companionable silence, before adding, plaintively, “I’m hungry.”

“Yes, me too. Must be the sea air.”

“Get the sandwiches out, then, whilst I call Stephen and clean his hands. Do you have that cloth handy?” Jo produced the wet facecloth and a small towel and Jack called Stephen to come and have some lunch.

“I want to go in the sea.”

“When we’ve had some lunch, I’ll take you down to have a paddle,” Jack promised and with that, Stephen had to be satisfied. He knew that his father wasn’t easily swayed once he’d pronounced something. He sat down on the rug and took the sandwich Jo handed to him. He was impatient for his father to hurry up, but Jack refused to move until he had eaten his fill.

Eventually, Jack rose and smiled down at his son.

“Come on, then. Let’s go and do some paddling. Make sure you don't wander from me, though. This beach has only been partially cleared so far. Coming, Jo?”

“Of course.” Jack came and hauled her to her feet and she picked up her handbag. “Everything else should be fine here.”

The three of them strolled down the beach towards the sea, Jo complaining as they crossed the layer of pebbles and shells. They soon reached the sea at the designated safe area for paddling and Stephen ran on in front, coming to a stop as his feet encountered the cold sea.

“Brrr! It's cold!” Stephen ran back to his parents. Jo laughed and came into the shallows where the waves were gently lapping the beach.

“It isn't warm, I agree. It improves the longer you stay in, though.” Stephen came up to her and slipped his hand into hers. Together they splashed about in the shallows and Jo showed him how to jump over the tiny waves as they came in. Jack stood nearby watching them both, proud to be a part of such a happy family. Suddenly, Stephen kicked some water at him and his trousers were soaked from the knee down.

“You little terror! It's a good job it's such a lovely hot day.” He chased after the small boy, scooping him up in his arms and threatening to drop him in the sea in retaliation. Stephen's screams of protest were loud enough for Jack to put him back down in a hurry. He grinned down and suggested that they go back to the sandcastle and pack up.

“We can have a walk along the front and see what else there is to do.”

“You can also have an ice cream,” Jo coaxed. This cheered the little boy and they walked back to where they had left the bag. Jack packed it quickly whilst Jo set off towards some steps with Stephen. She made him sit down whilst she rubbed the sand from his feet and replaced his shoes and socks for him. Then she brushed the sand from her own feet and put on her sandals.

Once they were all back on the promenade, Jack returned to the car to put the bag inside whilst Jo and Stephen had a ride in the Victorian lift which ran up the cliffside beside the bridge over the valley. They walked along the front of the Grand Hotel, admiring its impressive fašade and came down in the lift at the other side. By the time they had exited the lift at the bottom, Jack had re-appeared and the three of them wandered along looking at the shops and amusements.

Jack allowed Stephen a few goes on the slot machines and he was ecstatic when he won a few coins, putting them back in again immediately.

Stephen was tiring by this time, so Jack hoisted him up onto his shoulders where he had a much better view and could rest his weary legs. They strolled along until they found a fish and chip shop which they enjoyed and then they found the long awaited ice cream parlour and bought a cone for Stephen. He made a terrific mess of his top as it dripped down his chin, but Jo just laughed and cleaned him up as best she could.

“I'm tired, Mamma.” Jo looked down at Stephen as he gave an enormous yawn.

“Shall we set off back to the car, Jo?”

“Yes, I think so. Do you think you can manage to walk a little further, darling?” Stephen shook his head and a stray tear slid down his cheek.

“How about another ride on Papa’s shoulders, then?” Jack bent down and swung him up. “You're getting to be a heavy weight, now, young man.”

Together the three of them made their way back past the harbour and the Toll Booth to where they had left the car and soon, Stephen was tucked in on the back seat with a rug around him. Jo sank thankfully on to the passenger seat as Jack started the engine. Before he had managed to leave the environs of the seaside, both Jo and Stephen were fast asleep and Jack enjoyed the silence as he drove them home.


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