It's an extended bank holiday weekend followed by half term week so it's an advantage to be off work so I can enjoy the sun and entertain Vince this week.
Starting as we mean to go on, Vince was invited to a classmates birthday party. Like a lot of places on Teesside, I haven't been to Thornaby Pavilion in years and it's certainly smartened up since I used to play 5-a-side there. As has Thornaby itself.
There is a large silver golf ball on the roof, a kind of miniature Sunsphere which for the first time this year, was working. The sun does funny things to Northern people. The first sniff of a rising temperature then off come the tops, out come the tatts and (muffin) tops and the trousers shrink faster than in a Jam video from the early 80s. My unofficial 'worst bodyart in the north east' competition has now gone from the qualifying rounds at Splash baths to the first round proper. Leader so far is an inept drawing of The Hulk on one guys calf who looks more like an annoyed Jolly Green Giant opposite an equally bad Iron Man but we've got plenty of time left. Like a mate of mine commented 'I've never seen a butterfly with a middle aged woman wing design'.
The party was great fun. It's was a girls disco and Vince was one of the only boys but this didn't perturb him or me. He's a good looking young chap so had better get used to being chased around by girls - literally. The women spent most of their time dancing with each other and chatting while the dads were glued to the walls checking their phones and mumbling to each other. Exactly as I remembered school discos.
Today was more of the same weatherwise so I headed off to the coast with Lil man to meet one of his idols - Kwaazi Kitten from the Octonauts at Scarborough Sealife center. We went via Whitby so we could have a clifftop picnic in the Abbey grounds. He's a little young to learn about Dracula and the fate of the Demeter in the rocks below but the sun and views of the town compensated enough. Plus it adds another cultural touchstone to his lexicon. He already looks for and is excited by the sight of the transporter bridge every time we go to Middlesbrough and recognises the pictures we have of it around the house. We've got several more of Saltburn and Whitby too so these will be further mental connections waiting to be made. I did miss the sea in Atlanta, must have been why I enjoyed our trips to Charleston and the Carolina coast so much.
We drove along Scarborough south bay seafront, Diet Blackpool if you will, and headed to the center. We had some time before our entry so we rode a narrow gauge railway to nearby Peasholme Park for a lolly and an ice cream and back. Vince has been brought up on steam trains thanks to Thomas and the brick sculpture of the Mallard just outside of Darlington which he insists we stop at every time we can. The journey is only 10 minutes but is one of the most picturesque you could enjoy. By the sea, beach and castle perched on the clifftop on one side to the park, bridge, tunnel and park lake on the other where miniature battleships used to reenact naval engagements hourly for the tourists. It reminded me of enjoyed another warm week in Scarborough back in the early 90s.
I was going out with a girl who was way more into me than I was her but it wasn't her fault. I was in love with her best friend who she was sharing a flat with at the time but was going out with a guy from Leeds, one of my least favourite cities. To add to my antipathy, I once spent 30 minutes inadvertently impersonating him on the phone with her mother when I finally plucked up enough courage to call. Her mother answered and assuming it was him, gave me the state of the nation address. Our Mike Leigh week passed off without any such incidents but definitely laid the myth that lots of women are mind readers.
The center isn't as large or expansive as the Georgia aquarium but more downhome and charming for it. A black cat meandered lazily outside the penguin enclosure which closely resembled a cavernous bunker on a decent golf course. After leaving the penguins of the Sahara, we watched the lazy sunbathing seals living the life and then inside for the sharks, rays and eerie Alaskan Spider Crabs.
We watched a huge turtle sloping across the tank until Kwaazi the cat pirate appeared and enchanted the young audience. It's a measure of the Octonauts success that we were able to identify several fish and creatures from sight. We had a quick round of crazy golf in the sun afterwards, only spoiled by a swarm of pasty skinned meerkats swearing loudly at each other while slurping Stella on the slipway while the tide came in. Sadly not swiftly enough.
We took a leisurely drive back over the moors counting horses, sheep and cows and knowing that an already sleepy vince would have a solid nights sleep, I drifted back to the unrequited week.
I did eventually date the girl I had set my hat to. My genius idea of a movie followed by a night on the tiles was prematurely scuppered by the choice of Leaving Las Vegas where - Spoiler Alert - Nic Cage plays an alcoholic script writer who moves to Vegas to drink himself to death. Not being able to so much as look a coke in the eye afterwards, the initial momentum stalled and she bombed me out soon after for a guy who removed barnacles from recreational boats on the Tees. I'd been winkled.
The great thing about the seaside is the constant renewal occurring in front of your eyes. The sand, waves and even rocks will be there again offering warm memories yet they are unique offering constant renewals and the promise and idea that you can begin again, anew, brighter and better than before. The best sand castles will be washed away but can always be rebuilt in the sunshine.