There are two kinds of people in this world: those who use the doggie beach, and those who do not use the doggie beach.
A blonde bombshell turned up on our doorstep at 11am yesterday morning: one with four legs. Barley the golden retriever was accompanied by her humans: a family who though unrelated are like family, including Maddie’s fairy godmother.
Macaulay was delighted. The two dogs bustled into the back garden to christen the solar lights within earshot of the sea.
It was clear the two would need a brisk walk.
And though the sandy,flat,golden beach nearest the town is closed to dogs from April to October, yet there is a place – a canine ghetto-beach – where a dog can still sniff the breeze and get the sand between their paws.
The no-dogs beach is a vast expanse of golden sand abutting the harbour wall. At low tide you can walk round it, through the harbour gate, to inspect the boats marooned stolidly on the harbour floor. Families spread out and play cricket and football and have picnics and make mini-fortresses with hammer-in windbreaks and rush mats. There is a party atmosphere.
But we were off for a bit of doggie purdah, past the Martello Tower and into the rough of the cliffside nature reserve: down the compacted earth steps, many of them, each taking a plunge down a steep slope past mallow flowers and rampaging greenery. We ambled past a black pool of water in which the blonde had her colours done; and at last to the beach.
Pretty? In the nose of the beholder, certainly.
The doggie beach has its families. Some even camp there for a free holiday, with the odd little limpet-tent hugging the dunes close to the beach. The smell of beach-barbecues hangs companionably in the air along with that seaweed-brine cologne which accompanies a low tide.
Ah, low tide. The piquancy of live rock-pool fish and hermit crabs to a dog’s nose; and the charm of dead things.
The dogs made a beeline for the thick alienesque seaweed guarding the path to the sea. There were shells and old shoes to be investigated, and an English Channel to drink.
They did not mind or heed the great concrete platforms and other old signs that during the war, soldiers embarked here for the short crossing to Mulberry Harbour in Arromanches on the French Coast. They do not specify their beaches should be picturesque, only pungent.
Barley was besotted. Her love affair with the salt water knew no bounds. She soused herself in sea: she dunked delightedly. She submerged her nose and closed her eyes in something close to bliss.
Macaulay patrolled. He made his camp on a piece of seaweed and glared sternly at the known beached world. He inspected dogs visiting his recently acquired sandy territory. He sniffed and sampled and busied himself doing what neither Napoleon, nor Hitler ever achieved: building a small seaweedy empire on the South Coast of England.
And then it was time to leave and deposit the dogs in the house before repairing for a game of cricket to the posh beach.
I missed the concrete and the seaweed. And as I sat spectating the match, with its seaside-and-lighthouse backdrop, who should round the harbour wall but the smallest possible dog, accompanying his fisherman owners from their boat, through the harbour gate and across the beach to the town.
A dog in transit, true, but a dog on the posh beach.
There were no police sirens, and no dog warden appeared. The smallest dog in the world sampled and christened the delights of the sandy beach, unchecked.
But I bet the smells weren’t a patch on the doggie beach.