Finally, after what seemed like ages, they pulled away from the driveway.
“And we’re off,” said Mr Pennington.
“Are you excited for the beach Niki?” asked Celia.
“Yes,” she nodded bouncing excitedly on Anthony’s lap as Anthony kept a firm hold on her.
“What are we going to do at the beach?” asked Mark.
“Are we going to go swimming in the sea?”
“She’s too little,” laughed Anthony.
“She might be able to go wading and chase the waves with help from some adults though,” said Mr Pennington.
“There are lots of pretty seashells to collect,” said Anthony.
“But none of them are as pretty as your Mummy,” said Simon smiling over at Celia.
“You have to say that” laughed Celia.
“Let’s face it, Simon, I’ve given you two beautiful children but I’ve lost my youthful beauty.”
“You’re only twenty-one!” groaned Mark.
“You’ll always beautiful to me Cels,” said Simon lovingly keeping his eyes on the road.
“Stop the car!” said Mark dramatically, “I'm going to be sick!”
“No you’re not,” said Mr Pennington shaking his head, “but we are going to stop the car soon.”
“Wow!” said Anthony looking out the window and pointing.
“Can you see the sea Niki?”
“No,” said Niki crying that she had missed it. They had come all this way and she had missed it.
“It’s alright,” chuckled Anthony drying her eyes, “you’ll see it properly in a minute.”
Simon parked the car next to Nick’s. Nick and Isabelle were currently making out in Nick’s parked car with the top down.
“Hem hem!” said Mr Pennington, “this is a family-friendly day out.”
“Sorry Dad,” chuckled Nick getting out of the car.
Simon was busy trying to get the prams out of the boot and unfolding them.
“No!” yelled Niki as Simon tried to put her in the pram.
“You can’t walk darling,” said Simon exasperated, “look cars. It's dangerous.”
“I’ll carry her,” said Anthony picking her up and putting her on his hip.
Simon seemed like he was about to protest when Celia stopped him.
“Just leave her,” said Celia gently placing Michael carefully in his pram.
“She’s excited and wants to have a fun day, bring her pram with you for later when she’s tired all right darling?”
“Alright darling,” beamed Simon softly.
Celia always seemed to know when Simon’s temper was on edge and knew exactly how to talk him down.
As Niki didn’t want to go in her pram, they actually filled Niki’s pram with some of the deckchairs as they were easier to carry that way. Between them all, they managed to lug all the deckchairs, and buckets and spades down to the beach.
Nick and Simon managed to get the prams down the steps carefully one pram at a time. Celia looked terrified as Nick and Simon carried Michael’s pram down the stone steps to the beach, she wasn’t just worried that they might drop the pram, if they jolted it too much, they would wake Michael who was asleep.
But Michael stayed fast asleep. He was the perfect baby, and always had been, all he ever did was eat, sleep and then wake up again when he was hungry.
As they lived so close to the beach, it was still not quite nine o’clock in the morning so the beach was quite empty and they were able to set up their chairs in the best places.
“Look Niki,” said Anthony putting Niki down on the sand, “it’s the sea!”
Niki started to run towards the sea as fast as her little toddler legs could carry her, followed by Mark and Anthony.
“Be careful!” called Celia as she put on sun cream, “don’t let her go too deep!”
Niki seemed to stop warily on the edge of the sand and was looking curiously at the water.
“It’s ok Niki,” said Anthony taking her hand, “it’s not going to hurt you.”
“Do you want to play a game Niki?” asked Mark crouching down.
“Nick and Simon used to play it with us when we were little, but Michaels too little.”
“Big girl!” said Niki proudly.
“Precisely,” nodded Mark.
“Now then what you do, is Uncle Tony takes one hand, and Uncle Marky takes your other, and we rush at the waves when they crash on the sand, and we all get wet.”
“Do you want to play Niki?” asked Anthony.
“Yes!” she nodded beaming with all the little teeth.
Anthony looked behind him and noticed that his Dad had borrowed his camera to get pictures of the three of them.
They took off their shoes and socks and left them with the others before rushing down to the waves holding firmly onto one of Niki’s hands each.
“You ready?” asked Mark as the wave got closer and they got ready to run.
“One two three!” he yelled as they ran.
But as Mark got to three, the wave hit them and hit Mark right in the face. Mark’s mouth was wide open from yelling, so he got a mouthful of seawater.
“Please tell me you got that on camera!” asked Anthony as he and Niki laughed hysterically, and Mark spat out the seawater and rushed back to the family to get some freshwater.
“I videoed it!” chuckled Mr Pennington.
“Perfect,” beamed Anthony.
“Want to go again Niki?” asked Mark coming back who had taken off his shirt and was now just wearing his swimming trunks.
“Yes!” she exclaimed.
They ran back and forth for a while before Niki got bored with running, and Mark went off to go and do some proper swimming.
The beach was getting more crowded now, other families had started to arrive. Nick and Isabelle had disappeared somewhere probably to go do some kissing. Simon was reading a book but was half asleep, and Celia was asleep completely exhausted from being a full-time mother.
Mr Pennington though was thoroughly enjoying looking after his grandson, introducing baby Michael who was now awake to a flock of seagulls.
“Now then Michael, when we get our fish and chips later, don’t give any to the naughty seagulls, or they’ll gobble the lot.”
“Naughty seagulls,” agreed Anthony as he and Niki came over.
“You had enough wave chasing?” asked Mr Pennington.
“I’m not surprised you were at it for nearly two hours.”
“What’s next on the agenda Princess Nicole?”
“Do we want to look for seashells,” suggested Anthony, “we’ll need them for our sandcastle later.”
“Ok,” beamed Niki as she took a tiny bucket with one hand and clung onto Anthony’s hand with her other.
Anthony chuckled and picked up his own bucket as they went off to explore.
“Now don’t forget,” said Anthony, “watch out for crabs, they like to hide in rock pools, they’ll bite your little toes off, naughty crabs.”
Niki giggled as they kept exploring looking for seashells. After about half an hour their buckets were nearly full, and they were going to head back.
“Uncle Tony!” called Niki.
“What is it!” asked Anthony running over to where Niki was.
She was standing by the edge of a large hole, but she hadn’t fallen in, she was looking into the hole with interest though.
Anthony looked into the large hole curiously and couldn’t help himself from bursting out laughing.
He had found Nick and Isabelle’s hidey-hole, literally. Nick and Isabelle had dug a very large hole on the opposite side of the beach from the family and were lying in it in their swimming costumes. Well Nick was lying in the hole, and Isabelle was lying on top of Nick and they had clearly just been making out.
“Go away Tony!” said Nick who was blushing tomato red.
“If you come back with that ruddy camera!” he called as Anthony and Niki ran away laughing hysterically.
It was tempting to go back with the camera to get a photograph, instead, Anthony told a very interested Simon, who suddenly found he didn’t care for his book anymore and went for a walk along the beach with Anthony’s camera.
“Let's have a look at these seashells then,” said Mr Pennington as they poured all the seashells into a large bucket and through them all.
“Pretty!” said Niki picking up a delicate little pink shell.
“Not at pretty as you,” said Mr Pennington kissing his granddaughter on the forehead which made her giggle.
“I like this one,” said Anthony pulling out a white spirally shell.
Once all the shells had been thoroughly investigated, Anthony and Niki started to go and fill up buckets with sand.
“You want wet sand,” he told her.
“Why?” asked Niki.
“Because it’s better for building with,” he explained patiently.
“Oh,” said Niki nodding as Anthony helped her pat sand into her little bucket.
Before long they had several buckets of sand. One large bucket, and four smaller ones. They put the larger bucket of sand in the middle, and the other four were towers.
“Shells?” asked Niki hopefully.
“Yes Niki shells,” nodded Anthony.
“Do you think prince Nickolas and his elven princess Isabelle live in here?” asked Celia as she helped them decorate the castle.
Celia had just woken up from her nap and was looking much better because of it.
“No,” said Niki shaking her head.
“Where do they live then?” asked Celia.
“Hole,” said Niki simply.
“With the crabs,” agreed Simon coming back with Anthony’s camera.
“One of the crabs just pinched Nick’s bottom.”
Niki laughed at the rude word.
“Simon!” scolded Celia glaring at him.
“Sorry darling,” he chuckled.
“Nick didn’t really get bitten, did he?” asked Anthony as the four of them decorated the sandcastle.
“No, but he’d deserve it, he’s having far too much fun. They’re having so much fun, that Nick and Isabelle didn’t even realise I was there taking photos for about ten minutes.”
“You stood there for ten minutes casually taking photos?” laughed Celia.
“Yep,” nodded Simon.
Once they had placed all the shells, Simon and Anthony carefully dug the moat around the large castle.
“Now we’ve got to dig a channel down to the sea,” said Simon.
“Why?” asked Niki.
“So that the tide can fill the moat of our castle for us.”
“Daddy’s are very clever,” beamed Simon giving his daughter a quick kiss on the forehead before going to help Anthony dig the channel.
Once the channel was finished, the moat did indeed fill itself with help from the tide, and Niki was amazed.
“Magic!” she exclaimed.
“Not magic no,” said Simon, “but it was pretty cool.”
Anthony managed to get a picture of Simon showing Niki how the moat worked, and another picture of Niki’s first-ever sandcastle.
The best part of the day though, wasn’t Niki’s sandcastle or finding Nick and Isabelle’s hiding hole.
At one point in the afternoon, Mark was showing off as usual. He was trying to show off how strong he was and how magnificent his body was to some young girls who were watching in amazement and giggling. Then a huge wave had come in from the sea and knocked Mark right over, which was made even better by the fact that Anthony had gotten it recorded not just with a photograph but as a thirty-second video.
They stayed out until long after all the other families had gone home, and the tide was starting to come in. They were all sat on the stone wall by the car park looking over the beach eating their fish and chips out of newspaper, Anthony had a battered sausage as he didn’t like fish.
After tea, they all packed back into the car, and a very tired Niki fell asleep on Anthony’s lap having played all day.
When Anthony went to bed that day, he knew there was only one thing that could have made that day any better. Athene.