Two babies, a beach, and a handy newspaper

I SPENT yesterday beating the recession.

I didn’t spend a cent. I didn’t go to the movies or a coffee shop; I didn’t shop till I dropped (which nowadays only takes me five minutes anyway). I didn’t take out a gym membership or start a TAFE course.

I took a baby to the beach. Two babies, actually. And a picnic.

I can now relate, with absolute conviction, that two babies and a beach encapsulates everything life can give you Ñ even the dodgy bits Ñ and is better than any other form of entertainment, including reading the Townsville Bulletin, which I took with me, but that’s another story. I never did get to read it.

Not only was it fun, but I learned some of the Great Universal Truths of life. Like: when they invented sunblock, why didn‘t they think up something that sand wouldn’t stick to?

I suppose I could have kept their clothes on. But I’m an ex-Pom, and I still have this lingering cultural quirk that on the rare occasions (over there) when the sun shines you have to rip your clothes off.

Not me personally; that’s probably a hanging offence. But small kids should be able to. Except that then you have to coat them with sunblock. And after 30 seconds gambolling on the beach, the sunblock is coated in sand. Even dunking them in the ocean doesn’t work.

And while you’re dunking one in the ocean the other is trying to eat a dead sea snake. At least, I think it was dead.

But that was just an unlucky chance. Mostly babies are happy to eat sand. Shells too. That’s probably why there were so few; and it’s possible the sea snake was taken by the tide, but all I can say is that I never saw it go.

We built a boat from the sand they didn’t eat, and then we sat in it and ate our picnic (sunblock and sand sandwiches Ñ and that’s the reason they’re called sandwiches. It’s got nothing to do with the Earl of Sandwich) and we splashed in the shallows and we choked on salt water and we sucked on seaweed. That is to say, they choked on salt water and sucked on seaweed. I tried to read the newspaper.

You should know that these babies are 11 months and 23 months respectively. One can walk; one can crawl. I now know (because I’ve timed it) that a crawling baby can be up to its neck in seawater in the time it takes a toddler to climb to the top of a two metre‑high rock 50 metres away.

And when it was time to go they wanted to take the boat.

I also know that sand has a laxative effect, but it doesn’t kick in until you have corralled two babies in your arms and you’re walking back up the beach towards civilisation… babies, sunblock, bags, sand.

Did you know that if a baby falls silent and its face goes red, you should stop carrying it? Especially if it’s naked.

And did you know that unconfined baby poo can spread further than a litre of kerosene on the surface of a lake?
Thank God for the covering and cleaning powers of the Townsville Bulletin Ñ shame I never got to read it, though.