Whiritoa, sandwiched between the two big holiday partygrounds of Waihi and Whangamata, is small, untouristy and serene. I'm becoming a fan of beach holidays. That might seem weird coming from someone who lives here, but I think it's because I spent two big chunks of my life living in Europe. It took me a long time to get used to New Zealand again when I got back. I thought beaches were just places where you sat in the boiling sun and turned into beetroots. But now, after careful guidance from the people who know, and as I slowly become someone who is not always uselessly unprepared (I now have a beach umbrella in the car, and even a bag with towels in it), I am learning to love the beach again.
Being in Whiritoa for a few days felt like being in a warm bath. Slopping around in jandals, rinsing sandy togs in a bucket by the back door, salads with grated carrot, hardboiled eggs and iceberg lettuce - just like being a kid again, in fact. I want L to have those sorts of memories too, and I feel lucky to be able to see it through his eyes.
We went to Whangamata to watch a surf club carnival. L put on a wetsuit for the first time ever and pretended to be a shark. Kids raced along the beach and into the wild surf. It's a different world, one where the sea is the most important thing. We ate gigantic icecreams sitting on a bench outside the local dairy, and drove home listening to Solid Gold Hits of the 70s, singing along loudly. Home for a cup of tea and a lie down, of course, on a sand-filled bunk bed in the garage filled with ancient games and rusty trikes.