We swap life by the sea for... a seaside holiday

Torbay Weekly

Vicky Ewan forty-something mother of five, wife of one, and parish secretary/cook:

It might seem strange that our annual holiday destination has, for the last five years, been another coastal town.

We swap the South West for the South East and make the protracted journey to Hastings, where kind relatives bestow upon us the loan of their static caravan for a week.

Perched atop a high cliff in a sedate park, the caravan has become a charming home-from-home for us in the high season.

The last leg of the journey to its site, winding through narrow lanes, has a steadily increasing familiarity with each year that passes.

The caravan itself slides into sudden view around a bend, as comforting a sight as an old friend at the door.

We open up, kick off our shoes - a prolonged affair - breathe in deeply - and there it is: the unmistakable fragrance of holidays past, present and still to come.

Our large family is a strain to accommodate in such confined quarters, but we make it work with a squash and a squeeze, adapting to the single bathroom/open plan living space situation with perfected ease.

There are two bedrooms, always occupied by the offspring; my husband and I make do with the handy sofa bed in the lounge.

This decision was made out of necessity years ago, when the children were smaller and had earlier bedtimes.

These days, they are less inclined to sleep than their aging parents, yet still we seem to draw the short straw.

In truth, I wouldn't have it any other way; there is something utterly enchanting still about waking up in the family space, the thwacking of seagull feet on the roof above us providing a pleasant percussion to the beginning of the day.

The vista the park affords is spectacular: the sea, far below us, is always a magnificent sight, sometimes a smooth iridescent blue-green, sometimes a sullen grey, the wind whipping stiff peaks of white foam on its surface.

Under a pearly sky, at first light, the water is like a flat silver plain, keyholes of sunlight kissing its skin and making it shine.

On a clear day, we have been told, it's possible to see across the Channel to Cap Gris Nez, in France, with the naked eye; this fact seems irresistibly romantic, although I have yet to confirm its veracity.

Certainly, the seascape is sufficiently breathtaking in its own right.

There are certain rituals to which we must adhere when on holiday: we must have fish and chips - I am quite proud to say I find Devon's infinitely more palatable - we must visit the neighbouring caravan park, which boasts leisure facilities and the all-important family bar, for at least one evening's entertainment; and we - well, certain of us - must swim in the sea.

Despite having lived in Devon for the vast majority of my life, I rarely partake of the delights of its waters for a swim.

Conversely, in Hastings the vacation is incomplete when devoid of us venturing forth into the vastness of the ocean.

We have learned from bitter and painful experience that beach shoes are a vital accessory on these excursions: the fully-pebbled beach is unforgiving to visitors intent upon a swim, generating much wincing and groaning.

The walk down to the water is somewhat less uncomfortable than the return journey, when we curse our shortsighted decision to plant our camp so far away from the shore as, shivering, bedraggled and self-conscious, we hobble and grumble our way back up the beach.

The discomfort is worth it, though, for the exultant experience of lolling in the water, the sun glinting off its glossy surface and the seagulls screaming overhead.

During our stay, we take a daytrip to Brighton - favourite destination of our children. Its cosmopolitan, effortlessly hip vibe clamours for our attention, the pride in its quintessential coolness an irresistible attraction for us all.

We identify the week's prospective best weather day in advance, and pin Brighton to it, determined to soak up every rainbow ray of sun it sends our way.

Caravan mornings are lazy; evenings stretch out as luxuriously as a well-fed cat; somehow or other we all manage to get along, despite our proximity and, when we bid a fond farewell for another year, it is always with a heavy heart.

But those 12 months will pass, surely as the Earth travels round the Sun.

Hastings, prepare your troops: we'll be back...