The Nicklebys: A Story for Catholic Children
by: Sue Felton

CHAPTER SIXTEEN: The Beach Holiday

The Nickleby family are at home. They have returned from their beach holiday. Now Granny is visiting. She wants to hear all about their time away at Palm Tree Beach.

"We made a scrapbook about our trip to the beach, Granny," says Kate placing a large book on the table. On the front of the book are the words, Our Perfect Beach Holiday.

Granny opens the book at the first page. A map has been pasted here. Mum has drawn a black line on the map. The wiggly black line starts at the village of Top-of-the-Hill, where the Nickleby family lives. It ends at Palm Tree Beach where they spent their holiday.

Joe points to the name Stanwell which is marked on the map. "That is where we stayed in a motel," says Joe. "That is where Mum set off the smoke alarm twice and Dad set it off six times."

There is a postcard of a sandy beach glued to the next page. It says, "Palm Tree Beach". And under the postcard is a photograph of the white beach house.

"The beach was just perfect, Granny," says Edward. "The beach house was perfect too. It was right across from the sand."

"As soon as we'd unpacked the bags," continues Celeste, "we went to the beach. We took our buckets and spades and Dad suggested we build the biggest ever sandcastle." She describes how the castle had lots of turrets and even a moat and how they decorated it with shells. "We dug a channel from the castle to the sea. We wanted to fill up the moat but the water wouldn't flow down the channel."

"So we kept emptying buckets of sea water into the moat," says Lizzie. "That didn't work either but we had great fun." Granny looks at a picture of the biggest ever sandcastle. Annie is sitting on the huge mound in the centre of the castle. She is covered with sand and is smiling widely.

Granny turns the page of the scrapbook again. She sees a photo of six children sitting at a long table eating ice cream cones. Annie's ice cream is dripping down her arm. Lizzie has a blob of ice cream on her nose.

"That was taken on our second day at the beach. We got up and it was raining. We were all very disappointed," explains Kate. "We wanted to go swimming."

"But Dad wouldn't let us be gloomy," says Edward. "He said we were going to have a perfect holiday even if it rained all week. He said the most important thing about a holiday is spending time together and we could have fun whatever we did."

Kate tells Granny how they all went to the nearest town to buy food for the week. "Mum made up a shopping game." She explains how Mum organised them into two teams. Team number one was Edward, Kate and Celeste. The second team was Dad, Joe and Lizzie. Mum found a trolley and sat Annie in the seat.

"Then the two teams took a basket each," says Mum. "I gave each team a short shopping list. They had to find all the items on their list and return to the trolley as fast as possible." Mum pauses as she thinks about how the children and Dad raced up and down the aisles looking for the things on their list.

"My team found all our things first," says Edward. "We emptied our basket into Mum's trolley. Then Mum gave us another list and we had more things to find."

"We found all the items on our list too," says Dad. "We got another list too. Then a third list."

"Edward's team collected the most shopping in the shortest time," says Mum. "They won the shopping game but everyone got a prize. We all had waffle cone ice creams for morning tea."

The next page has a picture of a kookaburra on it. The kookaburra is standing on a table with a sausage in its beak. "That was Annie's sausage," laughs Edward. "Annie cried when her sausage was stolen. She didn't like eating outside on the veranda of the beach house. There were too many hungry birds waiting to swoop down and steal her food."

"The weather looks sunny in that photo," observes Granny.

"Yes, the rain cleared up and the weather was perfect for the rest of the holiday," explains Dad. "We were able to go swimming every day. Sometimes we went across to the beach two or three times a day."

A few tiny spiral shells are sticky taped to the next page. "We collected those shells when we went for a walk around the bay," says Mum. "We went exploring and we found a huge lagoon." Mum tells how they waded right across the lagoon. "The water got deeper and deeper as we got to the centre and Annie had to travel on Dad's shoulders. All the towels had to be held up in the air. Then Lizzie had to be picked up. But then the water began to get shallow again. Finally we arrived at the other side.

"We'd come to another beach," says Joe. "Waves were crashing on the sand and Mum said it wasn't safe to swim because there were no flags or lifeguards. Instead we collected shells in our buckets. We found a pool. We wallowed in it pretending we were hippos."

Granny notices a cardboard coaster glued into the scrapbook. It has the words, ‘Frothy Coffee Shop' printed on it. It is Mum's coaster. It is a souvenir. "Dad and I went to that coffee shop lots of times," she says. "The coffee shop was built on piers over the water. We could sit outside on the veranda and drink coffee and watch the children play on the sand."

"The coffee was perfect," says Dad thinking about the huge mugs of frothy coffee. His mouth begins to water.

Kate takes the scrapbook and shows Granny some photos of everyone bush walking. They are climbing up a very steep hill. But Annie is not climbing. She is riding on Dad's shoulders. She looks very happy. Everyone else looks very tired especially Mum.

"My legs felt like jelly," explains Mum. "It was a long way to the top of that hill. My legs had to work very hard. But when we finally got to the top, we could see Palm Tree Beach below and even our beach house."

There are lots of other photos in the book. There is Dad buried up to his neck in sand. There is Mum with a huge hat on her head. Her nose is covered in pink zinc cream. There are pictures of all the children splashing in the sea. There are funny pictures like the one where everyone is pulling silly faces. Everyone smiles remembering the wonderful time they had.

On the last page of the scrapbook is a heading. It says, ‘What I liked most about our beach holiday'. "We all wrote something," says Dad.

Mum had written, "I didn't have much work to do while we were at the beach house. I enjoyed having a rest. I liked having lots of time to read my books. I enjoyed seeing the happy smiles on everyone's faces. I liked how nobody argued for the whole week."

The next entry is Edward's. He had written, "The sea was great. We were able to go swimming every day. I liked spending lots of time with Dad. He showed me how to fish. We didn't catch anything, though."

In Kate's neat handwriting are the words, "We got to play board games in the evenings. At home it is hard to persuade anyone to play a game. But on holiday everyone joined in. We had so much fun. Everyone laughed and no one cared who won. Edward made delicious popcorn."

It is difficult to read Joe's untidy writing. Mum reads his words out loud. "The food was good. Dad barbequed lots of sausages. I liked how Mum and Dad made everything fun, even shopping."

Celeste had written, "I liked eating ice cream. We had lots of ice cream. I liked wriggling my toes in the sand. It was fun using the outside shower to clean off the sand. I liked sleeping in a double bed with Kate. She said I didn't kick her too much."

Mum had written Lizzie's and Annie's entries for them. Lizzie told Mum to write, "I liked collecting shells and building sand castles. I didn't like the dog on the beach that ran off with our ball. I collected lots of seaweed. It's a bit smelly."

Annie's entry says, "I liked digging in the sand. I didn't like the bird that stole my sausage. I liked the playground too. "

Dad's turn was last: "I liked having time to show the children how to fish. I enjoyed the smell of the salty sea and the feel of the warm sand under my feet. I enjoyed closing my eyes and listening to the waves breaking on the shore. But most of all I liked having lots of time to spend with my family. At home everyone is busy with their own activities. On holiday we did everything together. We laughed. We talked together. We pulled silly faces. We had fun. It was a perfect beach holiday."

Granny finishes looking at the scrapbook and closes it. "It seems to me," she says, "that the best thing about your beach holiday was making lots of wonderful memories together. Every time you get out this scrapbook and talk about your holiday you will remember all the fun things you did. All the happy holiday feelings will return. You can enjoy your perfect beach holiday over and over again."

Mum and Dad and all the children think Granny is quite right. They will never forget that special holiday they spent together in the white beach house at Palm Tree Beach.

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