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Beside the seaside

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Michelle Michelle | 15:14 UK time, Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Hello everyone

I'm Michelle - I'm new to BBC Learning English and this is my first blog. I'm very pleased to be joining the site.

I want to tell you about my recent trip home when I embarked on a traditional British day out - a trip to the seaside.

Here in the UK, the beaches are often too cold for sunbathing or swimming - especially in the North, where I'm from! Still, the British seaside has a special culture of its own. There are a number of traditions and unusual activities that are associated with the seaside - like fish and chips, funfairs, seaside rock, jellied eels and donkey rides.

I'm from the city of Newcastle, which is up in the North East of England - quite near Scotland in fact. The seaside village I visited recently is called Alnmouth. It's on the Northumbrian coastline. I went with my boyfriend and parents - and we started the day with a traditional plate of fish and chips, mushy peas and a pot of tea. Delicious!


fishandchips_blog.jpgThe North Sea is very cold and often brings in a lot of windy weather, but this particular day was unusually calm. I think the children in this picture were off on an adventure looking for sea creatures in rock pools. They were much braver than me though - I didn't so much as dip my toe in the sea!




boats_blog.jpgAlnmouth is a very picturesque and calm place. It's quite old fashioned - I don't think it's even got a bank! There are lots of little boats moored along the coast. It's really quite idyllic - and so far removed from the chaos and noise of London. I pictured myself living in one of the brightly coloured houses and taking out a little boat to catch fish for my tea!


haunteedhotel_blog.jpgI took this picture of Alnmouth's famous 'haunted hotel', but I didn't fancy going in - some of these very old buildings give me the creeps!

As I mentioned, there are some more unusual traditions associated with the English seaside, like donkey-riding and the rather peculiar Punch and Judy show. As you can see the Punch and Judy show is a type of puppet performance. It uses regular characters including the anarchic Mr Punch, his wife Judy, a crocodile, and a string of sausages as a prop!

Thumbnail image for punchandjudy_blog.jpg

All the characters are played by one puppeteer - called a 'professor'. One of my friends from University actually works as a Punch and Judy 'professor'. It's an unusual way to make a living - but I think he must be very talented to take on all the different characters.

I'd be very interested to know about the sea where you live. Do you live near a beach? Are there any unusual cultural traditions or types of performance associated with your country? Do you have anything similar to Punch and Judy shows?
Looking forward to hearing from you,


seaside rock: A stick shaped confectionery - made of boiled sugar

jellied eels: A traditional English dish of eels in jelly

rock pools: Pools of water left between rocks when the sea tide goes out.

moored: When a boat is secured to something to stop it floating away

far removed: very different - as if on other sides of a spectrum

tea: In this case meaning 'dinner'. As far as I'm aware, 'tea' is used more commonly in this way in the North of England

haunted: Somewhere where there is said to be supernatural forces - like ghosts or spirits

give me the creeps: A phrase meaning something is giving you an uneasy feeling - often associated with the supernatural

rather peculiar: quite odd or strange

anarchic: Someone who doesn't conform to rules or social norms

to make a living: To earn enough income to support yourself


  • Comment number 1.

    Welcome Michelle!
    I live about 400 km from the sea. Our beaches are big, windy and the water is very cold like in the North of England. It is very common to see people playing volleyball or football or any other improvised sport on the beach.
    Moreover, we always eat fish and chips at the restaurants around the beach but we don't drink tea with that dish. We usually drink beer or some kind of soda.
    Keep blogging!
    Have a nice day.
    Best wishes, Cris (from BA-Argentina)

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi Michelle,

    The seaside of Alnmouth is a quiet place and old-fashinoned as you described in your fist blog because of cold weather, it seems not attracting lots of holidaymakers. It is opposite to the seaside in my hometown, NhaTrang of Vietnam, one of the most attractive beaches in the world with windy and warm weather all time in year. There are a lot of activities on the beach and islands nearby such as scuba-diving, motor sport, fishing, kiting, sightseeing by hot air balloons, discovering coral reefs and bird nests so on.

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Michelle,

    Your trip is realy amazing, and contains lot of exciting things. actualy,im from a country overlooking the sea and has a hot temperature which is Oman which is one of the gulf countries,the beaches are always perfect for sunbathing, swimming and any other things. But there is something that is very wondrous in Oman. That thing is there is a region called (Dhofar, Salalah city) which has an interesting weather among the other gulf countries. During the months of khareef season in salalah June, July, and August the weather in Salalah completely changing from hot to cold, from sun to rain .You can look on google to see and read about it by typing (khareef Salalah).furthermore, it has the silver beaches and golden sandy deserts. It is very attractive for tourists to experience different weathers in one area .We have some various traditional dances, and some of them are associated with the sea, such as the the fishing dancing.

    bye for now
    awaid from oman

  • Comment number 4.

    Hello Michelle,

    Your trip to the seaside had to be exciting. I live far away from the sea (unfortunately) but I really love time spending by the sea. Beaches by the Baltic Sea are clean, big, weather in summer is usually sunny and water is warm. There is a lot of villages and towns in which tourists can find apartments, hostels, guest houses to stay in. Last time I was by our sea a few years ago, but I still remember people playing volleyball on the beach, sunbathing and swimming, children building castles of the sand and collecting shells...

    But I would like to write about British beaches on the South Coast. I visited Brighton, Portsmouth, Southampton, Bournemouth and have to say that I am really impressed by these cities and beautiful beaches, especially in Bournemouth. This place is very varied, vibrant, young and lively with golden sands and sparkling sea. There is always lots of events. What is more there is warm enough for sunbathing, swimming and surfing. I think we can call it as British Riviera and British should be aware of beauty of their South Coast and visit it more frequently.
    I hope that I will have opportunity to visit this region once again.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hello Michelle,
    I enjoyed reading your post very much - although, of course, the question about "the sea where you live" sent me sulking in the corner for a while: no sea nor beaches for us landlocked Austrians. However, we do have something like Punch and Judy shows. They are called Kasperltheater around here, Kasperl being the main character wearing a pointy red cap. He is always cheerful, likeable, clever and invariably victorious over whatever creatures - crocodiles, witches, wizards, dragons - may be threatening the princess or poor little children in need of protection.
    They used to be the first theatre performances parents would take their children to and they were the first things I was allowed to watch on TV, but it seems to me they are considered a bit outdated now.
    Looking forward to reading more from everybody around the world -

  • Comment number 6.

    Hello, Michelle

    I wonder what is the "traditional" British Day? I assume this is the traditional day in northern part of English.

    And, does have any harmful effect due to ash of volcano from Iceland? As far as I heard from the news, volcano breakout April 18 and all airline cancelled in Europe. But I can't find any difference with your pictures between before and after volcano.

    Yours Oh

  • Comment number 7.

    Hello, Michelle.

    Welcome and thanks for your blog. Here in France there is the Guignol puppet. I read that there in the beginning also was Polichinelle
    from the Italian commedia dell’arte and who in fact is the same as the English Punch. The funniest with Guignol theatre is the interaction with the audience. One of my friends was taking care of a mute boy from Monday to Friday, for the weekend he returned to his family, who lived too far from the specialised school he attended. My friend brought the boy together with her own daughter to the Guignol's performance and said that the young boy for the first time really realised that he missed something the others had. When all other children were shouting and laughing he didn't understand why.

    As for the sea, here in France I'm living far from the ocean. When I lived in Finland I was close to the sea. Wintertime the ice was so thick that cars and buses could drive on it.

  • Comment number 8.

    Humm, there is either very few seas near Paris, where I live !
    I was wondering : "I didn't so much as dip my toe in the sea". That is not very clear to me. Does it mean you dipped your toe just a little or not at all ?
    All the best

  • Comment number 9.

    I was born and grew up in a big city, Sai Gon, the economic center in the south of Vietnam, so i don't know much about seaside lifestyle. But i love beach, sun sight, and white sand. It's the reason i prefer to travel to seasides than other places like highlands or mountains. I intend to share some experience about Vietnamese seaside.
    First of all, many foreigner tourist come to Vietnamese seaside for sunlight and warm weather. The love to lie down on a bamboo chair, take sunbath, and enjoy a book.
    Second, most of the seaside in Vietnam are still very nature and calm. There are not to much vehicles, noises, and buildings, even you take a journey to Nha Trang, a city of tourism. Every morning, many presidents jog along the street without thinking be hitted by transportation. And in the evening, some people relax by fling the kites, playing soccer on the beach or simply riding motorcycles, bicycles along Tran Phu Boulevard. They go out for cool wind, fresh air and "TA'M", chat, with friends. To me, I love to stand at a balcony, look out the blue ocean, and feel the wind touching my face.
    As TienHoa Nguyen wrote above, you can participate in many others exciting activities as well. But one thing brings my concern: POLLUTED.
    The more tourism come to my country's seaside, the more money we can get, and more polluted we bring to environment. The quite local life is replacing by a noisy modern life that offer what the tourism need. Green island becomes luxury resort. I can't believe it, and never ever encourage to this idea. I know this a serious common issue to many other tourism seasides.

  • Comment number 10.

    hi. i read your blog. i got more knolage about the UK. i'm also new comer to the bbc blog. michelle actualy i want to post own article, unfortunatly i don't know how i'm posting own article. could you please give the path to post a new article using my blog. thank you.

  • Comment number 11.

    Thanks for all your interesting comments! I've actually just got back from a short holiday by the sea - this time in Cornwall. My friends and I spent most of our time on the beach - we played frisbee, built a bonfire and star-gazed. The skies were much clearer than here in London!
    Cris: I actually spent some time as a teacher in Buenos Aires - it's one of my favourite cities. I remember walking along the port there and taking the ferry over to Uruguay - but I don't think I saw much of the Argentinian beaches - although from how you describe them, they don't sound too different from home!
    Tienhoa: The beach near your home sounds fabulous - you're right, a completely different type of beach from the one at Alnmouth!
    Awaid: The beaches you describe sound like paradise! And I'd be very interested to see the traditional dances associated with the sea. I'm not sure if we have anything similar in the UK - but there are definitely lots of folk songs about the sea.
    Amisu: Glad to hear you enjoyed your experiences of British beaches. I've never been to Bournemouth myself but I love Brighton - you're right there's alot going on there and it's lots of fun.
    Elisabeth: How interesting - Kasperltheater does sound like a variation of Punch and Judy. I think these traditions seem a bit outdated too, but I do hope they are preserved - it would be a shame to lose them.
    Oh: Yes the volcanic ash did cause considerable chaos in the UK. But as far as I know we didn't see any of the ash on the ground because the cloud was too high up in the atmosphere.
    Kirsti: What an interesting story. I'm intrigued that there seems to be different variations of Punch and Judy around Europe.
    Antony: "I didn't so much as" is another (and rather flowery) way of saying "I didn't even". So it means that I didn't part any part of me in the sea at all!
    Nhat: Yes I think alot of people would share your concerns about tourism in areas of natural beauty.
    Hashan: Welcome to the blog! You can apply to be BBC Learning English's next student blogger by sending an email with a bit about yourself. The link is on this page http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/learningenglish/student/
    Thanks everyone for your messages. Do keep blogging!

  • Comment number 12.

    Hi Michelle, I'm just curious. Where did you teach English in Buenos Aires? Was it at International House?
    I'm glad that you visited my country. There are a lot of tourist places to visit but I'm afraid that the beaches are not in a regular tourist brochure.
    See you,
    Cris (BA-Argentina)

  • Comment number 13.

    Hello Michelle,

    I live 45 miles from the Black Sea. Unfortunately the beaches have no road access - the only way to reach them is by boat that leaves Tulcea, the town where I'm living now, and goes along the branches of the Danube, which flow into the Black Sea. Maybe the limited traffic access keep the seaside at low number tourists. There is no comercial area on the beach, no restaurants, no terraces - it's great for its fine sand, wildness and peaceful enviroment.
    I was very pleased to read your blog and looking forward to hearing from you,
    Clara (Romania)

  • Comment number 14.

    ah Cornwall is great, I'm actually from Devon, use to spend a lot of time in Cornwall - particualy at Newquay. It hosts some fantastic events including the Rip Curl Surf Championships and Run to the Sun - both not to be missed really if you enjoy the sea side.

    I have since moved upto Yorkshire, which is also pretty - but lacks coast! We now have to take [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]caravan holidays or rent cottages in order to spend time down in Cornwall or Devon which is costly - last time we went was over the Bank Holiday weekend in April. We all had a great time but its still a little too cold to properly be enjoying the fantastic beaches Cornwall has to offer.

    I hope to be coming back down over the first weekend in August for the Surf Championships - it really is an event not to be missed.

  • Comment number 15.

    Hi Michelle!
    This is my first contact in BBC, I confess that I'm trying to improve my english, and I loved your blog
    I'm from Brazil, I live about 80 km from the sea, in Sao Paulo. Our beaches are very hot, windy and the water is very good, I think is different from England.
    My hobby is to go to the beach almost every weekend and to play soccer beach, volleyball and other improvised sport on the beach.
    I love the sea, I love eat fish and to go restaurants around the beach and I usually drink beer on the beach.
    Have a nice day Michelle.
    If you could send messages ok?(from SP-Brazil)


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