Mention of oceans and beaches yesterday reminded me that after going to Berlin the other day, (of which more perhaps in the future), we stopped for a night on the way back to Brussels in a Friesian seaside town called Harlingen.
Harlingen is an absolutely sweet place, full of pretty houses and apparently friendly people. We went to a restaurant that was run beautifully, (no canned music, hurray), and where they gave us the most deliciously fresh fish and oysters and so forth, (perhaps I am creating a false impression in using the word 'gave' - we did have to pay, of course, but not vast sums).
While waiting for one or other course, my husband got into a discussion about the language of the area with a woman who I think was one of the owners of the restaurant.
As a child my husband had picked up somewhere this phrase about the Friesian language: "Good bread and good cheese is good English and good Fries". Was the Friesian language really as close to English as this phrase suggests, he wanted to know.
Not quite as close seemed to be the slightly disappointing conclusion. It would not be enough to move to Harlingen and simply do what I witnessed many adults of my parents' generation, (although not, I hasten to add, my parents themselves), doing whenever they encountered a foreigner who didn't speak English: speak very loudly and slowly in English
My husband, perhaps sensing that they were on the point of exhausting the topic of language similarities or the lack thereof, changed the subject.
Were there any beaches in the Harlingen area, he enquired.
"Yes", the woman told him proudly, "there is one."
"Is it a pebble beach or a sand beach?" I asked.
She turned to me with a delighted smile.
"It is mud," she said, "the beach is mud."
I've been thinking about it ever since. For an Australian, that woman was stretching the definition of what a beach is. Are we alone in the world in believing, on our extremely large island (or very small continent), that a beach must be made of sand, or, - and this concession is merely to be kind to our mother country - possibly made of countless round stones? I think I'm right in asserting that, if you are Australian, mud is not a permissible substance for inclusion in the category headed "beach" - at least it is not as far as I know, (any Australians who disagree, please set me straight immediately).
Anyway, despite its lack, in my view, of beach possibilities, I still really liked Harlingen. Should you wish to see it for yourself, while staying right where you are, here are some pictures of the dear little place.