Yearly tradition part 1 – Childhood at the seaside


This year it was the second relaunch of the yearly tradition to have a bit of holiday at the Belgian seaside. Let’s see if we will do it again next year… In any case it brought back wonderful childhood memories…

1977 – Vosseslag with my brother, mum, dad (taking the picture) and Molly our dog

I have been traveling to the Belgian coast every summer when I was little. My grandparents had a little cottage we called “het huiske in Klemskerke”. It was a small place, a bit like a chalet or “barn”, with a little garden on a vacation domain. It was the 70s and 80s. Traffic jams were non existing and it was always in our mind a long and exciting drive in our orange VW beetle to get to the other side of the country. We – my brother and I – loved it when we were kids, but when I got older I kinda understood why my mum was not such a fan… it was small, old, not well built and didn’t really have the basic infrastructure that made you feel pampered in luxury. Going to the bathroom really meant “going outside” to the bathroom where huge spiders and other critters loved to hang out and spook you. The old pink paint couldn’t make the visit more enjoyable. The shower was of the same make… and there was only cold water… What’s wrong about that in the summer? Well… not all summers were warm… several times we would have rain for a month in a row… Eventually, we resorted to being washed by hand with our feet standing in a footbath in the middle of the chalet. Anything was better than running through the rain, getting into that insect cage poring cold water over your head.

1979 Vosselsag – Me with our dog Molly and the dog from the shop Molly 2

Still, I loved it. I didn’t even mind walking the 3 kms to the beach everyday. Again, mum had another opinion, as she carried lots of stuff to keep us happy and fed. I can still feel the excitement when we saw the footbridge over the main road, which ended at the beach. We could’t walk fast enough to see how far or close the water would be from the jetty. The owners of the shop at the jetty had a dog similar to ours. Ours was called Molly, so obviously we named the other one Molly 2.

1980 Vosseslag – All day in the sea with my brother

In those days the government took action to preserve the natural dunes, stop the erosion and secure the lower land areas behind the dunes. A vast system of 1 meter diameter pipes were used to pump up sand to the dunes and heighten the overall beach level. They were ugly and scarred the beautiful beach along a long stretch of the Belgian shore, but we loved them. Brilliant playground. We crawled onto them, walked over them, played in the warm puddles next to them, explored the wildlife hiding close by. What a time…

1981 Vosseslag – Fast forward 37 years and look at the glasses… my daughter picked exactly the same

Kids love routines. Even I did, the rebell I am. Our daily routine started around 10 am with buying fresh soup from a farmer who came by with his cart. That was my job. I would bring a pot (I even remember how that looked like!) they would poor the soup in. It was dirtcheap… In the evening the “cremekar” aka the bicycle car with icecream stopped at the domain. They ringed their bell and kids started running out of the little cottages towards the central parking place.

1981 Vosseslag – Looking awesome in our “sponsen broekskes” (shorts of that stretchy, soft, fluffy fabric). Mine was lilac, but you couldn’t tell from the picture…

The yearly trips stopped when my parents got divorced and my brother and I were in our early teens. I went back with my mum or friends on day trips now and then. I even stayed again in the cottage when I was about 20 years old (I remember the year because our reigning king died during our stay…). It was during that stay I understood why my mum was not the biggest fan… very limited to none existing infrastructure. I never went back afterwards and don’t even think the domain still exists.

1982 Vosseslag – One of the last times we went as a family