Think your family is complicated? Try organizing a seaside trip out for 20.
It’s hard to imagine a more confusing family scene. We are all by a harbour wall in Suffolk: feet, arms, fishing lines and nets dangling down towards the fast running current, buckets ready and primed to receive their catch of weary and rather dim crabs. Dim? Yes, this is a crabbing hot-spot, the venue of the World Crabbing Championships, and you’d think the lure of bacon bait had, by now, been seen as a wicked ruse for a vertical ascent in to a net and an uncomfortable hour in a bucket with crab relatives, before an undignified chuck back in to the muddy waters.
So who are all these people?
There is clearly the matriarch of the group, an 80+ year-old woman, plonked on a pop-up garden chair, rug-on-knees, with people talking to her probably just a shade too loud.
I think I can count eight other adults, with apparently eleven offspring, ranging from five to 21 years. Matching siblings is easier, but matching children to parent or ‘significant other’ is slightly tougher, as we have three men and five women. And we have four dual heritage children; they don’t all share the same black mother, one of the eight adults with us.
But who cares? Some people may feel the need to match or pigeon-hole, but the laughter – and the shrieks as crabophobes mix with craboholics,and yet another hapless victim is hauled up from the depths – shows that this is a remarkably happy group.
We’re a group, an extended family who are all – at that moment – having a lot of fun.
Apart, from Gran that is. She’s been there an hour. She’s cold – this is the East Coast, the North Sea, with its name changed from the Southern Arctic because, as Billy Connolly once said, “If we call it that, no bugger will come here”. And it’s high time for tea and cake. Again.
So off they all trudge, now-empty buckets swinging by their side, some skipping, some slouching. (The teenage boys resume their primary occupation having morphed briefly back to into children). Some are talking animatedly as nearly-adults to the older adults who half listen and half keep beady eyes on the smaller ones misguidedly tiptoeing along the sea wall. The sun is behind the clouds now, so it is indeed time to pay a visit to the long-suffering tea shop manager with the request: “Table for 20, please”.