The smell. The air. The sound of the waves. The clean sand. Wide open space. Dunes to hide in. Rather wild waves. Long streets along the coastline full of shops where you could buy comic books, kites, shovels, Playmobil, etc.

The Belgian coast was the only kind of holiday my dad was willing so sign up for. Back then I assumed he enjoyed it, but I have recently found out via my mum that he actually didn’t like to go there, that he only did it for us.

As a child the beach was like a different universe. We always stayed in a wooden chalet ten minutes walking from the beach. Those little wooden houses formed something like villages. Every day a man selling soup would drive through, soup, and French fries I think, ice cream. They had amazing French fries back then. It was an amazing escape from the very drab industrial town I grew up in. A place that to this day makes me feel simply oppressed, stuck, without any perspective. But the days near the coast were something else. Even though it took less than a two hour drive to get us there as a kid it felt like a journey to the other end of the world.

The sounds were very different from those at home. In a wooden chalet everything is different from a brick house. The chalets had a television set. You could buy newspapers of course. I think someone delivered them just like the soup. It was like a copy of home, but sweeter, sunnier, opener, less stifling. I must also say that my anything but outgoing grandparents did there best to give me a good time there. I still have the Playmobil knight they got me in Oostende in the summer of 1993. I remember it was 1993, because right before I left for the coast the Belgian king Boudewijn had died.

There was always a putrid abcess in our family’s soul waiting to burst. A sword of Damocles I sometimes felt pricking my neck already. Because of stuff that happened long before I was born. Some trauma my father never had the help to really overcome. But even so, there were actually many moments we were almost happy. I rank those days on the coast among those. There were days we were the last people on the beach. Still building a gigantic sand castle even after dawn. Even as child I already had some kind of inexplicable conflict or turmoil inside which sometimes played up or made me hide away, but I am sure I wish to take my son there and let him experience the beauty of the Belgian coast.

PS

The featured picture was taken by Belgian photographer Paul van der Heyde. You can see more of this work on his website. You can also hire him for commercial projects. And no, am not getting one cent for promoting his work. I just really liked the picture and I took the liberty to use his picture here. His website is written in Dutch, but his work speaks for itself.

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