Coastline: The line at which the sea meets the land
Seaside: The edge or side of the sea where land rises from it.
The written word implies that they are much the same thing. Indeed they are for someone who has no knowledge of them. It is the perception conjured from memory of them directly or indirectly that makes them different; as too their use in our language of them. When we say to a child, “shall we go to the seaside?” the question will in most cases elicits an enthusiastic and positive response. If the question were asked, “shall we go to the coastline?” The response would be cooler and less certain, perhaps even confused. The reason for this is in the nuances of the words that draw on different emotions. One, ‘the seaside’, a child can clearly understand and attach good memories and/or expectations from. Even before a child has visited the ‘seaside’ they will have picked up on the attachment to joy, fun and excitement from their parents, siblings, friends, television and many other mediums . There is a clear purpose for visiting the ‘seaside’ one that is attached to community and family. Even before a child visits, it is a place of familiarity and subconsciously a place of safety in which they can explore. To visit the ‘coastline’ to a child is a wholly different entity. Firstly they have no clear identification to what it is other than the word’s description of itself. There are no clues other than its location. So the child will be left to guess clues from those around them to what it actually is and what it will mean to them. In doing this the child will come across a much more complex range of emotions emitted from others. Some radiated enthusiastically, some secreted less so. The message is confused and dependent on the mixture of positivity and negativity drawn upon will create the imagery of expectation to the child. Clearly the child will be more apprehensive about visiting the coastline. In truth the complexity of emotions are what the child is unable to decipher, the conflicting information will serve to make a visit to the coastline a more remote and unsafe place within their own mind. So of course we do not say to a child “let’s go to the coastline”, as we are aware of in the nuances in the words. We will invariably say what conjures and elicits a positive response. “Let’s go to the seaside!”
Who doesn’t enjoy a visit to the seaside? The sea, the beach and rock pools; football, cricket and Frisbees; sandcastles and dad acting like an overgrown kid. The town with its crazy golf, tacky ‘kiss me quick’ shops brimming with sticks of rock and oversized lollypops, and the promenade dotted with ice-cream vendors. Fish and chips out of a newspaper (or paper cone these days). The bright lights and the penny arcades. Even as we get older and the water feels colder, the sand harder to walk on, and the shops appear tackier and more expensive than ever, and that the fish and chips just don’t taste quite as good as they used to, there is still part of us despite ourselves that cannot deny we love to go to the seaside. In fact it is not the seaside itself that we enjoy as we grumble about the places the sand ought not to get but the associations we derive from it. It is not of the place but what it means and what it meant the first time we went and the countless times after; attachment to family and friends. Away from work and home life, parents relax and are more attentive, and as children we were transported to a new place in which we are encouraged to explore and learn away from our usual surroundings with their rules and barriers of everyday life. The seaside is a place of hope, of better thing, were everything is the best it can be. As parents we take our children there so they can experience that which we did, and in doing so re-enforce this positive model of existence. How enthusiastic are you when you say “Shall we go to the seaside?” I bet you begin to describe the thing that one can do once you get there.
Going to the ‘coastline’, happens far more haphazardly. Most likely it would be attached to a visit to the seaside. It is not often a family would avoid the town solely to travel the shores and cliff paths. By the nature of the landscape one generally walks the coastline; this throw up conflicts to whether it is a worthwhile or enjoyable event. Our first introduction to the coastal path is likely to be to reach a beach outside of the seaside town. Something that would be driven by our parents in their need to get away from the crowds and in doing so we are hiked along the paths laden with beach orientated clobber and fodder. Right away we are confronted with choices of how we view this. Is the expectation of the enjoyment of the beach that great that the walk to it is of little importance so we hurry along blissfully, or is the walk a barrier to getting to where we want to be? Much will depend on our parents and their perceptions and involvement. Do they overload the children with the duty of sharing the carrying and keep them tethered because of the dangers of the cliff edge, or do they help them explore the new environment and treat the walk to the beach as an extension of the beach? And of course there is the disposition of the child themselves. Do they see and take in their surroundings, are they so intent on getting to the beach they do not? Maybe they want to hang close to their parents in a new environment, or they are lethargic or energetic and run on ahead. All these factors and many more are at play when we first walk the coastline. As much as the seaside is about attachment to family and sharing, the coastal walk is about oneself and that relationship of the emotions experienced. These are the beginnings of an attachment to those surroundings or not dependent on the perceptions formed. Are you positively driven when you suggest walking the coastline? Most probably, though less descriptive as those descriptions are emotional and less physical so harder to express by language alone. If you are negative in your outlook then you are unlikely to suggest walking the coast, the towns beaches are full of those who would not set foot on a steep and windy path.
For me, I enjoy a family visit to the seaside; do all those things I did as a boy or relive them through my children. I love the bond with my children through my participation of their exploration and play, even when that involves being scared witless on the big dipper. To me a visit to the seaside is a trip to a place of perpetual sharing, a place where happy memories are forged, it is not a place I would go to alone. Whereas for me walking the coast is like returning home, something I do alone. I can walk with others but I walk within myself, only my thoughts to keep me company. It is not through choice but through personality defaults that my world is closed to those around me. I want those I love to see what I see as I walk. I want them to feel what I feel. I want them to understand and share in my love of wild and remote places. What I want is for the seaside and coastline to mean the same thing. A visit to the coastside would be a wondrous thing.