A beach story based on a true event, which happened to my friend John Swift from Barmston. Those familiar with my North Bay Railway books will see a connection with “The New Driver’s Cap”. That tale was based on a similar, though separate true event, which happened to my friend, train driver Nick Skelton.




It was Grandpa’s birthday and he was thrilled. Family had clubbed together and bought him a Tilley hat. He had always wanted a Tilley hat, invented in Canada and famous around the world for its quality. And now he had one. Amazing! He had nearly wept when he opened the box while Freddie and cousin Zinzi sang “Happy Birthday to you”.

Grandpa took Freddie and Zinzi for a walk at North Bay. He had his Tilley hat on! The Open Air Theatre was busy. Kylie Minouge was performing that evening and what a great concert that would be. It was amazing!

 The beach was beautiful. The tide had turned a while ago and the waves were starting to come in. Surfers had been gathering, waiting to ride the waves. There were still a few seaside-bright windbreaks, tents and deckchairs about. A few children were still playing though many families had already packed up and headed for home. The lifeguards had finished their day’s duty, keeping the beach a safe place all day until 6pm. 

Grandpa, Freddie and Zinzi began to explore the sandcastles, which had been built and abandoned, waiting for the tide to return and flatten them. There were some great sandcastles. Some were in the shape of Scarborough Castle just across at the headland. Other sandcastles had a moat and tunnels, showing amazing imagination. There were cars and dragons, sea monsters and people’s names, and ….”Look at this!” said Grandpa. “Amazing!”

There was a sand model of Apollo 11, the spaceship that took the first people to go to the moon. It was amazing. Its details were brilliant.

“This is amazing!” said Grandpa. “It was fifty years ago and I still remember it. They went to the moon.  Amazing! Never been done before! The first man on the moon! All the way to the moon and back! Amazing!” They all nodded.

“Grandpa!” said Freddie. “I was at Bempton cliffs last week and a guide told us that the fulmar seabird, in its lifetime, will fly as many miles as the distance to the moon and back, twice! That’s amazing as well. Amazing!” They all nodded.

“Great! What about you Zinzi? Anything amazing to tell us?”

Zinzi was quiet. “I’ll try to think of something!” she said. “I know. Remember that 10 year anniversary for Hairy Bob’s Skate Park? About 200 riders on BMX, skateboards, scooters and hardly a collision! Amazing!” They all nodded.

They continued their walk, getting closer to the sea, though having no intention of paddling. 

Grandpa was enjoying this walk. “What could be better?” he thought. “Me and the children at North Bay, Scarborough, on my birthday, and they’ve bought me a Till…...”

He couldn’t finish his sentence, because when he said “Till”, a sudden big blast of wind swooped along the beach and Grandpa’s brand new Tilley hat went flying in the air….. and out to sea!

“Ahhhhhh!” gasped Zinzi. “Oh no!” cried Freddie. “By ‘eck” yelled Grandpa. “That’s me new hat! Brand new today!”

The hat was bobbing on the waves. “Oh Grandpa!” said Zinzi. “It’s too far out to paddle!” said Freddie.

“Tilley hats can float Grandpa,” said Freddie, but Grandpa was very despondent. His Tilley wasn’t coming in on the tide.

“I don’t want to watch this,” said Grandpa. “Let’s go home!”

And so the three began to walk off the beach, slowly, glumly. They had got about halfway to the beach steps, when somebody started shouting. A lady was shouting at them. They turned round and a lady surfer was running towards them, holding up Grandpa’s hat. She had seen what had happened and paddled across to rescue the hat.

“Is this yours mayte!” she said in a clear Australian accent. “You bet it is, by ‘eck!” said Grandpa in his best Yorkshire accent. “Thank you so much!”

“Moi plisha mayte!” and off she went.

“Grandpa!” said Zinzi. “We all know what that surfer is like,” and they all said it together,  AMAZING!!!!!”

Time to go home. What a memorable, amazing birthday for Grandpa!


Copyright  joecoates2019


I once tried surfing, without any tuition. I couldn’t stand up at all on that board. As a Beach Boys  and Jan and Dean fan I imagined I would “catch a wave and be sittin’ on top o’ the world” in no time at all. My advice to would-be surfers is to get some instruction, join a class.