Life’s a beach + VIDEO

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OH, I do like to be beside the seaside – plastic seagulls, plastic palm trees, manmade sand, no glass in the grains, no dog dirt, cans or the danger of the tide coming in or catching the sun.

Idyllic. Everyone I spoke to on the Mediterranean beach at The Bridges reckons its tops – even at £1 for half an hour with 50p going to the MS charity.

Five year old Layla Smart from Hendon.'Beach area in the Bridges Shopping Centre, Sunderland.

Five year old Layla Smart from Hendon.'Beach area in the Bridges Shopping Centre, Sunderland.

Yes, we’ve had a rubbish summer and Seaburn and Roker may have been stripped of its coveted Blue Flag status, after harmful bacteria was discovered off the coast, but that’s not why the mothers and grans I met in The Bridges were giving our twin resorts a wide berth.

They love the convenience, safety and supervision sitting on deckchairs in the shopping centre as their youngsters play on a swing and a slide, make pot pies and have their faces painted.

All ready made – just like a Greggs pasty – perfectly served at an ambient temperature.

The kids love it and so many make a bee-line for this beach, every time they go into town.

The only complaint I heard was from Hayley Smart, 24, from Hendon and mother to Layla, five, who wished it had water.

She told me: “If they could only somehow put water in. Layla loves it just as it is, because ‘it’s sandy. I can put sand in my sleeves and I like dancing in the sand’.”

A natural Sanddancer, her mam gives in to her demands to play here to “shut her up”.

And like so many I met, their visit to the beach this summer was for the Airshow. I wonder how many kids will grow up thinking The Bridges is the beach.

Joanne Langton, 23, of Grangetown with her girls Codi, five and Courtney, said: “They love it here.

“Every time you come to the town you can’t walk past it.

“It’s the beach and I like it better because it isn’t so packed and you can see what they are doing and they have something to play on.

“I wouldn’t let them go in the sea. Here, I can watch them. You have to have eyes in the back of your head down the beach. Here it’s a lot safer.”

Gran Pat Christie, 68, of Benedict Close, Sunderland, is a regular with three-year-old granddaughter Ava Brogan, popping in three or four times a week.

Again, like many others, Pat said: She would rather come here than go down the beach. It’s all the kids and the atmosphere and you don’t get bullying.

“I had her in Mowbray Park and it was shocking. It was awful all the big kids running on to the little one’s slides and knocking them.”

There’s no denying how much fun, if not in the sun, the kids get from this beach, even if it comes at a price and they are in a centrally- heated hot-spot, air-conditioned building as opposed to the free fresh air.

Five-year-old Ellie Carney and sister Lacey, four, were lapping it up. As for plodging, their mam, Monica, a mother-of-four from Grangetown, said of her youngest: “This one doesn’t like the water.”

Good to see Corrina Cockburn, a mother-of-three from Thorney Close, giving her Gabrielle, 10, Tianna, four, and Cieran, 11, a taste of the real seaside outide of The Bridges.

She said: “We love the beach at Roker and Seaburn because my mam used to take me down.

“So when my mam passed away it’s like passing the memories down. Although Tianna said she liked this beach better while Gabrielle confessed: ‘I like both but I like this one better’.”

What a different story up Penshaw Monument, my next stop. And what a contrast with mothers and grans here taking advantage of a free fun session for their youngsters, building dens in the woods and getting closer to nature and a treasure hunt.

Sisters and mothers-of-two, Tracy Lambert, 40, and Lisa Worley, of Sunderland, had the day before taken their kids to the beach at Seaburn.

Tracy said: “We were in the sea and everything. It was clean.”

They would no more dream of heading for any manmade beach than fly.

And Houghton mother, Penny Pattison, 44, agreed with: “You feel like you are being looked at sitting there. If I was going to spend a day out it wouldn’t be there.”

Pity that Wild Wednesday up the hill to mark national Playday wasn’t better publicised, aimed at encouraging children to do just that.

While Play England’s poll to mark the day highlighted how almost half of 1,000 parents said their children did not play outside because of fears about “stranger danger” and nearly a third because of fears of an accident or injury, every parent I spoke with reckoned they were more on red alert because of scaremongering in the media.

The beach at The Bridges may be a safe option, but it is also an easy one.

How many, I wonder, these school holidays will discover the great outdoors with their parents instead of being cooped up in bedrooms over computers?

“Get out and Play” was the Playday theme. Kids like nothing better. But how many will get the chance?

Pity that far too many will be draggged round shopping malls and, rain or shine, spend their holidays like hot house plants, shut in the house or shut in shops.

Dig in to help our hospice

I’M not holding out any hope that what Alan Titchmarsh and his team did for a children’s hospice in South Yorkshire will be repeated here for our very own Grace House.

That’s why I’m making a heartfelt appeal to any landscape gardeners to transform the gardens at the Sunderland children’s hospice as a moving goodwill gesture to all those who will share the most special of memories with their families.

Titchmarsh was in tears at the Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice surveying the poignant moment parents left mementoes, pebbles engraved with their child’s name, in the ITV 1 series, Love Your Garden.

No doubt he’ll be inundated, but surely we have our own Titchmarsh on home turf.

If that’s you, Kathy Secker, founder of Grace House, would be absolutely over the moon to hear from you. She has a team of volunteer gardeners ready and waiting with their shovels and even garden centres offering plants.

What’s missing is someone to move on to the turf laid by Gentoo and come up with a masterplan for the garden and create something wonderful.

Kathy was thrilled and excited at the prospect of this appeal and said: “Anyone who saw the Titchmarsh programme will see what a wonderful thing a children’s hospice garden is.

“It’s a celebration of the lives of the children who are there and lives of the children who have passed away. It’s happy, vibrant, bright, colourful with sensory areas in a beautiful setting.”

The basic design is there. Could you be the person to bring it to life? If you are, contact Grace House on 516 6302.

Having a mare

WHAT defines a lady?

Not what she wears, but what comes out of her mouth.

Rubbing shoulders with the classy and classless at Ladies Day at Gosforth Park last Saturday, it was a field of two halves.

Repeatedly I heard well-turned-out fillys falling down at the first hurdle – getting into the racecourse with language to turn the air blue.

“This is my f....... exercise for the day,” shouted one, another “I’m f....... desperate for a wee, so am tekkin me shoes off,” and “Me f...... eyelashes are dropping off.”

Inside the ground was no different and these were no ladies, who sadly resort to expressing themselves with the f-word not just when their horse doesn’t come in, but whenever and wherever in normal conversation.

Losers every one of them.

What’s fashion?

SO Sunderland’s fate is now sealed “as a fashion hub in the North East”.

News to me, given all we’ve got to look forward to is a new Primark.

But that is such cause for celebration that Andy Bradley, centre director at The Bridges, said on its handing over: “We are now the proud owners of an even bigger and greater shopping centre and has cemented The Bridges as a fashion hub in the North East.”

It will take more than Primark to put us in that class. It’s just a bigger one for the buggy brigade to take over – more a mother and baby hub.

Drunken British girls’ exposed

ON a very different beach, Magaluf in Majorca, I see shameless, drunken British girls, at 2am pulling up their T-shirts to bare their breasts.

Short of money, according to one national newspaper, they were offering boys the chance to suck their nipples in exchange for a couple of euros.

Maybe one for a lager and lime or two for a cocktail.

Whatever, this is no laughing matter and the fact is our teenagers are now notorious for their drunken antics.

So much so that a recent Foreign Office report said “many British teenagers are likely to indulge in risky behaviour”, with a spokesman adding: “A lot go wild. The sunshine, coupled with drinking cheap beer and cocktails can land them in serious trouble.

“At worst they risk being brought home in a coffin.”

The rise in balcony deaths in Magaluf is so frightening that the holiday company Thomson specifically warn of the dangers on its website with “after drinking alcohol your judgement might be affected”.

Sound judgement and morals have certainly gone out the window when a group of five girls from Hull, aged between 18 and 22, made that disgusting offer for a drink.

One of them, a well-spoken teenager called Jessica, who had just left school after taking her A-levels, was reported saying: “It seemed a good way to get a bit of extra money for the holiday.

“We had all had a bit to drink. I realise you could call what we did minor prostitution. If our parents found out, they’d go mad.”

How disgusting and how dangerous that girls have so little self respect. Drink is not to blame, but self-worth shot to smithereens – they’re as cheap as the shots they down.

Not a recipe for a happy marriage

DOMESTIC Godess equals domestic bliss.

I’m not so sure after reading between the lines of Nigella Lawson’s husband Charles Saatchi, who wrote this surprising piece about the misery of marriage in the London Evening Standard, describing it as “a flawed ideology with a miserable track record that only gives comfort to the insecure and the needy, like me”.

Then he marvels at the idea of a “brank,” an iron muzzle used in 16th century Scotland for clamping the tongues of nagging women and grumbles that today “it would probably be considered inappropriate by Health and Safety”.

Apparently the BBC has built a replica of Nigella’s kitchen because she felt if she filmed her series, Nigellissima, at home, it would be too intrusive for her teenage children.

Not as intrusive as her husband’s comments. But then she has admitted: “I’m not someone who’s endlessly patient and wonderful”.

What woman is?

The Axe: The Colling hit list

LET the axe fall on cyclists, racing through our precincts and on pavements as if they owned them, totally irresponsible and having no regard for pedestrians.

One, in Blandford Street the other day, raced so fast it’s a wonder no one was knocked down.

If those on push bikes can’t accord us on two legs the common courtesy of being careful when they pedal in our midst, they should be banned from pedestrian walkways and told very plainly “On yer bike”.