I glanced only casually at the sign just as we reached the beach, but the message was crystal clear: ‘No dogs’ in Helvetica and in capital letters. Under it, a symbol of a dog crossed out, just in case.

I was excited about the beach, in the same way I was as a kid, the vast flatness of the sand inviting us to start the steady trudge to the water’s edge.

After 19 months of going nowhere, we were somehow at Wells-next-the-Sea and remembering how much we both love the seaside: the space, the freedom but always with one eye on the water in case a wave catches us out.

Everywhere else you looked, there were dogs, on leads and off, just playing and loving it as much as we were. During the pandemic, 3.2 million UK households have bought a pet.

Most of the dogs were on our beach; perhaps the owners thought the new circumstances of the past few months meant the signs didn’t apply to them.

I didn’t realise quite how much I needed a week away in our cottage until we arrived. We looked around with childlike glee at the chairs, a table, a fridge, that weren’t ours! I spent a lot of time on the sofa staring at the garden birds and marvelling at the peace and quiet.

When you live in a city cheek by jowl alongside others – and especially under stressful restrictions – you forget there are corners of England where there is still space and silence.

Back on the beach, we lay for a while on the dunes in the sun. Suddenly on the breeze a mum, walking by with an errant child, shouted ‘Don’t do that’ and I was transported to the dunes at Mablethorpe on an August day in the early 70s. The awkward, gangly, me getting too tall for my clothes and being told off for something or other.

Being part of a family of five was difficult when all I wanted to do was rebel against everything and read my library book or listen to Cat Stevens. If only I could have learned to just relax, take it easy like I do now. I must go back and tell her to give it 50 years and it’ll be all right.

We walked into town and ate fish and chips on a wall, all the time guarding them from those blessed dogs. After a sunny few hours, the rain came. It turned out to be one of the wettest May weeks in England ever – but bless every drop. We came back refreshed and ready to go again.