That wonderful sea smell….jpg

That wonderful sea smell…

By BARRIE MAHONEY [email protected]

Barrie Mahoney was a teacher, headteacher and school inspector in the UK, as well as a reporter in Spain, before moving to the Canary Islands as a newspaper editor. He is still enjoying life in the sun as a writer and author.

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside!” goes the familiar music hall song and maybe most of us agree with the sentiment. It is also a pretty safe bet that if you are reading this ‘Twitter’, you are either living by the sea or thinking about doing it!

We Brits love our traditional seaside holiday resorts. Strolling along the promenade wearing a thick pullover, gloves and scarf on a cold, wet day, breathing in the fresh sea air just makes us feel so glad to be alive, doesn’t it?

Alright, we also look forward to going back home to a cosy fire and a hot cup of coffee to thaw out. We Brits are mostly a hardy lot and somehow, at the time, the cold and damp didn’t seem to matter too much because we were breathing in all that fresh ozone. It is just so good for us, or is it?

As a child growing up in rural Lincolnshire, on the blustery east coast of England, it became a family tradition that if any of us were recovering from a cold or flu, my father would always take us to Skegness for the day. “This’ll blow away those germs, lad,” he would say, although privately I suspected that when I got home, I would end up with pneumonia anyway. Yes, Skegness was just so bracing and that sea air, well…!

So, Skegness it was to be for much of my early life, later to be superseded by the delights of seaside resorts that I still know and love. Blackpool, Weymouth, Bournemouth, Brighton, Benidorm …! Benidorm, now where did that come from? Like many of us, I quickly learned that to enjoy more of the delights of the seaside that didn’t require the protection of a raincoat, scarf and gloves would mean a move overseas.

As I grew older, the longing for the seaside was never far away. Those bracing walks with the dogs were quickly followed by a leisurely look through the holiday brochures to plan our next holiday in the sun.

One thing was for certain, even though I didn’t like the cold, wet, grey bank holidays by the sea in the UK, I did feel a longing to be beside a sea that was blue, clean and sparkling. Like so many before me, I dreamt of sunbathing on golden beaches, and not the muddy flats of coastal Lincolnshire.

Maybe it would be the Costa Blanca, the Canary Islands, the Algarve, or further afield if funds permitted? Very quickly the dream of living by a seaside that I could visit anytime that I wished became too much, and this is why I am now living only a very short distance from the sea; a move that I am very thankful for.

So what is it that gives the seaside its distinctive flavour? The sand? The endless rolling waves or the distinctive smell? Maybe it really was the “bracing ozone” that my father was convinced would do us the power of good during our period of recuperation? It took me some years to discover the truth.

So what is it that gives the sea its distinctive smell? The unmistakable whiff that we associate with summer holidays?  Without wishing to ruin the romantic view of the sea that many of us share, that wonderful smell of the sea is actually due to nothing more exotic than flatulence; wind, burps and farts to you and I!

The seaside’s familiar “bracing” smell is caused by a chemical produced by coastal bacteria, which is present in very low concentrations. Basically, it is micro organisms in the sea, tucking into tasty morsels of plankton that they like best, and relieving themselves with a little burp afterwards.

So, the next time that you are enjoying a spot of sea air, just remember and be thankful for the countless millions of microscopic organisms enjoying their lunch in the sea, and relieving themselves of excess wind afterwards. Breathe deeply now!

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: and or read his latest novel, ‘Journeys and Jigsaws’ (ISBN: 9781843865384).