Tahunanui Beach in Nelson on a hot afternoon

Nelson fills with visitors in the summer. I live here so I plan to stay home, gardening, swimming, reading in my favourite chair under the plum tree, till my work resumes in mid-January. Hard to beat, surely?

After a day or two of pottering I feel as though I'm on house arrest. I take myself to Tahunanui beach and set off for a late afternoon walk. A game of cricket is persisting, Canute-like, while the tide laps one side of the pitch. The bowler lines up the wicket and I pause while he hurls the tennis ball fast and straight. The batter blocks it with a sharp clunk, it whizzes past me and into the waiting hands of the lone fielder. We exchange grins as he jogs in to take the bat.

A few paces down the beach, the scene is reproduced in miniature with eight year olds and a blue plastic cricket set. The pitch is only a couple of metres long and a pony-tailed girl bowls overarm to a smaller boy. Ah, beach cricket.

I pass two sandcastles, some earthworks waiting for the tide to fill the channels, a hole with no obvious purpose, then come alongside two lines of people facing each other across a large scuffed rectangle. I think of bullrush at primary school, the quivering anticipation and the lurch of fear when my name was called. A white disc swings over the sand and they all rush forward. Ultimate frisbee.

On the Surf  Lifesaving platform two teenage girls are studying their nails and chatting. Surf is overstating it for Tahuna and swimming between the flags is a broad notion. Three young men, treading water in a triangle, throw a ball from one to the other. People old and young bob, chatting. A swimmer sets off for a few strokes, changes his mind and bobs with the others. A sign 'training in progress' explains why the rescue boat is going round in circles.

In the distance, kites fly and swoop, carrying their surfers out beyond the sandspit and sometimes lifting them into the air. Wet-suited figures are rigging up on the sand to practise flying their huge kites before committing to the water.

I turn and walk back. The frisbee players jostle and leap. Both sets of cricket are over but some kind of pitch and toss with blocks of wood and sticks has started up in a new rectangle. The trick seems to be to throw the stick so that it slides along the sand and skittles one of the blocks.

A man with a towel around his fully clothed shoulders walks past on a mission. Two women who are holding hands, let go as they get closer. I turn, hoping they will reach out to each other again once they've passed me.

At the far end of the beach there are no people. A dozen oyster catchers face the incoming tide in neat columns. A bigger rabble of gulls mills around. Soon even their prints will be erased.

This great entry in our Summer Holiday Writing Competition was submitted by Jan Marsh of Nelson.

Between the flags