The Great British Beach Holiday

Martin Hinton has ten pieces of advice for those of you considering taking a holiday by the seaside in the UK. If you want to not look out of place among the Brits sitting on the beach, then remember to do the following:

Go to the seaside. The Brits love what they call "bucket and spade" holidays and flock to resorts such as Brighton, Blackpool and Torquay to relax on the beach. The younger generation (and a lot of the older generation too, come to think of it, these days) prefer the warmer Mediterranean destinations. But for an authentic British experience the uncertain temperatures (roughly the same as the Baltic sea resorts) will do nicely.

Sit on the beach. Whatever the weather, you must sit on the beach. You have come to the seaside for the beach and you are going to sit on it, no matter what. British clothes designers always include coats, jumpers and even gloves in their "beach wear collections" to make this possible. This attitude must be maintained in both the coolest and the hottest temperatures - sunburn or frostbite are both essential ingredients on a truly successful trip.

Build sandcastles. You might have a problem here because in Britain the buckets used for sandcastles are actually shaped like castles, with towers in the corners and everything. Also, small packets of flags are sold at shops along the sea front with which to decorate the castles once they've been made. It shouldn't be so difficult to improvise these, however. Remember, solid, well-built castles which you aren't going to destroy have to have Britain's national flag - the Union flag - on top. (Misshaped and badly made ones, which might collapse at any moment, look better with a French Tricolour). A moat is a must, and tunnels are desirable.

Go in the water. The colder the better, just so as you can tell others that you've done it. And you must go all the way in. Paddling along the water's edge is acceptable if there is snow on the ground. Otherwise, full immersion is required. The icy waters of the Baltic are not unlike those of the North Sea and Poles seem to have similar ideas about the bracing qualities of a freezing swim - so this one should come naturally.

Take too much stuff. British families on their way to and from the beach look like nomads moving village. The fear of not having something you might need is strong, and things never look as heavy in your hotel room as they feel after five minutes walking. Among the required items will be: a windbreak, deckchairs, a lunch hamper plus additional flasks of tea, a variety of sports equipment (which must include a cricket set), library books borrowed especially for the occasion, jumpers, coats, sunhats, a parasol and possibly a cool box for dad's beer (although this is the first thing to be left behind when mum sees that she will have to carry something). Which brings us to:

Take your parents. These holidays are family affairs. It doesn't matter that you spend the other fifty weeks of the year avoiding each other's company; your two weeks of relaxation must be spent together. If you have annoying younger brothers and sisters then you're really going to get the full experience. And it will be easy to:

Have arguments. The British are famous for avoiding scenes, not rowing if they can help it, and certainly not in public. This rule, however, goes out the car window at the first sharp corner, when one child complains, "I feel sick". The fun really begins three hours into the traditional traffic jam on the one truly hot day of the summer. The next fortnight should, ideally, be one long round of accusation and recrimination. But don't take it too seriously; it's all part of the fun!

Stay somewhere less comfortable than home. Other nations go on holiday to enjoy a little luxury. That is not the British way. In the British mentality, all good experiences rely on overcoming hardships. Therefore, your accommodation should be simple, even downright uncomfortable if possible. This shouldn't be too hard to arrange; simply choose one of the cheaper rooms on offer at any B&B. If it's still too cosy you can always sleep on the floor.

Get up early. It is a curious custom in British B&Bs, which are everywhere in holiday resorts, that breakfast is served as early as possible, and often for a very brief period; from 7:30 to 7:45, for example. This saves money for the landladies as lots of guests miss breakfasts altogether and encourages those who do get up in time to go out early as well. And this is important if you're really going to enjoy a full day's fun, because your landlady will probably expect you back before the 11:00 pm curfew. Getting her to open the door after that time won't be easy.

Remember your holiday fondly. You might think that if you follow the instructions above you'll be keen to forget your holiday entirely, but no! All that bad weather, arguing and getting up early will, after a few weeks, form the basis of some of the best memories of your life and encourage you to follow another British tradition - going back to the same place to do it all over again next year and the year after that.

There is one more thing you should do: ride a donkey along the beach, though this is only for the truly committed. First you'll have to find a donkey, and then get it to the beach. Avoid the lifeguards and other authorities who are unlikely to be pleased by the spectacle.