YOU must have read the story about those poor blighters in London who waited to go to the local lido for three hours on the hottest day of the year, and got turned away.

The police even turned up to stop people fighting to get in.

I was thinking of that lido the same afternoon on the way back from work.

When I got home, I pulled on my bathing shorts, grabbed a towel and a winsome companion, and set off through the nearby park for the beach.

I live in Ryde, in what we are told is one of the most deprived wards in the country.

So let me tell you one thing we are not deprived of — a beach.

And Ryde Sands on a hot summer's evening is arguably one of the best places in the world for casual swimming.

First, the temperature. Growing up in Sandown, I learnt at an early age that the water — when you first get in — is eye-wateringly cold even on the hottest days.

The wisdom of age, and a move to Ryde, has taught me that it doesn't have to be this way.

Time your swim perfectly with the incoming tide, as I did, and you will receive with sybaritic delight the bath-like swirls of seawater heated by the huge expanse of warm sand that has been cooking in the sun all afternoon.

Next, the view. Yes, there's always the Matterhorn or Machu Picchu if you like postcards, but I'm going to stick my neck out for the sun sinking over Ryde Pier whilst the wispy, pink clouds drift across the sky and the whole of the eastern Solent basks in its ruddy glow.

The night we went we even had a big cruise ship slipping by to add a bit of romance.

Then the wildlife. I'll skip over the privilege of swimming in one of the most highly protected natural habitats in the world, and recall how as I drifted in the balmy waters, looking at my toes, I could hear the screaming of the swallows high above, and watch them swooping to pick insects from the air.

Fronds of green sea-grass drifted lazily by, and a few tiny glittering fish twinkled in the shallow pools as we waded out.

We shared our evening dip with a seagull who, pecking flying ants from the limpid surface, kept a weather eye on us sea mammals as we bobbed idly in its domain, but otherwise seemed indifferent to our presence.

I thought of those poor sweltering Londoners, stuck in their city, the sun beating down on them as they waited in vain to pay for their turn standing in a tepid bath of malodorous water. I thought about it long enough to realise that today, I was the lucky one, the one privileged to live in the absolutely perfect spot.

Maybe the streets are paved with gold in London, but what use is gold when you want a beach?

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