This morning my wife and I took our younger son to the Brighton Sand Sculpture Festival. I'm not an aficionado of sand, but my wife thought it sounded intriguing. Apparently, the sculptures are made from sand and water alone, with no cheating.
I was expecting a queue. Instead, we found ourselves in what appeared to be an abandoned building site, with cranes and diggers in the background.
After the sand sculptures, we walked along the seafront and found a fish and chip bar, manned by a terrifying man with a tattooed neck. In the background, tinny pop songs were playing. It was the sort of music I normally hate, but at seasides and funfairs it always adds to the general cheer.
Three tracksuited, pot-bellied men in their 60s joined us. "Look, it's the Sopranos..." my wife whispered and for a moment, I was expecting them to ask for a cwawfee. Disappointingly, they turned out to be German: Die Sopranen.
Eating fish and chips on a windy seafront may not have been the height of glamour, but I enjoyed the brief illusion of being an ordinary family doing normal things. I was pleased that we were able to give our younger son a day out, albeit a short one. We arrived home feeling bouyed-up by the experience.
An hour later the phone rang. My wife answered it and I continued valuing books; then I heard her tone of voice change and prepared myself for bad news.