The trick was to go down when everyone else was leaving, all sandy and tired, clutching stripy windbreaks and rolled towels. Then there would be space to park, the beach deserted apart from a few intrepid old folks taking their regular evening dip, and gulls picking over ice-cream wrappers.
On the few times we got down there earlier, this curved, 1950s? treats place would still be open. If Mum was feeling unusually flush, she would allow an ice-cream. I can remember seeing the blue and white facade looming each time we walked onto the promenade from the steps down the cliff, and wondering if this might be a 'flush day' or a 'make do with a wrinkly apple' day.
If gran took me to the beach, she would get a cup of tea and ask me to choose between crisps and chocolate (an agonising choice for a seven or so year old). Then we would sit on the sand, backs up against the promenade wall; gran with her skinny legs under a tartan blanket, pale lilac perm blowing in the sea breeze, fag, tea and the Daily Mirror.