The Return of Beach Holidays, The Byrds and ‘Dolphin’s Smile’

Well, I don’t know about you, but the month of June has really perked me up. A birthday at the start of the month, being able to meet up with friends again, a big football tournament in progress, Wimbledon back on the telly and blow me down, a little holiday. Yes, for the first time in nearly two years we had a few days away and it was such a tonic. Sadly we picked the week with less than perfect weather, and had our trip been this week it would have been glorious, but despite that minor inconvenience we still had a great time.

Then…

Both myself and Mr WIAA had many caravan holidays as children, usually at one of the great beaches that line the Moray Firth coast. Back in those days the caravans were spartan affairs indeed, complete with tables that converted into beds, tiny little gas stoves for cooking and convoluted dual-purpose cupboard space. But it really didn’t matter, as you spent most of your time outside, on the dunes, at the shoreline, or leaping from one Churchill Barrier to the next (that would be at Findhorn). Our parents didn’t even mind either, as for them it was a lovely break away from work and household chores.

and now!

Fortunately for us, our caravan last week was a much fancier affair with a fully fitted kitchen, an en-suite, comfy sofas and a smart telly. In terms of keeping safe, we had it all to ourselves, and also gave it a bit of an additional clean before taking up residence. All very reassuring for our first trip away since the pesky virus put in an appearance.

I have come back laden with pictures but first I’ll attach a link to the post I wrote in 2016, from the last time we visited the beaches of East Sutherland. It seems the same issue arose this time around as it did back then – we had withdrawal symptoms from the lack of Wi-Fi – but once you give in and accept the situation, it’s a great digital detox.

As we arrived on the 21st June, which this year was the day of the summer solstice here in Scotland, I persuaded Mr WIAA to come out for a walk after the sun went down. The problem with living so far north at this time of year is that it never gets truly dark, as these shots (and my early waking sleep patterns) prove. A happy coincidence was that June’s almost full moon was in the sky that night, as I would have missed the perfectly full version later on in the week due to cloud cover.

One of my favourite things to do on a beach holiday is to head off in search of wild flowers which is what I did on the second day of our little break. For once I used my actual camera instead of a phone, so was mighty impressed with some of the close-up shots taken with a macro lens.

Most of our time however was spent on and around the beach itself, and true to form Mr WIAA can still seek out a crab in less than a minute. Probably comes from having spent so much time on such endeavours as a boy.

Despite both being well into middle age now, in fact having just looked it up I am apparently now only four years away from entering old age (scary thought), we do still like building a sand sculpture when at the beach. The site shop fortunately had a good supply of buckets and spades, so, fully equipped, we embarked on this year’s creation. Much to the amusement of passers by, who told us to ‘play nice’, it only took an hour to build this large dolphin which from the air looks as if it’s leaping out of the ocean – A happy coincidence from having picked a spot just above the tide line. I don’t think it’s just me, but it seems to look concave right at the start of the film and then changes to convex as it pans out. An intriguing optical illusion.

As is our habit we built a sand sculpture, then filmed it from the air


But what the heck, this is supposed to be a music blog, so where is the music? To be fair I think you will excuse me rambling on about my holiday, and for sharing so many pictures, it having been such a bizarre 15 months. We seem to be deriving much more enjoyment from simple pleasures, which is a good thing perhaps. The reset button has been pressed which had it not been for such an awful reason, was probably needed anyway (although the airlines and travel companies will no doubt disagree).

When I did a quick search I found quite few ‘dolphin songs’ but here is one that surprised me. Olivia Newton-John recorded the song Physical in 1981, only three years after portraying the virginal Sandy in the film Grease. What I hadn’t realised was that on the B-side was this song, The Promise (The Dolphin Song). Olivia even puts in an appearance halfway through the video clip, swimming with the dolphins rather than Danny Zuko.

The Promise (The Dolphin Song) by Olivia Newton-John:


But for me the winner is this song, Dolphin’s Smile by the Byrds from their fifth album The Notorious Byrd Brothers. I often mention around here that my favourite year to journey back to, in terms of music, is 1967, and sure enough that was when this album was recorded. I also seem to have a great affinity for that late ‘60s blend of psychedelia, folk rock, baroque pop, and jazz championed by bands like the Byrds who had taken up residence in the Laurel Canyon area of LA. Ironically the making of this album was fraught with tension, resulting in the loss of two members of the band. David Crosby was fired in October 1967 and drummer Michael Clarke left the band midway through recording, returning briefly before finally being dismissed after completion of the album. 

Dolphin’s Smile by the Byrds:


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – Life does seem to be getting back to a semblance of normality here in the UK but there is still seemingly a lot of confusion over rules and restrictions. Wembley Stadium is full of football supporters, yet fathers still have to walk their daughters down the aisle in a facemask in front of a very limited gathering of guests. I am busy hosting holiday-makers at my place, yet am still fearful about travelling myself.

The Byrds, looking very young indeed

But throughout all the confusion we still have music, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to my music device on holiday last week. I’ve also enjoyed discovering the featured song by the Byrds. It might be next year until we build another sand sculpture, but in the meantime at least we have our little film to remind us of our own dolphin’s smile. (Too much? Yes, I suspected so.)

Until next time…

Dolphin’s Smile Lyrics
(David Crosby/Chris Hillman/Roger McGuinn)

Out at sea for a year
Floating free from all fear

Every day blowin’ spray,
In a dolphin’s smile

Wind-taut line split the sky,
Curlin’crest rollin’ by
Floating free aimlessly,
In a dolphin’s smile

Rainbow’s end everywhere,
Full of light, free as air
Childhood’s dream,
Have you ever seen a dolphin’s smile

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

23 thoughts on “The Return of Beach Holidays, The Byrds and ‘Dolphin’s Smile’”

    1. I know you love beach locales so this is my Cape Cod.

      Have become very fond of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash of late. Dolphin’s Smile was a great new discovery.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Glad you enjoyed your holiday and loved your beautiful photographs. Speaking of old age, I first heard the Byrds’ “Dolphin’s Smile” when I was just 17. It was one of the tracks on the first bargain priced sampler LP “The Rock Machine Turns You On” in 1968. That album got me listening to other bands but the Byrds’ track has remained a favourite.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, we had a really great time.

      That’s one of the upsides of getting older, we now have a vast bank of ‘music and memories’. Loving the Byrds at the moment and all the Laurel Canyon era music. I fear I was born too late!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So glad you had a good getaway. Gorgeous photos and great song. The last time I stayed in a caravan was so long ago (i.e. in my childhood!) and iit was just as you describe – all very ingenious space-saving stuff with the tables/beds etc. but extremely basic and cramped. I can still get that smell of the calor gas-stove now if I think about it. We were staying near a field full of cows and I remember waking up in the night once thinking they must be trying to get in, the mooing was so loud – only to realise it was actually just my dad snoring! The caravan you stayed in looks positively luxurious. Just hope you didn’t shake any bottles of tomato sauce too vigorously (I couldn’t help but picture that scene from ‘Still Game’).
    I really love the dolphin! But, Alyson, how on earth did you film it….? Do you have a drone? (or a crane?!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was a Monday to Friday break, between guests at the holiday house, so we made the most of it. Yes, my first holiday away with Mr WIAA was in his mum and dad’s towing caravan. It was spartan indeed but we were young and had so much fun – Sadly Mr WIAA’s foot went through the bit of board that made the table into a bed, whilst he was holding his bowl of cornflakes! We had to pick cornflakes off the curtains which were also drenched in milk – Not a great start. I think they’re called mobile homes nowadays and very swish indeed in comparison. Nice to have the whole place to yourself and just a stone’s throw from the beach.

      Glad you like the dolphin – The second we’ve built on that beach. Yes, Mr WIAA got a drone for his big birthday, and has been out and about filming some of our great scenery. Boy’s toys.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It was great – Hoping to go again later on in the summer.

      I should have known you would have put together a Dolphin Top Ten at some point. No Olivia in that one though, or Tori Amos, whose song was also a contender. And yes, I think I can see what you mean about it looking like the Alien. They’re here already!

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  3. Great post. The convex/concave dolphin effect is sometimes known as the “hollow mask” and happens because the brain expects the object to be convex, and so “reprocesses” what it is seeing to make sense of it. Take a look at this clip from QI when they discuss the effect: https://youtu.be/ORoTCBrCKIQ

    Also, the aerial shot – is it from a drone? If so, what sort of drone do you have? Would you recommend it?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the bit of science Martin – That’s exactly what’s happening then and had I watched that episode of QI I would have known.

      Yes, it was from a drone, and the other half is the dark figure standing in front of the dolphin operating it. He is loving it I must admit but I’ll have to get back to you later on the make and the model.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. As for the drone Martin, it apparently is a DJI mini 2. It is under 250g so you can fly it pretty much anywhere. It has a 4k video camera and it also takes single shots at 20mb. Mr WIAA would highly recommend it and tells me there are lots of reviews for it on YouTube, so worth checking it out?

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  4. ” only three years after playing the virginal”

    When first glancing at this post, I thought “I don’t know that much about Olivia Newton-John, but I’m surprised that she played the harpsichord”. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What a fabulous post Alyson. So glad that you’ve been able to get away for a short break, it looks and sounds lovely – I’m frankly quite envious! The photos are fantastic and the sand sculpture (plus inspired drone footage) quite brilliant. You’ve managed to stir up dim and distant memories of my own family caravan holidays from the 1960s, in cramped conditions much as you described, not to mention reminding me of the hilarious Noel Furlong and the tiny caravan he briefly shared with Father Ted and Dougal.

    As for Dolphin songs, it’s hard to argue with your choice of The Byrds, though my personal favourite is this…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I said above, we are all just so happy to be able to go anywhere at the moment, and there’s something lovely about beach holidays – Reminds you of your childhood I think (with much better appointed accommodation).

      Father Ted with Graeme Norton in a caravan! Somehow I missed that/those episodes but just watched – Very funny and the size of the caravan very like the ones we used to stay in as children. Camping really in tin, not canvas.

      Glad you liked my choice of song by the Byrds – beautiful. Not heard your one before so thanks for sharing. Still prefer the Byrds though!

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      1. Oh yes, I’d forgotten that Graham Norton episode of Father Ted – brilliant – and very similar to how I remember my childhood caravan holiday too.
        Also re. Tim Buckley, something very special about Dolphins – it was a central piece of music at my dear friend Andy’s funeral and strangely calming/uplifting at such a sad time.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I must have missed it first time around, but very funny and doesn’t Graham Norton look young.

          Gosh, that must have brought it all back about your friend’s funeral. Both calming and uplifting – Exactly what is required at such times.

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