Despite the sunshine, the gently lapping waves and the glorious golden sands stretching as far as the eye could see, I felt anxious. Uncertainty tugged at the corners of my wellbeing and my beach smile became shaky. I shaded my eyes with my hand, scanning the farthest rockpools. 'Where are they?' My voice was drenched with worry.
My husband looked up from the barbecue with a mocking smile.
'Over there you twit,' he said. 'For Christ's sake get some specs.'
The subjects of my angst strode merrily up the beach towards us, laughing and comparing seashells. Two middleaged women, relaxed and happy in the early evening sun.
Four writers and us - at the beach, for a barbie supper. Lovely, of course, and enjoyed by all. But I can't help feeling like a cross between a Jewish mother and a sheepdog. I must know where everyone is at all times. What if a big wave comes and carries one of them off? What if they tumble into a huge rockpool and get munched on by crabs? I worried about all this when my children were small, and while I may not love my retreaters in quite the same way, I feel the same responsibility to them. I even absent mindedly asked one of them if she'd been to the loo before we left. Luckily she thought it was quite funny.