The Beach Diaries 2012 – #1
* So here we are. Season Two. The sequel. Will this go darker and better, like Empire Strikes Back, or shit all over the legacy of the beloved original like some kind of stumbling, literary Nicole Richie? Last year, it was just a thing that I did, but 2012 brings with it the weight of expectation from both sides. Will things change, now that this has pushed aside the Frantic Planets to become my ‘brand’? Now that I know people are watching, will I twirl my hair and push out my chest like a pretty girl whose football captain crush is stealing glances through the gaps in his locker door? Hopes and expectations rely on the randomness of people, and all the wonderful, terrible things that they do. Onward, then, and let’s see what lay ahead this summer.
* Driving past the seafront last night, I saw the circus parked up on the common. They were playing a couple of towns over, but sleeping on our beach. In bed that night, I formulate a plan; the child’s plan; the daydream of everyone who never belonged anywhere. I’m smart, I can juggle like a motherfucker, and there’s nothing I need that can’t be carried in a single bindle. I slip into sleep with fish-eye, neon images of my future playing like a rattly old 8mm. Knife fights against locals as I stand back to back with the bearded lady; an elephant that can ride a penny farthing, and marrying a Chinese acrobat with tattoos right up to her cervix. No more eking out the kind of living a hobo would turn his nose up at; just the open road and endless adventure. A life finally lived.
I get to the common, and all that’s left of the circus are the tire marks scarred into the grass, where they couldn’t get out of town fast enough.
* It’s one of those strange beach days where the weather is glorious, but there’s barely a soul around. Mid-May on a weekday, this place is reserved for the elderly and the unemployable. The lifeguard shack is up, but nobody’s on duty. Us mid-May weekday wretches aren’t even worth saving.
* An old man totters along the empty shoreline, inspecting and collecting the nicest shells and putting them inside the Co-Op carrier bag that dangles from the crook of his arm. As he gets close, he lets out one of those coughs that people do — mostly in sitcoms, but sometimes in real life — when they hope to get someone’s attention and exchange a few human pleasantries. Shamefully, I keep my head buried in my notepad and say nothing, knowing there’s only one direction any conversation between us can take.
“What are you writing there, son?”
“I’m writing about you.”
“Yeah, I’m writing about you, and your shells, and your bag, and when I get home, I’m going to put it on the internet and share it with as many people as I can. That’s how I live. That’s my life.”
Then, too ashamed to meet his gaze or hear a response, I’d march straight out into the waves, arms swinging right up to my chest, and not stopping or looking back until I heard a French accent.
* Another man sits on the beach beside my favourite Beach Diarying spot, taking his own set of notes into a little pad. An imposter, perhaps? Or have I inspired a copycat, like a serial killer whose headline exploits encourage a lonely school janitor to start a collection of severed womens’ feet? In some other corner of the internet, is there another set of Beach Diaries? The same people, conversations and sights, all filtered through another set of eyes; beauty where I see only dirt, or worth in the moments I don’t even bother putting to paper? If he is authoring an alternative set of Beach Diaries, from the sensible haircut and polo shirt, I’m betting there’s a lot less about stones that happen to look like genitals, or the size of various beachgoers’ tits.
* I feel slightly less physically grotesque than last year. In 2011, I felt bloated and made of blancmange, but this year, I could cordially invite passing ladies to come and watch the gun show, and be under no legal obligation to give refunds for false advertising.
* A cardboard box from the bakery lays in the surf, limp and wet from the kiss of the waves. Unable to resist, I hoof it as hard as I can. A soggy, uneaten birthday cake flies into the sea.
* “I WANT COCK” reads the graffiti on the back of the men’s toilet door, in thick, desperate lettering that looks like the pen was held in a fist like a knife. This would make a fine tableau to help economics students visualise the basics of supply and demand, I think, undoing my fly and grasping my own penis. One could further explain how I’ve vastly overstocked, and there’s a strong upward curve in the supply.
* Overheard conversation snippet. A thirty-something woman to her friend:
“The teachers don’t listen to her. That’s why there was that incident where she was sick everywhere.”
* As I get up to walk home, the catch on my canvas belt breaks. To keep from exposing my boxer-briefs to the world, I’m forced to tie the belt to the loops in an actual knot, Compo from Last of the Summer Wine style. Consequently, I’m half-waddling, half-tugging at the shorts, all the way home, like the clown without a circus this day has made me.
The complete collection (plus appendices) of 2011’s Beach Diaries are available to buy for the Amazon Kindle for £1.99/$2.99. If you don’t have a Kindle, Amazon have a free Kindle app for PC/Mac/phones/tablets, available right here.