The Beach Diaries 2012 – #17
* Like someone changed the fuse the sun blew out at the end of May, the summer is suddenly here. The way that people clog the petrol pumps in panicked lines at whispers of a shortage, so they pack the beach, tearing at their clothes to expose pale skin to the rays before it all runs out.
* “Scuse, scuse, scuse!” says a heavily accented boy of about sixteen. As I go to pass, his friends all begin to surround me from behind while trying to look like they’re not. I push by and go on my way, and my liberal, Laurie Penny-retweeting brain wonders if I’m being racist, warped by pre-Olympics warning ads where Fagin-style boy-gangs trek across from the Continent especially to empty our backpacks, while their accomplices point quizzically point at a map. But really, what were they going to do, give me a well deserved group hug? When I get around the corner, I check my bag anyway. Nothing’s been stolen, confirming it — I’m a racist.
* Overheard conversation snippets. Seven-year-old boy, in raspy, robotic tones.
“I’ve. Got. Laser-beam eyes. I’ve. Got. Laser-beam eyes.”
* Everywhere you care to turn your gaze, groups of friends relax in the sun, each with their own shirtless lad who stands fingering at his abs, in case the girls in the group haven’t been paying attention.
* A navy band in full uniform, flanked by old men with medals pinned to their chests, march piously along the prom playing ‘Hitler Only had One Ball’, for seemingly no reason at all. Presumably they’re just showing off. A few years ago, a pack of roughly 150 Christians from a church outing danced the length of the seafront in a giant, massed line, lone guitar player leading the way, singing loudly as one about Jesus’ love for us all. The smiles on their faces were so big and trying so hard, it felt like the desperate final act of a dying species, scattering their seed to the winds in the hope that something would take root.
* A man sleeps in a deckchair, with a big china dinner plate resting on his forehead, shielding his face from the sun.
* Overheard conversation snippets. Passing lad to another lad.
“Dr. Seuss fucking shit, and all that shit.”
* An infrequently-toothed man in his fifties, shirtless and heavily tattooed, sits backwards on a bench, arms resting on the top and legs fed through the back, like AC Slater.
* Two guys in their twenties, but with the withered faces of old men, sit to my front with their backs to me, with a woman settling between them. The men pass a joint between them on shaky, chewed fingers. Deep-set crow’s feet and wrinkle lines fold their faces as they inhale. Their voices are cracked and slurry, aged before their time just like their bodies; monochrome photographs of black-lunged child miners. There’s something about that weed, beer and tracksuits lifestyle that shunts people’s faces towards a look that’s closer to lizard than man. The woman opens a copy of The Sun and reads aloud the story of the Denver shootings. Clearly and unashamedly, it’s a man’s voice, and her straight, flat shape and now-obvious bob-styled wig tells the rest of that tale. I wonder how this interesting threesome came to meet; the middle-aged transvestite and the two lizard-boys, as she reads out tabloid facts about immigrants, who are “all criminals” in a voice you’d swear was coming from a builder if you closed your eyes.
Though they have their backs to me, they’re facing into the heavy footfall of the prom, and the woman draws heavy stares. Two small boys follow her with their gaze, open-mouthed all the way around the corner, laughing behind hands when they’re out of eyeshot. Others gawp as though they’re less amused than offended. With her friends, she walks away – lolloping, masculine gait; bra stuffed with something round and pointy as an orange – and I wonder if she feels beautiful; so self-assured that the stares and nudges don’t even register. The peeeep of a nearby lifeguard’s whistle reminds me of that base, animal craving that lives in all of us, no matter how deep it’s buried, to feel desirable. A wig, skirt, and pair of hoop earrings seems a bargain price for that kind of confidence in who you are.
* A scruffy chap, with a thin strand of combover plastered to his head with sweat, sits down on the wall. He wrenches off a shoe, resting it next to him on the wall, takes a filthy handkerchief out of his pocket, and proceeds to mop up the sweat from his bare foot, being sure to get right between every toe.
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.