The Beach Diaries #18
* A man in an electric wheelchair rolls speedily along the prom, a fully constructed board from the game ‘Mousetrap’ resting on his lap tray.
* A fat girl with a tattooed neck flails and runs in circles from the dog whose short lead she’s holding.
“Stop farting on me!” she bellows, “Fuck’s sakes!”
* An old man says the phrase “He makes his money designing webs.” While it’s most likely one of those cute old-people takes on tech-speak, and he merely has a grandson who’s a computer nerd, I prefer to think that the gentleman’s grandson is a giant spider. And also, how he reacted when his daughter first brought home the boy’s father. “I’m sorry, I did a casserole… look, I’ll go upstairs and pick some flies off the bathroom windowsill. I’ll go and get a dish. Just make yourself at home…”
* Old people and technology becomes a theme, as a man with a thick Bolton accent and Mr. Men shirt tries to explain digital cameras to his elderly parents. That whole “Let’s presume all old people call it Surfing the Web and think you might actually drown!” thing is so achingly late-90s, and along with the Bolton accent, as he showily starts explaining the concept of spam, “Not like the stuff you put in your sandwiches!”, I feel like I’m watching the worst Peter Kay routine that never happened. His wife has the same bleached blonde hair with an undercut ‘do that I had in 1998. When I had that, some boys outside a newsagents shouted “Ozzy Osbourne!” at me, throwing up devil horns, and I wondered if they’d ever actually seen him.
* Some youths climb up the frame of the lighthouse and do terribly unimpressive parkour off the railings. That fad must have died. A couple of years ago, all the benches, walls and rails were filled with kids doing terrible, terrible parkour, but you hardly ever see it now. Two of the parkour lads stand on top of the brick shelter, peering down on the people who pass below. A middle-aged couple crane their heads up and tell them off, and the parkour boys climb straight down, without saying a word. They look dreadfully embarrassed as they touch back down on solid ground, and slink away, unable to even meet each other’s eye.
* Overheard conversation snippets. Teenage girl to her friends.
“I was, like, the only one who hugged him when he left…”
* A group of kids play wallball with a football, against the wall of the coastguard tower, itself positioned on a rolling slope. The entire game consists of the mouthiest kid shouting “’scuse me, could you pass me my ball?” to various beach-goers, in his Artful Dodger urchin voice, as it rolls, flies and bounces everywhere but the wall. It trundles beneath a bench, where an old man fumbles to even see it, let alone retrieve it; it thunks gently yet always startlingly into the backs of people sitting on the edge of the prom; it bounces between the legs of those just trying to take a leisurely stroll. When Urchin’s mum arrives and makes him get changed under a towel in the middle of that same busy pathway, the bluster vanishes like so many seagull-snatched chips.
Lesbian Peter Griffin in a mobility scooter
Pretend crazy-era Joaquin Phoenix
Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart
Amish John McCririck
Black Boy George
* Hot Lifeguard strides onto the sand and plants an enormous red flag, dead level with where I’m sitting. It’s hard not to take this as a sign.
It’s an actual red flag.
Perhaps she, like I, is aware of the narrative need for a conclusion to this summer tale, and feels she must warn me off, in case I plan on doing something utterly ridiculous, like speaking to her. As the end draws ever closer, the sands will eventually become filled with rippling banners that read “DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT – I’D RATHER KISS ACTION BOAT’S PROPELLER” and “NO CLOSER THAN 50 YARDS PLEASE, WEIRDO” in stark, twenty-feet high lettering.
* A man with three teeth wears a t-shirt featuring Mickey Mouse and the words “Florida 2008!” I survive this by pretending he’s merely a mediocre time traveller.
* The breeze carries the distant sound of a machine from the nearby empty amusements, which plays a jangling, pub-style rendition of the Popeye theme. My mind wanders back; first to the school playground, and then to the long-absent Big Shirtless Ron.
“…and when I go swimmin’, I kiss all the wimmin…”