The Beach Diaries #19
* A lady passes with a King Charles Spaniel puppy on a lead, and he makes a break for me. I say hello, and he promptly leaps into my lap and climbs all over me, up my legs and onto my chest, all soft and excited, his puppy-nose prodding at my sunglasses. I sit hugging the happy puppy for a while, but eventually the woman pulls him away, and Oscar the happy puppy skips off. Our meeting is the best moment of the entire summer.
In light of that, and other animal encounters, here is an illustrative chart depicting my interactions during this summer’s beach-going.
You can extrapolate that out into my regular non-beach life to much the same result.
* Overheard conversation snippets Special Edition Spectacular. A family sit nearby, and loudly deride the accent of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. The one doing all the talking, a wiry 39 year old man, correctly and bravely deduces that the sea is “…either coming in or going out.” From there, it’s all I can do to get it down fast enough, all written as verbatim, despite the rapid-fire non-sequitur nature:
“How do you swim in the Channel?” he asks, “With all the riptides? How long does it take in a boat? You’d be all wrinkled.” He sips from a two litre bottle of Dr. Pepper and continues. “Ever taste your own sweat? When you’re in the bath? They say that hot drinks keep you cool and cold drinks keep you warm. Women do go topless, but not here. If you want to see that, then go to a special beach….”
One thing after another after another, the stream of consciousness dubious factoids bring to mind a flu-dream QI marathon, as I scribble like a court stenographer.
“Go topless and keep your bottoms on, if you want a tan. Men do that. Do you want a sandwich? Years ago we used to joke that Kelly looked like a (mouths the word ‘paki’) when she tanned, and Charlie’s ginger, so she’s pale. It’s like putting a chicken in the oven – you’re cooking yourself. That’s what we do when we go sunbathing. We’re meat; we cook ourselves. Gingers are a different meat. Thinner, I suppose.”
A thin finger of smoke trails across the sky, rising from the red-hot nib of my biro.
“Don’t forget, you can go out, he can’t. He hasn’t got the mental agility. I’m not being funny, but when I take him out shopping, I let him take the change. Training him up, see? Tasks.”
Slow, soft fade out. Slow, soft fade back in.
“I don’t really like the soft cheeses. Cathedral, that’s nice. So old it’s gone mouldy. We went to the place where they make cheese. Chedder. Place called Chedder where they make chedder. They had John Virgo up there, doing his cabaret circuit. Clotted cream. Fudge. Lunch and dinner, dinner and pudding together. I used to like Coke a lot, but the recipe has changed.”
I exchange smiles with a frail old lady in a wheelchair, and suddenly, transcribing reams of nonsense seems like a wicked waste of a life.
“Jay keeps reminding me what he done to his mouth on his bike. Nothing to what I done at Devon cliffs. I didn’t fall down a cliff! Me and Barry, we tied me handlebars up so I couldn’t steer. Couldn’t even move them, tied ’em up with ropes. I rode right into a tree. It’s funny now, but at the time, it really hurt. Didn’t go to hospital. We went back and they’ve tied padding round that tree now. Health and safety, innit?”
* A hugely complicated electric wheelchair with a seat made for a small child sits empty in the garden area. On the ground next to it, a mother lays on a towel. A tiny, frail and buckled figure sleeps under a blanket, close at her side.
* Three lads walk along the prom, pushing their bikes. One’s silly little BMX is so small and low to the ground, he self-consciously switches between walking with his back at a ninety degree angle, or doing a strange ‘squat walk’ with his knees bent like he’s trying to catch a pig, ala Four Lions.
* Overheard conversation snippets. Eight-year-old boy to his dad:
“Were you alive when Elvis died? How old were you when Michael Jackson died?”
* A coastguard cleans his van and treats me to a masterclass in slapstick. It’s another thing that sounds made up, but I saw it with my own eyes, and I’ll fight you with a broken lightbulb if you think I’m a liar. He uses a brush, bucket and hose, and the following series of events occurs.
– The coastguard drops the bucket.
– The bucket rolls down the long slope, causing him to give chase, hose still in hand.
– He’s jerked to a rough stop by the hose, which doesn’t reach.
– He drops the hose and runs to the bucket.
– The hose, five yards away, writhes and thrashes on the floor, squirting him in the face with a jet of water.
– As he flinches from the water, he drops the bucket again.
Throughout, my whole body is tensing so hard to stop myself from yelling “Mr. Grimsdale!” that every vertebrae crumbles like a trodden-on Pringle.
* Overheard conversation snippets. Small boy to his grandfather:
“This drink tastes of wee!”