The Beach Diaries 2012 – #8
* A man and woman walk slowly alongside the long bench, necks at a tilt, reading aloud the dedications on the slats.
“Oh, I know that couple,” says the man, excitedly. “He cheated on her, and now they’ve split up.”
* Nestling between the signs bidding travellers ‘Welcome to Littlehampton’ and ‘Welcome to Rustington’, there’s a ten yard No Man’s Land, neither one town nor the other. Perhaps I’ll set up my own kingdom in that unclaimed stretch of Sea Road. There’s enough room for a throne and a small King’s court, if we spread out over the pavements on both sides of the street. I don’t need many, just a couple of knights and a motley jester, and a wizened old man who claims to know “the magic of the sea” but is really just one of the tramps from the bus shelter. Whoever wants to bend the knee and pledge fealty to me will be welcome to join us, but any shirtless lads who swagger between those signs will likely find their football tattoos swinging from the bad end of a gibbet. Mine is a place for those who never did to finally belong. Especially if they’re cool or sexy.
I’ll name my kingdom Beach Town, and our anthem shall be Helter Skelter, with that love-and-death barefoot spirit of Hollywood ’69. We’ll have a national dress of t-shirts and shorts that come down past the knees for the men, and bikinis or wetsuits for the ladies, extracting a toll from those wishing to pass through our lands, or else it’s the brine for them. But the laid back, surf-hippy atmosphere will make Beach Town’s crown desirable, and with no heirs and no queen, usurpers behind the breakwater will mean to take my head. I’ll rule like King Joffrey, with a brutal, sociopath’s fist, and a scroll that speaks of ancient prophecy and “the return of the one called Ron…” who’ll see us strike out beyond our borders and claim the entire coast, leaving the shores awash with the blood of all the cocky beach-pricks and sneery mockers, and grown adults who ride around on those silly little scooters.
At night, in our coral beds, Beach Town dreams of that day, when the Seagulls attack, and the mermaids and krackens come rising to our call. Until then, we wait, living free and happy beneath the glare of the sun, while at the other end of the prom, the tourists browning themselves on the sands of our neighbours, flirting and giggling on the Cool Kid section of Littlehampton seafront, will hear the cry and turn their heads.
“Who run Beach Town?!”
It probably belongs to Arun District Council though.
* An old lady’s mobile rings. It’s that famous Nokia ringtone, as used on Trigger Happy TV, that lost its novelty sometime back in the last century. The old lady sings along to the tune, in a playful opera voice, as I imagine she’s done every single time she’s gotten a call.
* I had a dream last night that Vigo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters 2 was interrogating me. He wanted to know how I’d rank the various ethnicities, in order of sexual attractiveness. People were watching, and I felt he was setting me up, as he forced me to admit that every women ever I’ve liked in real life was white. Even though, as I told him, that’s only because I’ve never really known any non-white women, his face wore a smug expression that said “You doth protest too much, you dirty bigot. The penis does not lie.” In the dream, I marked Asians down as second, with pale honky women in first place, because he basically loopholed me into it, but in truth, a simple look at my browser history will prove that I actually have a great deal of respect for black women
* A pair of thuggish-looking skinhead types stride towards me; three-dimensional photofits of the word ‘hooligan’ with hostility locked to their body language like a seething Ready Brek aura.
“Oi,” says one, with a ‘you looking at girlfriend’s tits?‘ tone to his voice, “You got a light?”
“No,” I say, flatly and firmly, having made an earlier agreement with myself to stop adding “sorry”, whenever I’m asked.
I feel like I get asked for a light a lot, and as a non-smoker, I obviously never have one. It seems a very strange imposition, in a country where one stranger wouldn’t make eye contact with another, let along talk to them, if they were lying on the ground, sobbing. A couple of weeks ago, some guy did the “Scuse me, mate? Got a light?” I told him “No, sorry,” but felt strangely cowed by my apology; ever-so-slightly reddening, like a man whose voice comes out all high when replying to a builder. What was I sorry for? His fags weren’t my responsibility, and there’s no shame in not being able to provide a lighter. I wasn’t being malicious or careless, and he wasn’t asking for a couple of spare breaths from my lungs to puff some life back into his dying baby. So, I told myself I wouldn’t say sorry any more. I wouldn’t, because I wasn’t. As hollow and instinctive a word as it was, I felt cheapened by its use. Anyway, back to the present. “No.”
The skinhead makes some kind of angry teeth-kissing noise, like Simon Adebisi before he shanks someone.
“Does that mean,” he says, aggression-level in his voice a solid 9/10, “you haven’t got a light, or you ain’t gonna let me have it?”
“I haven’t got a light,” I reply. I don’t say sorry.
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.