The Beach Diaries 2012 – #10
* This weekend is the Littlehampton Waterfront Festival, where the waters will teem with racing boats and hardy competitors for the Iron Man contest. Even Spirit FM are here. But the wind is crazy; utterly insane. By the exposed shoreline and right along the riverbank, it’s all you can do to stay on your feet. Clouds scroll past ferociously like 8-bit Sega backdrops; a man from the Bonfire Society clings to a raffle-prize dollhouse, lest it take flight like Dorothy Gale’s. The Union Jacks that line the riverbank stretch away from their moorings so tightly it’s as though they’re trying to escape; the rectangular fabric warped into a sideways U, and rippling with such an intensity that a person reaching up is likely to lose an arm. I bet you could spit into the face of someone a mile away. Or be spat on. I pull up my hood.
* The iron men and women, wetsuits zipped up to their chins, eye the river like soldiers at an advancing enemy horde. Anyone taking a swim in there today’s either getting smashed into a pulp, or spat straight into the sky. The sea itself is not so much angry – that George Costanza quote about an old man at a deli rattles around my head all afternoon – as completely murderous.
* An elderly gentleman sneezes very loudly and suddenly into his hand.
“Oh dear,” he says to his wife, as he looks into the hand, “I shall have to get rid of this somehow.”
* The thrashing sea is so loud that most conversations are held at screaming-level. People holler friendly greetings and observations right into each other’s ears, like the exacerbated response to a third “pardon me?”
* Today’s waves are measured in feet, not inches. Wind surfers and kite surfers tear along the surface, bouncing on the rolling swell. This all reminds me of the fantastic BBC show Last Woman Standing, and Anna, the lovely, lovely, posh kite-surf girl.
“She was really nice,” I think, as I’m devoured by a face-full of my own hair.
* Overheard conversation snippets. Small boy to his father:
“…and he can smell your blood from ten miles away…”
* Sandy the Sandcastle does his rounds, sneaking up on tourists, tapping them on the shoulders, patting their heads. Maybe I got off lightly the other day. If this keeps up all summer, odds are, he’ll eventually do that to one of those people who have a phobia of theme park costumes, and he’ll stand there with that beaming grin fixed on his face, watching as they hurl themselves off the end of the pier, shrieks of terror only ceasing when their lungs start to fill.
* A long row of people in bright clothes sit all the way along one section of the beach, facing directly out to sea, like they’re at the cinema. From the handful of Jesus t-shirts, I’d guess that they’re a church group. If they’re planning a baptism (and exorcism) like the last church outing I saw down here (see Appendix II in the 2011 Beach Diaries), it’ll be less a baptism than a sacrifice. They can pray as hard and as loud as they like, but wade into those jagged waves, and you’re not coming back out. If the sun later breaks the clouds and the wind drops, I’ll know that Cthulhu has been appeased, happy with his gift of a WWJD wristband attached to a smiling, bloated corpse.
* The wind is just too much. My skin feels whipped, and walking directly into it, my clothes are so tight against my body, that I feel anyone coming towards me can surely see a perfect outline of my nipples and cock through the fabric. Everyone walking in that direction looks like they’re frozen in carbonite. On the walk home, where the wind drops to sane levels once you get away from the river, some teenage girls hang out of a second floor window.
“Hello!” they yell. “He-llo?!” I don’t answer, but the hellos keep on coming. What good can come of answering some random stranger screeching at you out of a window? Particularly a teenage girl. I think any response on my part would be classed as grooming, so I keep on walking, and don’t look up.
“I like your bag!” one yells, as I go by. Yeah, I think, I bet you do. As we all know from school, random people yelling “I like your (x)” in the street means they actually don’t like it. They want to plant a seed of doubt about your person that’ll flourish into sturdy mind-oaks of insecurity and feeling small. But I’m a grown-arse man, and my childhood was spent suffering through far too many other-side-of-the-street catcalls about how much they liked my shoes or my coat to be worrying whether some arbitrary part of me is considered fashionable by a random fifteen-year-old. I let the sarcasm get carried away on the wind.
My mind wanders. If the bag – just a regular, nondescript backpack – was the thing that caught their eye, then there must be nothing else about my appearance that gives regular people cause to shout about. My bag, you say? Not my shorts or my trainers? Not any of my clothing? Or my face? You don’t ‘like’ those? But anyway, I don’t care. Another thought creeps in.
“I like your hair!”A shiver runs through me worse than any I felt from the wind.
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.