The Beach Diaries 2012 – #11
* A woman takes a long, deep breath of sea air.
“Ooh,” she says to her friend, “there’s no better smell. Except Basil.” I wonder if she means the herb, or an especially fragrant man.
* A trio of nineteen-year-olds sit at one of the beach-side café tables, tugging at locks of precisely messed hair, eyes behind pairs of big granny specs with plain glass in the lenses. The fourth at the table is a very old man – one of their grandfathers probably – so toothless that his face folds in two as he chews on his chips. The kids lean in to his quiet words with a smiling reverence that softens me towards their prickish sense of fashion.
* Three friends walk along the common with a huge pack of dogs running loose about them. Big, small; a trio of huge rottweilers who growl and snap, at play with a light brown mutt. When I was younger, the growls and slavering fangs would have put me on edge, but these days, I’ve far more love and trust for dogs than I do for men. A surprise ninth dog pads past the other side of me, some yards from the others, its head turned towards the ocean the whole time. The loner of the pack.
* Something in the toilets catches my eye. Now, I know public toilets are bad places to be getting curious, and to be touching things, but the storyteller’s instinct sees the edge of a slip of paper stuffed into a slit by the ceiling and reaches up anyway. What I bring back down is a post-it note, written on in brown felt tip (at least, I hope). It’s with a strange sense of shame, that haunting fear of an undercover cottaging news exposé bursting in and catching me red-handed, that I read the note.
“Would u like to cum over my bum?”
I muse on this for a moment. It’s not signed, and there’s naught on the back but an empty space for a reply. Playing the odds, and assuming that Ellen Page or Shannon from Lost aren’t likely to be leaving illicit arse-jizzing invites secreted in the toilets on Littlehampton seafront, I pop the note back where I found it (So if an undercover cottaging sting should find my fingerprint, I assure you, I only read the note in an ironic way). The greatest shame of all is that I wasn’t polite enough to leave a “No thanks, mate” biroed on the back.
* I can’t wait for tourist season proper to begin. These are turning into the Toilet Diaries.
* When you write about yourself, there’s a strange disconnect between the actual fleshy you that sits in chairs and walks about on legs, and the you on the pages, the you that’s a half-percent off, living in a world where the narrative is under control. Typing something up is like sealing it in a cave. The past is just gone, but when you put people and events to print, you give them a place to live – under your rules. Though these are diaries, and the things in them happen as written, the me of this blog, and to a lesser extent, my Twitter account, feels like the Hugh Everett III sideways-universe me, an ageless me that lives as text, with Patrick Bateman and the Cheshire Cat, and never the twain shall meet. But with three words, worlds collided.
“Are you Stuart?”
This question could go so many ways. An angry lifeguard, feeling – and probably justified in doing so – violated for a summer’s creepy from-afar fantasies, and backed by male friends who mean to do my face and ribs some physical harm? Or a mayor, tiring of my holding a pillow to the face of local tourism, with a writ banning me from stepping within a mile of the coast? Luckily, it was just a lovely bloke called Mike, frequent comment-leaver on these things, who presumably spotted someone looking pretentious and shifty on the pier, and stopped for a quick chat.
But now the me from the pages and the me from outside occupy the same space. Mike’s introduction broke a hole in the print-me’s universe, merging it with mine forever, and those other characters; the drunks, the Rons, the lifeguards, are freed from their cave, real people with real feelings one and all.
* A woman sits down right next to the dog shit bin, takes out a home-made tub of cold pasta and vegetables, and heartily tucks in.
* Two university-age girls sit on the shingle as I walk along the prom. One of them clocks me, prods her friend, and nods in my direction. Their eyes are on me the whole way as I pass. In the same way a long-forgotten familiar smell can unleash a sudden burst of memories, my brain floods with the sounds and stinks of youth, just for a second. Nirvana and wet leather footballs, and sneering girls nudging their friends.
“Oi oi!” she calls out, trying to make me feel small. My strides would be heavy under their gaze, but I’m not eighteen any more.
“As hilarious as your scorning is, about my non-hotness, I’ll have you know this very afternoon, I had a gracious offer from someone wanting me to cum all over their bum,” I don’t say.
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.