The Beach Diaries 2012 – #18
* Two little girls animatedly point at the giant shark whose head crashes through the sign at the top of the steps to the adventure golf.
“Crazy golf! We have to play, we have to!”
“I don’t think I’ll get up there,” says their dad from his wheelchair.
* A grandfather on a family outing talks to his brood, having just trailed past the prom-side fish shop.
“They sell huss!” he says excitedly, before extolling the virtue of that particular fish. “D’ya not remember huss? Ah, you do. Rock salmon, they call it…” At length, he harps on and on about seaside trips nobody else remembers, sepia-toned better days, happier days, where the world was simpler, and you ate your rock salmon straight out of the newspaper. There’s a twinkle in his eye, and plainly, all he wants is for them to say the word and he’s off to the chippy to return with warm, huss-filled arms, where he’ll take the whole family on a joy-ride of nostalgia and it’ll all come flooding back as the first fluffy white mouthful goes in. He’s rubbing his hands together as they finally relent — in truth, probably just to shut him up — and marching proudly to the fish shop. Two minutes later, he slinks back, empty handed.
“Nah, they don’t do it.”
* My feet dangle off the edge of the wall. A fat man with a basketball head walks past with a staffy on a lead. The dog’s neck cranes towards me, tongue lolling, and I shoot him a friendly smile. The fat man looks across — with my sunglasses hiding my eyes — thinking the smile is for him, and drags the dog away, sneering.
* A boy sits cross-legged on a skateboard, wheeling himself along on his hands like Eddie Murphy in Trading Places.
* I’m sat reading on the high grass verge, which is virtually a stage to the passing folks walking the prom below. A pair of nine-year-old girls lay towels down right next to me, and stretch out in bikinis. I pack up my shit and move, paranoid and fearful of people confusing me for a pedo who chose himself a prime noncing spot. The beach should enforce little wooden signs you have to plant into the ground, labelled with the exact time you sat down. That would separate the guys who merely turned up early when the beach was still empty, and the genuine deviants who’ve no qualms pitching up next to groups of schoolgirls, or lone women reading Heat Magazine while they eat their lunch.
* A dad licks at an ice cream while a girl of about five watches.
“It’s dripping,” he says, licking at both his and hers, “gotta catch all the drips!” Like a bad comedy sketch, he holds it out, before snatching it back at the sight of another imaginary drip.
“Here’ are…” He holds out an almost empty cone, and the child responds with folded arms, the stomp of a foot, and loud, squealing tears. “Don’t you want it?” he asks, pulling it in for another lick, “It’s yours!”
* Two teenage girls return to their friend. Their hands flap at the wrist in a sign of disgust.
“There’s a bloke down there washing his bum in a bucket…”
* A bald, sinewy dad with a tattooed neck and spiralling snake inked on his cheek slaps the sand out of his sock with some rage.
“Right!” he screams at a little girl, “We’re going home, but we’re leaving you here because you’ve been so naughty.” The girl starts to cry. “That’s right, we’re leaving you here at the beach, so the Boogieman can take you, and he’s ‘orrible!”
* A man strolls by; faded, oversized, plastic World’s Greatest Dad novelty hat from an old birthday proudly on his head, keeping the sun out of his eyes.
* I’m bent, tying my shoe before heading home.
“Excuse me,” says a female voice. Before I even look up, I know. I make her wait, forcing another excuse me before I straighten to meet her eye. Early twenties, big sunglasses, black bikini with a figure that’s made for it. I know. One stranger talking to another; a girl with a music video body to some guy with Game of Thrones in his bag, who’s danced this dance every single time another human being pushed through the arm’s length distance of silent social order to make contact. I know. Twenty yards away on a bench, her three shirtless male friends look on; her, the alluring envoy deemed most likely to charm. I know, so let’s get it over with.
“Have you got a lighter?” she asks and I think, in duet.
“No,” I say, far more brusquely than was probably necessary.
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.