The Beach Diaries 2012 – #19
* Christ, it’s hot — twin suns of Tatooine hot. Off in the distance, the low tide recedes towards the horizon, as though luring naïve holidaymakers further and further from the safety of the land, so they might be swept screaming over the edge of the world.
* All along the coast, pictures are scratched into the canvas of wet sand. A childlike house. A stick figure with a wonky smile and seaweed for hair. The words “Harry shag me please!!!”
* Walking along the beach while the tide’s out makes you feel like a giant, peering down from on high at contours and lakes; a landscape unique to this tide’s turn. When the waters roll back in, it’ll all be washed away — reshaped into new worlds when they push back out again. Remnants of ragworms lay everywhere, their casts scattered across the sands, like empty bodies left behind when their virtuous worm-souls ascended in the Rapture.
* A London mother in a bikini emerges onto the prom, instructing her four swimsuit-clad children to wait there. She grabs the nearest lifeguard and takes off back towards the sea.
“My life is over!” says a boy, dramatically.
“It’s not over,” replies his sister, “you have clothes at home…” Soon, the lifeguard and mother return, carrying dripping wet bags and clothes, that were forgotten and lost — devoured by the incoming tide — while they paddled in the sea.
“It’s the moon’s fault!” says the boy, “But I’m the only one with a full set of clothes.” Phones, shoes, return train tickets, and a line of £5 and £10 notes weighed down by pebbles dry in the sun.
“This is so embarrassing. When we get home, we’ll just tell people the swimming pool blew up and flooded the beach.”
* A teenage boy makes a bad job of surreptitiously photographing a huge-titted woman in an ill-fitting bikini.
* A barefoot man walks gingerly on the baking surface of the prom; the seaside prance of little dignity. Behind him, a fourteen-year-old boy follows, mocking him with exaggerated, Velociraptor footsteps, and running back to his friends in laughter when the man turns around.
* Hot Lifeguard sprints by with a first aid kit. Last summer, I’d probably have made a joke about inflicting paper-cuts on my william and crying out for help. This year, it all feels too seedy to think about, let alone to preserve in writing for future generations to be appalled by. If someone’s attractive, it’s none of my business. That philosophy served me for the last decade, as it will the next.
* A mother chides her six-year-old daughter in a playful, sing-song voice.
“Do as you’re told, for once in your life!” Then, the lightness drops right out of her. “Fuck it then. Well done, you’ve fucked it. You’ve fucked up the holidays already.”
* “Hold this,” says a mum to her own mum. “She wants to go for a paddle.” She hands across a cardboard mask of hateful X-Factor Tory, Gary Barlow.
* A guy on a bike passes two bikini girls on the prom. Once behind them, he swerves in a big 180, so he can ride by again. This time, he rears up and pops a wheelie, turning his head when he lands to see if they’re looking. They’re not. He spins and doubles back once more, another 180 setting him up for a third pass, but this time, the path around the girls is too busy to speed through on a bike. Dejected, he watches them walk away, having never glanced his way, before slowly scuffing back around to his original direction and pedalling off.
* Three boys pass, one, obstinately belching with each step. “Urp. Urp. Urp.”
* A fat man wipes the sweat from himself with a tissue. Forehead, back of the neck, behind the knees, and lastly, mouth.
* “What the fuck are you doing?!” screams a dad, at two nine-year-old boys who wave at him from the passing train, right at the far end of the prom. He gives futile chase for a couple of seconds, before throwing up his hands, yelling after it –
“I gave you that money to get me a fuckin’ lolly, not to go on the train!” Distant children’s laughter mingles with the noise of the day.
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.