The Beach Diaries 2012 – #31
* Sunday morning. In a back-street, a man casually talks into a phone. His other hand grasps his exposed cock, which jets a stream of piss into a drain.
* It’s the last weekend in August. Summer is in its death throes. From this point on, any decent day, especially on these scant remaining weekends, may well be the last, and we all know it. People regard the hot weather like an elderly relative who lives at the other end of a four-hour drive. We enjoy their company, and make the effort when we can, but with each visit, we’re aware of the possibility we may never see them again. Besides, barring some freaked out weirdness like last year’s boiling October, the summer’s best is truly over. That scorching weather of bikinis and relaxed public sweating, as brief as it was this year, is gone for good. We may be at the beach, but it’s a half-arsed sun that sits weak behind the clouds, too emaciated to take the chill off the breeze; and while we’re all pretending it’s t-shirt weather, the hands in the pockets tell a different story.
* A mother rages about MTV’s My Super Sweet 16.
“Sixteen-year-old girls having… bloody… million pound cars.”
* There’s a rather twee, outdated feel to sight of the church group outings that line the beach during the arse-end of the tourist season, in this Godless nation. They’re an anachronism in modern Britain, like phone boxes or the bigoted opinions of Richard Littlejohn. There’s no casual, Sunday-morning-with-the-family Christian population anymore, just your full-on, “Everything I do, I do through Christ” evangelicals, whose broad-grinned testimonials about the power of the Lord are laced with a knowing desperation. These day-trippers are really all that’s left now; coach-sized packs, dwindling by the year, as teenage children head off to university, to shake their childhood indoctrination like fleas from a dog’s back, while the oldest members, with their beliefs rooted in an bygone era, die off, only to not be replaced by younger generations, who’ve grown up with access to information and outside opinion. Alpha courses reel in a handful of stragglers — the grieving, the desperately alone — but these groups are a dying species, and seeing them sat together is increasingly like coming upon a historical re-enactment society, churning butter beneath oil lamps on the side of the motorway. The minibuses journeying home are their own ecosystem, safe from the encroaching atheism on the other side of the glass. A handful of generations from now, church outings to the beach will be identified by a single tandem chained to the long bench.
* A litter-conscious dad chases an empty plastic bag a full hundred yards across the beach. Another dad, lazing back on his elbows, follows him all the way with his eyes, rippling his lips in a derisive snort behind the first dad’s back when he passes, out of breath, with the captured bag.
* It’s easier to visualise myself living the life of a seagull than it is to put myself in the place of the families surrounding me. That existence, that whole journey from a person who goes through life by themselves, to being part of a larger whole, tied to another person who’s with you every day, and smaller people you’ve made together with your spunk and eggs; I have as much empathic understanding of those lives as I do with that of a heroin addict, or a member of a primitive jungle tribe that’s never seen electricity. Trying to imagine myself as one of these men — boyfriends, husbands, dads — is no more real to me than daydreams of flying into space as Superman, or being plonked from the crowd at a UFC show to defeat the heavyweight champion. That whole ‘family’ thing is just other people’s world that I have zero connection with, and zero aspiration to join. You don’t have to look very far to realise how good of a thing that is. I’d much rather an empty hole than the constant gnawing of an unfulfilled desire.
* The distant, uneventful rescue of a man in a canoe perfectly demonstrates the hysteria of crowds. The first batch of gawkers know that something’s going on, and line the rail, looking across to the action. The next lot have a vague sense of what’s happening, and follow only the gazes of those in front. The rest, piling on to the back of the massed audience, neither know what they’re supposed to be looking at, nor can see a thing beyond the backs of heads. But still they stand, waiting.
* A girl poses while her partner tries to take a picture. Hand on the hip, other hand behind the head like a model, lips pouting in a classic duck-face. A stream of people flow between the camera and the girl, until her expression turns sour.
* I’m laying on the common behind the long bench staring up at the sky, with my backpack under my head like a pillow. As I watch the smudges of blue that peek-a-boo between the greys and whites, a woman sits down on the bench right above me and talks into her phone — loudly because of the wind, but with an accent that suggests class and good breeding.
“Alright,” she says, winding down the call, “I’m going to go in the toilets and look at my clit. I can’t stop itching it. I think something bit me. Okay. Bye.”
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.