The Beach Diaries 2012 – #32
* Sitting down on the common, I find a five pence piece in the grass. This raises the total amount of money I’ve earned by devoting my summer to publishing almost 30,000 words of regularly updated new material on my blog to five pence.
* The weather’s not great, and I’m burned out on writing these. I only came to the beach today to escape the depression of four walls; the constant, soul-buckling weight of having no money and no way out. Although I’m still mired in that shit down here, something about the open expanse of sea at least gives the impression that a better future is possible, like there’s always somewhere to run away from your life, even if there isn’t.
* A black guy with corn-rows, purple-lensed shades, and a Cliff Huxtable jumper, has been sitting quietly on the long bench above me. Suddenly, I hear a thick Jamaican accent, and look up to see him talking to nobody but himself. There’s a theatrical lilt to his voice; a performance, but given softly because he doesn’t want anyone to hear.
“Rubbish bins, rubbish bins. I see no bins, I see only the wind.”
Only later, having seen him sat at various vantage points throughout the day, do I make the connection. He’s doing exactly what I am. Watching, taking it all in. He’s mining material from the world around him, only, he’s not writing it down to post on the internet; he’s crafting poems that live their lives entirely inside his own head.
* A mentally handicapped woman rides the boat-train with her seventy-something parents. What happens when they’re too infirm or dead to look after her?
* Side by side walk a pair of twin boys in bright red Canada t-shirts, with blond mullets halfway down their backs, like escapees from a 1994 Nickelodeon series; the class loudmouth foil to the sassy, baggy-flannel-clad lead.
* An elderly Indian grandfather tells off some noisy children. The admonishment is somewhat undermined by his hat, which is a twisting pink snake that protrudes two feet above his head, as made by the balloon modeller from the arcade.
* My watcher’s ear pricks at a cloud of gasps, giggles, and oh-my-gods, gliding across from a group of women walking on the edge of the prom. One has her hand covering her mouth, while a couple do that hunched stagger-walk, the walk of muffled, Friday Night with The Girls hysteria that can’t be contained in a way that mainly suggests they’re showing off. I follow their eye-line down to the beach, where five yards away, an elderly gentleman struggles a pale, stringy pair of legs back into his underwear. His arthritic bones have let the towel drop, and as the pants creep back up, I catch a glimpse of what’s set the harridans all of a cackle. It hangs between his legs like a pink aerosol can, halfway down to his thighs and as thick as his ankle. His wife, white-haired and gran-like, is as oblivious to the fuss as he.
“Poor old girl,” says one of the women, regarding the old lady with curious a mixture of pity and admiration, “Surprised she ain’t in a wheelchair.”
* There are probably no more than a few of these pieces to come. If you’ve been enjoying them, then now’s the time to let people know. Share the love, because this five pence coin isn’t going to go very far.
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.