The Beach Diaries 2013 – #4 in an Occasional Series
** The arrival of a group of travelers has brought out the casual racist in the beach-goers, who pass by the twenty-odd caravans parked on the common, crooking their heads from atop moral horses as buck-legged as they are high.
“Better lock all our doors,” says a middle-aged woman with a furrowed brow, and a sense of genuine despair, as though she’s witnessing the unstoppable, final fall of polite society. From here on in, we’re surviving on the heat gleaned from burning bins, while fending off Gypsy cannibals with our M&S golf umbrellas. I’ve got a column on my Tweetdeck that shows every tweet with the word Littlehampton in it, and I’m finding it hard to couple the apocalyptic indignation and fist-waving “the council better do something…” fury with the rather quiet spectacle witnessed in person.
It’s lucky shitty TV and tabloids gave us the class-boogeymen of gypsies and ‘chavs’ to freely sneer at, with none of the public shame of dropping an actual N-bomb, because holding in all that hate could cause an aneurysm.
** A heavily pregnant girl in a tiny bikini throws up a gang-sign as she poses for a photo with her partner; fingers splayed in a W, and one eyebrow arched in a way that suggests you shouldn’t mess with her, because she’s got a glock with the numbers filed off tucked into the waistband of her creaking thong.
“Why you always gotta do the fingers?” says the bloke, “I hate the fingers.”
** As I’m eating my tuna roll, a couple set up their sunbathing pitch to the front of me. He’s a fifty-year-old bodybuilder with skin like the cover to an ancient grimoire, and a set of those strange abs you see on middle-aged men who hit the weights, but still eat like they’re twenty five, where they sit on a rounded, protruding stomach like bobbing apples. His forty-year-old tattooed Barbie girlfriend’s pneumatic pumpkin tits lay rock solid on her chest as she bathes on her back; duad sunsets on the horizon. The whole time they relax beneath the rays, one of his hands is casually stretched across and cupping her breast.
** A shirtless man talks loudly to two women as they pass me.
“Shell and Georgie are the kind of girls, by the time they’re 25, they’ll be abducted by a load of Muslims, they’re so fucking slaggy.”
** Sandy the Sandcastle, my old nemesis, leaps in front of my path, and holds out one of his Mickey Mouse fists for me to bump. I’m glad I look like a fist-bumper and not a hugger, as my real life social protocol when people are dishing out hugs is to hold up a fist and tell them to pretend they’re Dr. Dre or one of them other blokes off of rap.
** The house where the topless mannequin lives now has a Christmas holly wreath and Santa hanging on the front door. It’s July, and it’s ninety degrees. Later in the week, the wreath has been removed, but on the outside wall below the second floor window, there’s a large stuffed dalmatian, propped up so it’s peeping in like a pervy 1970s window-cleaner.
** A single dad placates his small daughter with cries of “it’s alright, I’m right outside…” as he sends her alone into the womens toilets. A female bystander has her own daughter take care of her, and the two daytripping parents stand outside discussing paedophiles as they wait, and whether there are more about these days, or if they’re just better publicised.
** An absolute prick-end with a guitar, who’s been laying in wait for this moment, steps out onto the prom as the train passes and strum-wails an improvised, two-chord refrain at the passengers, about how they’re are all on a train, at the beach, on a train. The dozen or so girls drifting sycophantically in his slipstream like moths flitting at a lava lamp chuckle and coo, wide-eyed and damp with how fucking clever he is, this John Lennon of Littlehampton seafront. For people spotters, the presence of a guitar slung over a back in a public open space handily marks an individual as the main twat of any group.
** As I’m sat alone reading on Millard’s Rise, a group of four girls and a guy walk by. One of the girls wolf-whistles, and another makes the sort of clicking noise you’d do out of the side of your mouth if you were trying to get the attention of a pony. I glance up, to the sound of their laughter.
“Phwoar!” says one of the girls, all eyes on me, “He can pump my brains out any day,” as they cackle their way out of sight. I’ve touched on this before, and while the Everyday Sexism project highlights the awful leering catcalls and public lechery women suffer in streets and on trains, what of unattractive, lone men being ridiculed by the opposite sex, eh? Eh? Because that shit happens a lot; 2012’s Diaries are riddled with it. I think my white male privilege precludes me from throwing around the word VILE, all in capitals. “Just had some VILE abuse at the beach from some real life trolls; SICK and VILE.” I’m not Mary Beard, I’m just bearded.
As a punctuation on the moment, a model walks by. An actual model, trailed by a photographer, make-up artist and handler, all shining blonde hair, crazy legs and –
*click-click* *looks up, gets pelted with sugar lumps*
** Two Downs Syndrome men on an outing yell at each other.
“You’ve got a big nose!”
“Shut up, big nose!” As the first chap threatens to hit one of the women in their group, and stomps away while loudly declaring himself to all “a fucking failure,” a helper finally steps in.
** Another intellectually disabled man bellows at the lifeguards from the back of the train while he waits.
“What’s your name, mate? Your name?” Soon, he’s offering them water from his bottle, and demanding they raise the flag and play some music “…so that everyone on the beach can have a dance.”
** On the back of the toilet door, daubed in thick black lettering is the question “ANY COCK HERE TODAY?”
“YES,” I think, “I’M CURRENTLY WEEING OUT OF IT.”
** An empty can of lager lays on the ground, dribbling its last drops like a gutter-drunkard slavering an unconscious string of warm drool from his gob. Next to the can, the word FUCK has been cack-handedly written onto the concrete of the promenade. Initially, I think it’s been written in lager, and I’ve caught it before it’s dried, but a week later, the can is gone, while the FUCK remains.
Metallica can use ‘while the FUCK remains‘ for the title of their next album if they like.
** While it didn’t fit the rhythm of the paragraph, I feel like I should confess the real ending to the wolf-whistle/model moment; the post-credit stinger you’d have missed had you ran for the exit as soon as we faded to black. Once the cruelly blonde, mockingly stunning model had swayed around the corner, an enormous man, looking exactly like a deflated Big E. Langston, sauntered past me while whistling to himself and clad in an FBI/Female Body Inspector shirt. In that moment, the world seemed to right itself.
** An old French woman with an accent so heavy it seems like a racially offensive stereotype exhibits a frightening level of irritation that sweeps the seafront like a flash-fire.
“Ooh, what’s he doing up there?” she says, so French, and so irritated, that the O’s in the “Ooh,” would be jagged with vibrato and tumbling off the side of the page, down into the margins, if they were accurately transcribed. It’s so overwhelmingly patronising — worse than the presenter of a TV consumer rights show — that I feel waves of pity for the poor lost grandchild that’s presumably on the receiving end of her barrage of disdain, for, again I assume, absentmindedly wandering down onto the shingle to fill their pockets with shells.
“What are you doing all the way up there?” she cries, now with a clear disgust in her voice telling the tale of how she’s been let down, yet again, by this absolute idiot-child. “It’s so silly. You’re so silly.” This is the verbal equivalent of holding a thumb and forefinger half an inch apart to tell somebody “This is how big you are. You are a pea, and I am a planet. You will never be anything, and I should have kicked your mother in the belly.”
Perhaps she reminds me of my old teacher, Mrs. Garner, similarly French, who enraged my mum by describing the then-seven-year-old me as ‘demented’, but I feel as though I can’t bear to see the forlorn child shuffling away from the sight of the ocean and its endless possibilities of freedom, to return to the scary French grandma who doesn’t let them have sugar or sit up after eight pm, so I keep my back turned to the direction she’s aiming her withering gaze. Then, he emerges, the object of her scorn —
“I needed a wee!” replies a thoroughly exacerbated, white-bearded, sandled and sock-kneed Englishman of about sixty, who appears from, I guess, all the way up there. “That’s where the toilets were!”