The Beach Diaries 2015 — #2 in an Occasional Series


A man kisses the forehead of his dog as it rests its front paws on the arm of his wheelchair.

The sky is so insanely, flawlessly blue, with the sea beneath a clear turquoise you feel you could drink and be healed of all your demons, that it almost seems fake. It’s a child’s crayoned summer day, pinned to the fridge, where the sun is a big, yellow ball with outstretched beams and a smile on its face. If I throw a pebble at the sky, maybe it’ll crack.

My current reading material down here is Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. I only really know Capote through Oscar-season snippets of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance a few years back, which was notable for his depiction of Capote’s pinched, muppet-like voice. Unfortunately, I don’t recall it that well, so my internal narrator switches between other weird, nasely voices I’ve got saved up there. One paragraph, it’s Pee Wee Herman; the next, Jerry Lewis’ Nutty Professor. The bit where we first meet the killers is recited into my mind by Joe Swash — each somewhat undercutting the dramatic tension. I’ll Youtube Capote when I get in and settle it in my brain.

I keep seeing Alan’s car around. Everyone does.

To explain, Alan is famously the ‘town eccentric’; sorry to disappoint those who assumed that role was mine. He could often be seen with his beloved pet chicken, until it sadly got savaged in the high street by a loose dog last year, in a scene I’m glad I didn’t witness in person. Alan owns and lives in the house by the river that I first wrote about here in 2012; the house with the year-round Santa, stuffed dalmatian tied to the roof, and topless mannequin jauntily showcasing her plastic a-cups through the attic window. Sometimes, he takes her out for a drive, with her elegant hand waving greetings through the open passenger window like a member of the royal family.


A few months ago, the district council incited outrage by sending Alan threatening letters, serving notice that he needed to alter his house to fit in line with the new, £20-something-million development on the riverbank directly opposite. Give it a lick of paint, they said. Take down the dog, clothe the mannequin. Untie the black ladies bra that hangs from the bumper of your car. In fact, to quote directly:

I would ask that you provide an explanation for the unusual items on display i.e. the toy Dalmatian dog hanging out of a first floor window and the mannequin in the top floor window.”

Because the world is owed an explanation, right? Why do you dress like that? Why are you smiling? Just what are you hiding? What they saw as a warning against anti-social behaviour was quickly posted online in a Facebook group usually devoted to local gossip, with Alan holding aloft the now-torn-up letter like a mayor pointing at a pothole. All it stirred was support for one man’s right to live his life freely and harmlessly, while spreading a little bemusion and joy. Months have passed since then, and any tourist happening to glance across from the fancy new flood defences and elevated riverside walkway will still meet the gaze of a naked mannequin wearing a tea towel as a hat, or shield their eyes from the sun while pausing to figure out if that’s a real dog climbing up the side of the house.

Alan himself can be seen now more than ever — a full-time attraction, elevated from curio to small-town A-lister, with the frequent social media pap-shots giving him the air of a Littlehampton Kardashian — driving round both here and neighbouring locales as a one-man protest-cum-celebration of Being Yourself. He didn’t remove the bra from the bumper, but he did tie a full-sized, fibreglass cow onto the roof, with a stuffed dog riding on its back; tassels and other jaunty paraphernalia fluttering in their wake. Any councillors shaking their heads at his bringing shame upon the town’s precious image as he tootles past may catch sight of the large tiger that appears to be asleep in the open boot, while thinking to themselves that, in hindsight, some sleeping tigers are best not woken.

A large party of schoolchildren on an outing stand in an excited gaggle on the prom, with most of the boys chasing and attacking each other with foam swords bought from the vendors. An elderly couple walk through the mass of kids, and one of the boys playfully swats the old man on the arse with his sword. The old man laughs. Teacher didn’t see.

There are definitely less beards on display down here than there were last summer. Even mine got whipped off just before Easter. Every fad seems like it’s going to last forever, but never does. It’s like we forget. The mullet. Emo. Baggy combat pants. And now, that two-year period where every man looked like the Yorkshire Ripper.

Right,” says a man of about 40 to his mate, “I’m going for a cheeky piss.” I wonder what’ll be so cheeky about it? Will he have one leg bent up behind him like girls being kissed in old films, while coquettishly lifting a finger to his pursed lips, as a jet of wee rhythmically tinkles out the opening bars to Hello Dolly?

Imagine my surprise, when I follow him into the toilets and kick in the door while he’s mid-flow to discover that’s exactly what he’s doing.

On the way home, walking down by the river, I have to step around a couple who stop in their tracks to shoot a confused look across the street. “I thought that was a real dog” says the lady, laughing.


The Beach Diaries have been running since 2011, spawning the two Kindle books you see above. Both are available on Amazon, for the price of a pint, and I highly recommend you buy them, because I like money.

The Beach Diaries 2011: £1.99 on$2.99 on

The Beach Diaries 2012: £2.99 on$3.99 on

If you don’t have a Kindle, here’s Amazon’s FREE Kindle app for phones, tablets, mac and PC

These days, I only put them out occasionally, as I did two years ago. The Occasional Beach Diaries 2013: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5

And in 2014: #1, #2, #3

~ by Stuart on June 30, 2015.

7 Responses to “The Beach Diaries 2015 — #2 in an Occasional Series”

  1. […] And this year: #1, #2 […]

  2. […] proves his celebrity status from a previous entry, parking his car by the side of the stage, and with his arrival announced over the mic like […]

  3. […] this year: #1, #2, #3, […]

  4. […] this year: #1, #2, #3, #4, […]

  5. […] in 2015: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, […]

  6. […] 2015: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, […]

  7. […] 2015: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, […]

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