The Beach Diaries 2015 — #3 in an Occasional Series
A woman berates her husband in angry Polish, as they watch a family-sized bag of Doritos blow away down the beach.
Days like today are packed with families, like that’s the totally normal way to live, and not to slink down here on your own just to find something to blog about. I remember when it started to be a thing where I’d see guys my own age who had kids, and thinking how crazy that seemed and how I could never imagine myself like that; especially not so young. But now, a lot of dads are a full decade younger than me, and it still seems unthinkable. Maybe as part of this whole mad crisis I’ve been having lately, a vague wondering crosses my mind, about how I’d have gotten on as a family person. What kind of father would I have been? What kind of boyfriend? I think that’s rather the same as asking how good of a Chinese farmer I’d have been, or how I’d have fared in medieval times. It seems an utterly ludicrous suggestion. I just can’t picture it.
Despite the fact I effectively imagine things for a living, I don’t have a mental image to draw on, because I’ve never thought about it. Mainly, because it never appealed to me; because the future life I did imagine always involved pumping out a body of work — books, films, etc — that people would enjoy, with no thought to any life outside. From more realistic imaginings of where I’d be a couple of years down the road, to more wild, child-like daydreams, where I could see myself on film sets, or in old-age as a prolific raconteur with a revered back-catalogue, the one thing I never pictured was that anyone else was there with me. Not once.
But also, if I’m being truthful, I didn’t think about it because I might have wanted it. If that happens, then what? If I start looking at these dad-men and think “Yeah, I wouldn’t mind a slice of that”? There’s really no need to add to the long list of things I want but can’t have. Maybe that’s why these pieces are so riddled with over-thought nonsense about pointless minutia and crisp packets caught in the wind. Mental flash-grenades that give me time to dive through the nearest window and make my escape.
There’s a group of cosplayers along the prom dressed as Batman villains, for no discernible reason beyond the fun of it. People stop to get selfies, with the characters all craning into frame behind, in classic villain poses. The Joker is there, and Catwoman, plus a little boy in a top hat, as Burgess Meredith-era Penguin. Perhaps more notably, in the insane, thirst-stirring heat, is Poison Ivy, who requires two or three or a dozen extra glances to figure out if she’s wearing a skin-coloured bodysuit, or literally just strolling about naked under some nettles (I still couldn’t call it), and an insanely hot Harley Quinn.
Great as it is, it’s a little disarming to see such classically gothic characters out and about on a sunny beach, transposed from their usual rain-soaked, lightning-lit streets; like if Santa had been down here. A really sexy Santa, with his bubble-butt ting barely covered by a tinsel thong.
Goddamn summer. It turns every man into a dirty old vicar from a Carry On film. Or maybe just me.
Hardly anyone actually sits on the long bench. The unspoken agreement seems to be that it’s solely for little kids to walk along, even though there are metal juts and bins every few yards that they have to climb around, or beg with outstretched arms for a parent to lift them over and deposit them back down the other side. This climb-up-climb-down-climb-up routine often seems tiresome to mums and dads who just want to get home at the end of a long day, or find somewhere to lay their heavy bags of picnic food and beach toys at the beginning of one.
The latest child to carefully scamper along the slats like a circus performer gets short shrift from a mother laden down with bags, slung and slipping awkwardly over a shoulder, and held under an arm. She tells the little girl to get down. “It’s too hot for this,” she says, obvious irritation burning hotter than the overhead sun.
From behind, the child’s father hops onto the bench behind her with an “Eyy!” He gives slow chase. “Come on, then!” he says, to giggles from the child, and exasperated head-shaking from his partner, who walks on up ahead. A small victory for him, perhaps? Does he cast himself as Fun Dad against the rigid authority of Mean Mummy? Maybe she has to do all the punishing, while he’s always sneaking their daughter sweets and letting her get away with everything.
Then Fun Dad gets to a jut, his foot slips, and he tumbles; right off the bench to the concrete of the prom. He catches himself with his hands, but his pride is fatally shattered. The child starts to cry. Without casting a backward glance at the fallen form in her peripheral vision, Mum reaches out a hand, which the girl runs towards and clasps.
To the man, the woman says nothing. She keeps on walking. Dusting himself down, he follows behind; behind the silence of her back.
Overheard conversation snippets. A small boy to his mum:
“They shot all the people on the beach in that other country. Shot all the people. I hope we don’t get shot!” he says excitedly.
“Don’t be silly, darling.”
The t-shirt on a nearby picnicking dad is making my brain twitch. Along with a little stickman Gandalf, it bears the following text.
Hnnng. I looked it up on Amazon, expecting a slew of 1 star ratings raging about the misquote, but there’s a single 3 star review, which reads “The only qualm I have is the packaging made the shirt carry a strange odour which took a wash or two to get rid of.” Dads, eh? Running around in their incorrectly-referencing, smelly t-shirts. Slipping off benches. Who wants to be one of them? Pssh.
[Drops flash grenade; dives through closed window]
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.