The Beach Diaries 2016 — #3 in an Occasional Series
“Your mum goes to parties?!” says an aghast teenage girl to her friend, with the open-mouthed shock of somebody interviewing the only witness to a bank robbery committed by three cats stood on each other’s shoulders.
“I know,” replies the friend, “so weird, right?!” I bet the mum’s ancient; like 35, which is basically halfway in your coffin. How embarrassing!
There’s a big school outing of children and teachers all dressed as pirates. Well, how a pirate would be interpreted by the Beano or Dandy, anyway. Skull-n-crossbones bandanas, hoop earrings, and plastic swords, with a fluttering Jolly Roger sticking out of the sand. Lazily, none of them have bothered to shoot for realism and contract scurvy, so to enhance their experience, I leap down from the promenade, with an aggressive cry of “I’m the captain now!” My new gang of child-thieves lash the teachers to the breakwater by the rising tide, before we storm the amusements, tipping the 2p slide machine on its side, and making our escape with the loot. You know, in my mind.
I give off such an aura of thuggery, it’s rare that a stranger in need of a seat will take the unoccupied end of a bench on which I’m sat. Even here, on the most sought-after bench in the entire town — perhaps even world — at the furthest end of the pier, facing out to sea, and at point of its peak value, high tide, where it’s like sitting in the middle of the ocean, a gentleman would rather unfold his own chair than park himself beside me to eat his sandwiches. Though if he does risk an interaction at this point, I’m fucked.
“What are you writing about in your notepad there, mate?”
“(Don’t say ‘you, and your little chair and your sandwiches’…) Oh, just a load of ol’ racism and vile sexual stuff…”
No wonder nobody wants to sit next to me.
To amuse his grandson, an old man pushes a small toy bus all the way along the rail on the riverbank, making appropriately enginey brum-brum noises, and changing key when he moves up a gear.
Years ago, I invented a fun game to play, if you’re down at the beach by yourself like a lonely wretch, right as the tides are changing. Look for the wet part of sand, marking where the tide has previously touched it. This is the sea’s Personal Best. Now, you mentally cheer the waves, clapping them onto set a new PB. Will it push itself higher up the sand and on to salty glory, or be tantalisingly just out of reach? Oh what an exhilarating thrill!
I suppose another fun game might be to go to the beach with someone you like spending time with, and having nice chats and interactions with them, but getting into that is like making the fucking Olympic team, so c’mon, the sea, you can do it!
While for comedy purposes, these pieces may work better if I paint myself as a wandering loner and potential Sutcliffe, in the interests of full disclosure, despite the above paragraph, later in the week, I actually do go to the beach with a friend. It’s way better than playing the Ocean PB game, or taking lonely strolls to the toilets to check if there’s any new cottaging graffiti.
A super lovely day, it also differs from the rest of these diaries by our hitting the west side of the beach, across the river from my usual note-taking. As told in a previous entry, the west beach is sometimes known for its array of naturists, entirely of the middle-aged man variety, standing about with their hands on their hips, with an “oh, is my nob out? I hadn’t noticed” look on their faces.
And so, as we stroll about this delightful day, amid the powder blue skies and quiet beauty of nature, the pink heads of naked men, like a native species of dune-dwelling wildlife, pop up above the rushes we pass, meerkat-like, giving the feel of a rather disgusting Whack-a-Mole game. At one point, I completely lose my flow mid-sentence, and have to apologise with “Sorry. Just saw an old man’s cock.”
“Sam is very smelly” says some graffiti.
“Pussyhole” says more, elsewhere.
“Ham” reads a tag on a shelter, presumably sprayed by a pig or a prime minister.
“Piss” cries a wall.
It feels like a storyteller’s scavenger hunt, seeking out the scattered words of a fable and piecing them together. At the moment, it’s all so scatological, it may very well be one of mine.
Later in the week, there’s more.
— “CALL 999” written on the ground next to the mock chalk outline of a dead body.
— “[name redacted] IS A PROPER MILF”
— Perhaps the biggest chalk penis I’ve ever seen, drooping across the entire side of the shelter, with the word “CUM” drawn beneath the helmet. Interesting. Writing the actual word takes more effort than drawing a droplet of cum itself. Perhaps they weren’t confident enough in their art skills for the potential audience to differentiate between cum and piss. Those are the artistic risks one takes when adding cum to the image of a penis that has been rendered as flaccid.
— On the “NO CLIMBING” sign, the NO has been crossed out and replaced with an anarchic chalk YES.
— Lastly, in another huge daubing, “FREE CONOR MCGREGOR #UFC200”
Once again alone, on the tide-out, early morning desert of the abandoned beach, I find what can only be described as a seaside Christmas tree. Its spindly driftwood trunk has been pushed into the sand, on a base-bed of pebbles, with seaweed deliberately draped from its branches like tinsel. It’s like something from True Detective season 3, where I team up with Louis Theroux to solve a murder-by-drowning linked to Satanic cult activity infiltrating the local coastguards.
“It’s a flat circle…”
“What is, time?”
“Sorry, no; just saw an old man’s cock.”
Over the years, I’ve amassed a very small collection of shells and rocks. About once a summer, I’ll find something interesting enough to pocket. A perfectly round little planet. A fairy’s footprint. A witch’s finger. This year, it’s a pebble that, when wet, perfectly resembles an organ from the human body, say, a liver, or a heart. I needed a replacement anyway. And this one seems unbreakable.
It is of course illegal to remove pebbles or sand from the beach, and I rush to get this up on the blog, as an array of red dots has appeared on my chest, but hopefully I can hit the ‘post’ button before the SWAT team come bursting into the room–
I’M UNARMED! I’M UNAR
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.