I knew that the enforced curfew of Christmas had got too much this morning when I found myself idly checking that I wasn’t on the FBI’s most wanted list*. Backache meant a run was out of the question so I opted for a walk along the seafront on a chilly December morning. This is a stroll that I do quite regularly and I will rarely see more than half a dozen people, today was busier than an August bank holiday, well almost. There were people everywhere but these were no ordinary people they were festive ones, is one day not enough?
When I say that they were festive I don’t mean that they were wearing red hats and tinsel, oh no they were in disguise. They couldn’t hide from me though I spotted their strange groupings, like adults ever voluntarily go for walks with parents. And again the over formality, it was like somebody waved a wand that converted all the hoodies into formal coats! The strangest thing happened when passing these groups, they tried some form of communication! I know, in England and in a public place way to blend in losers. Luckily I had deployed my standard defence against such tactics, an MP3 player and a slightly psychotic expression** that few would try to engage with.
Having overcome my shock at the masses I happened upon one of those things that brilliantly captures the special breed that is coastal residents. Sitting in plastic chairs against the sea wall were a family indulging in the perfect seaside treat for a freezing December day, ice cream. This was no mere supermarket purchase though, at the coast we plan this stuff out way better than that. The family was eating Mr Whippy from the local kiosk which was not only open but had its obligatory 4 ft high plastic cone out to let people know. We breed em tough round here.
I can share an interesting development from the continues battle with Ms Nature. I seem to have some nerve conflict going on which is making my hands go ice-cold and numb from time to time. There seems to be no logic for this it just happens and then eventually goes away again, go figure. The entertaining thing about this latest assault is the futility of it, my wrists hurt so making them numb is a relief. That’s the great thing about Ms Nature, she’s determined but dumb and that is why I will win.
*Google is supposed to surround me with relevant advertisements and amongst all the plumbing supplies was a link to the FBI most wanted list, I figured Google may have known something that I didn’t…..
**The former is available from all good stores but the latter takes a special blend of parents I am afraid
This weekend has been the classic English bank holiday. We started with a forecast of good weather, latterly tempered to a great Friday and Saturday then deteriorating. Great tactics by the weather forecasters that ensures the masses will try and travel on Friday, one of the worst days of the year. Friday, Saturday and Sunday have followed the same pattern in weather terms. Waking up to glorious sunshine and all the hallmarks of a beautiful day but fading rapidly as soon as the hungover tourists start circulating. Today (Monday) is the magical culmination, a stunning day that is like nature sticking two fingers up at tourism. Already I have heard suitcases being wheeled to the station, where they will join a sweaty bus due to track renewals, and later the road out of town will be full.
The final tradition of a bank-holiday is to indulge in a pint whilst watching children bickering in overheated cars while hungover parents scowl. I think that our politicians would benefit from a bank holiday spent at a UK seaside town, to give the some understanding. All of the advertisements and inducements in the world won’t draw more people to UK tourism, it is ingrained for generations. It can all be summed up by the 60 year old man walking down the prom in bare feet yesterday, in the face of coats and hats to defeat a chill wind he sported only speedos and wet hair, fresh from his swim. I can hear the conversation, as I did when I was child, that went “I came to the beach for a holiday and I will be going for my bloody swim”. It is this bloody minded spirit that sees families battling the wind to get to the beach and frozen children paddling in the sea. They know that on Monday the coast will be mocking them but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy their break.
In other news my stubborn streak has been out in force this weekend. I decided to do some tattooing on Saturday and it went reasonably well although I did ache very quickly. On Saturday evening my left wrist was in agony which made no sense, I am right handed. So the wrist that controlled the machine was ok but the one that had to hold the skin was not, why on earth would that be? I checked the relative movements but could not make sense of it.
The pain remained overnight and into Sunday morning when I was forced to consider options. Here the stubborn streak stepped in and suggested that I should do some more work. After all I had adjusted that packer hadn’t I? And it would be a shame not to use it. And so it is that I can report that two shorts sessions of ink has done nothing to ease the pain in lefty which is, equally stubbornly, claiming the title of ‘hardest worked’. On the plus side the greatest response to an SMS that asked what you are doing has to be “colouring in my knee”.
I have posted various things about piers recently and it got me thinking. To those of us that had childhoods around seaside towns they remain hugely symbolic. The memories that we have are more than images they are smells and emotions and the enchantment of childhood. But for some piers are not experienced in childhood and they are just decrepit structures.
Many years ago a project manager from Derby popped in to visit me. Derby is the middle of the country and as land locked as you can get on our little island. Having decided to walk along the pier we achieved the task with little drama. On surveying the sea and the coast from the end of the pier we turned to walk back. It was at this point that my friend realised that there were gaps between the boards. Wearing high heels she had negotiated the gaps without fear or failure on the outboard trip. The return was not so easy, faltering pigeon steps and shrieks about sums it up. And the loose planks were worth extra shrieks and clutching.
I realised that this is the same thing that enchants us as children. The broken gnarly pieces of wood like thin bony fingers rising from the sea to support us. The loose boards, broken railings and the gaps that allow us to see the ocean beneath us. No pier is complete without rotting supports and what must once have been temporary repairs. To a small child wobbling a plank that is all that stands between them and the ocean is amazing. Even in earlier enlightened times it was probably one of the rare occasions when you experienced risk and danger with your parents rather than being scolded later.
For those that don’t have the memories look at the shot below of my local pier. This broken arrangement pushes half a mile out to sea. The damaged, ageing construction survives the raw power of the North Sea as she fights to remove such man made violations. For those that have the memories, remember.
A weekend at home brings with it more reasons why some people are considered ‘special’ by more than just their parents. It seems hardly a weekend can go by without Pat injecting some of his own brand of logic and this weekend was no exception. When it was politely pointed out to Pat that he had made rather a hash of shaving, unless his intention was to maximise skin and blood loss, he immediately retorted that he hadn’t seen it. I had to challenge him on how you can achieve a shave without seeing your own face and that’s when I hit Pat logic, there is no light in his bathroom so he shaves ‘by feel’. When I suggested that this was not a good method he ran his hand over the scarred landscape of his chin and said ‘it feels ok’ I tried my best to establish that this was precisely the problem to be met by Pat’s standard response of ‘your hard work’.
Apparently some form of football game was played yesterday giving yet another opportunity to observe the bizarre scene of men watching a game. Only with football do you see overweight, unfit men that haven’t practiced any sport in decades get so emotional and try and direct the multi million pound fairies on the television, they can’t hear you and if they did do you think they would take your advice? These over excited spectators get so emotional that they are out of breath by half time yet they insist on explaining that this or that player should have done something different like they would have, seriously you get out of breath shouting, there is no way you could even run a lap of the pitch let alone play a game. Full credit to George for managing to do a good job of watching the game whilst sitting with his back to the TV and talking to his wife, how he didn’t fall off the chair constantly swivelling his head from side to side remains a mystery. I think that George will be having an interesting week though as he discovers exactly what the Mrs was asking him when he was idly responding with “yes dear” this Pat is far too astute to let such an opportunity slip by.
Nice to see the tourist offering starting to crank up as ever from the first weekend of March, we now have the rock, sunglasses and bucket and spade shop open just in case anyone wants to make sandcastles. It’s not as daft as you may think to be offering seasonal goods in March, the beach was busy yesterday with groups of tourists rediscovering the sea. It’s interesting to watch the tourist dance, they discover the beach now when they are ‘opening’ the caravan following the winters absence then they hide in the pub until the end of season when they visit the beach once more because they ‘miss it during the winter’
This is always an interesting time of year as you discover which concessions have changed hands or been altered during the winter hibernation to emerge renewed when the shutters are dropped. One change that is clearly weighing on my friend Helen’s mind is the moving of some benches, not a significant event for most of us but its enough to make her dream that they have been stacked on the balcony, a point that she had to check at 2 am just to be sure.