First I boiled the hot water, poured it into a thermos flask then I popped a Rooibosh teabag into my purse.
I made a salad and piled it into a plastic pot with a lid.
Then I packed a canvas bag with said produce, a fork, a blanket, a bottle of Johnsons baby oil, a book and enough loose change to pay for parking.
Took the lid of the little red car and whoosh I was off.
The air was cold on the way to Brighton so I had the heater on full, my toes curled with the hot air and the rest of me relaxed. By the time I got to The Pier the sun was beating down.
I drove down the front, past the Odeon cinema, past The Grand Hotel, past fish and chip shops and The Ship. I have a standing ashtray- it stands in the garden – which we nicked from the hotel 38 years ago when we had a band. The ‘Rolling Stones’ trashed bedrooms I pilfered a standing ashtray which is still standing, in all its anarchistic glory, under one of the apple trees.
I kept driving until there was a parking space. Bunged three quid in the meter, pulled the hood up and went to find a lavatory.
The little caff on the front had one they were perfectly happy to share.
I picked my way over the pebbles until the big stones got smaller and turned into shale. Laid down my blanket, a really cheap one free with something from the garage it’s got a picture of a dog on the front, sat on the dogs face and settled my shape into the stones, took out my thermos and book, balanced them in the shingle then slapped some baby oil on.
The smell of Johnsons baby oil takes me back to 1967 when I had to do teaching practice at King Alfred’s School, opposite my old drama school which was in Anna Pavlovas house opposite the ‘Bull and Bush’. I would cross the road and sit in on classes. One of my tasks was to rub Johnsons baby oil into the little, white arms of Alfred Lord Tennysons great grandaughter who had eczema.
Today I rubbed the oil into my not so little brown arms. The beach was not crowded. Two girls writing essays, an elderly couple on canvas chairs, a young man with a bicycle, a South American pair who were all over each other, and a grey haired trendsetter who arived at 1.00 with his back pack. He took off his mustard shirt, wrapped a big blue towel around his waist, whipped off his trousers, pulled on a pair of chequered shorts, left his shoes and clothes in a pile and walked into the cold North Sea.
He swam for five minutes, then came out and tucked into a mighty, wholemeal sandwhich. It made me hungry so I tucked into my salad. I tried chewing the broccolli 30 times – the way they tell you to do – but I can never manage more than 28 bites, I must have big teeth.
I turned over to read my book. Turned back and took my leggings off. The sun was beating through the stretchy material. Nobody could tell that my little black underpants weren’t bikini bottoms. Turned round again, then back towards the sea which was moving up the pebbles, I kept turning myself in the sun like a doner kebab on a spit. In fact after my three hours on the beach I look like a doner kebab on a spit.
I packed up with 30 minutes to go before my parking ran out and decided to take a walk up towards Hove.
Babies with mothers, babies with fathers, babies with babies, more babies than in Nappie Valley on Wandsworth Common. Skateboarders who, on the way up to Hove, couldn’t do the balancing thing, but had masterd it by the time I came back. Past pink, lilac, yellow, blue, green beach huts. Sky blue, midnight blue, cornflour blue, an abundance of blue hued huts. I peeked inside two. A fridge and bottles of stuff in one, bottles of stuff and a broom in another.
The weather was glorious.
On the way back to the car there were even more babies, but now we had Brighton’s dog show. Dogs wearing scarves, dogs wearing muzzles and dogs with other dogs on multiple leads.
Got a blister on my right middle toe, which was manageable, the smallest price to pay for the air, the ozone, the smell of cooking in the beachside caffs and the smell of possibilities.
The smell of meat cooking in the open air always makes me think of the street food in Jerusalem, cooking meat in the UK doesn’t have quite the same appeal as I know it’ll be cheap, frozen hamburgers from the cash and carry, but for just one second I was in the middle of Old Jerusalem with nothing but my youth, my theatre group and a few shekels.
On the side of the promenade was a sign that told us to ‘Keep Off The Groynes’, I nearly went back to the beach to tell the South American couple that big brother was watching them.
Drove to visit my mother. We sat out in the garden, I stroked her hand as she went in and out of sleep.
I left after about an hour and sat in several traffic jams. Arriving home to three letters on the mat, after todays announcemnet of an increase in a first class stamp to 60p I’m reckongng that my post will dwindle. Which is horrible because I love getting mail. Although Gods Gift has a catalogue of strange catalogues that he subscribes to which fills up the paper section in the dust bin. This month if I’m really lucky I can get a 100 foot self coiling hose, and a set of discreet security spikes, now they really would keep ’em off the groynes.