July 11 1999
10 Forsythia Grove
CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT
Thank you, Harriet, for your interesting epistle. I hope you have recovered from the cracked glass vessel incident!
Myself, the Cosy Old Sock, and his standard poodle – the Fonz – have been sojourning down at the sea side, if only for the day. I have not been to this particular sea side for nearly 45 years and so the whole trip had the sort of nostalgic redolence which I rarely get to experience. It was in thoughtful mode that I directed the Sock down the winding lanes leading to Nooky Bay and its long stretch of unadulterated sand.
The first thing that struck me was how narrow the sands looked compared to the widths of memory. And how small the offshore rocks. However, the length seemed just the same: long and long and long.
After a few witticisms to the effect that, if the Sock did not feel fit enough for kite surfing and water skiing, he could perhaps partake of some ‘bingo and a sing song’ up at the local hotel, we set off down the unending stretch of sand to the point where, I said, my parents used to take us. ‘Us’ being my brother, myself, and the sailing dinghy we had to haul along the foreshore to a point sufficiently deserted to satisfy my father’s need to be Alone.
The sand was hard near the water and the sea swept its waves upon it. Small waves admittedly and, what I could not understand, is why no-one was swimming. It was not, after all, a cold day and the sun was mostly out. It surely could not be the bodies of the jelly fish deflated among the shells and bladder wrack on the tide line.
“You know, I think the tide is coming in,” I said to the Sock. “Maybe I will have a little paddle later on.”
“Rather you than me,” said the Sock, firmly keeping his shirt and jumper upon him. “The Fonz and I do not like swimming.”
“Oh,” I said. And we carried on walking to what appeared to be a long, deserted, section of beach separating one group of sunbathers from another. “Why do you think there is that giant space?” I said.
“No idea,” said the Sock, pointing out that there appeared to be a Blue Sign further up ahead. And so we carried on towards it. The Blue Sign denoted the fact that this section of the beach had been assigned to naturists. We looked about us and it did seem that people like us (clothed) were still walking up and down the shoreline and that others (further in towards the dunes) were either partly-clothed or naked.
“Hmmm,” I said. “What do you want to do?”
“Carry on,” said the Sock, with the tiniest glint in his eye. “Maybe you would like to go swimming.” So we perambulated along the sands, noticing, from time to time, that there appeared to be naked males standing in the sand dunes with their profiles – or posteriors – facing the water.
“What do you think they could be doing?” I said. “They are standing there for an awfully long time. Do you think this could be the Gay section of the beach?”
“Mmmm,” said the Sock. “Would you like to go for a paddle yet? We could sit over there.” And he pointed to a piece of sand, near the dunes, where nobody naked was residing.
“Well,” I said. “I haven’t actually brought a swimming costume with me. Only a pair of Hawaiian cotton shorts.”
“I should just take the whole lot off if I was you,” said the Sock. “Join in with the spirit.”
“That is alright for you to say,” I said. “You are fully clad from neck to ankle and you have said that you are not intending to go in yourself.”
So I sat down and wriggled out of my black leggings (under my skirt) and underwear. And then thought, ‘To hell with it’ and paraded down to the water-line in my red, lacy, bra and shorts. The sea was cold, but not so cold that death from water shock might be inevitable. But what concerned me slightly was that still nobody else was swimming. Perhaps they were distracted by alternative pursuits up on the sand dunes. I waded in and my lungs gasped. With the sea water slapping round my waist it seemed foolish to give up. And so I dived into a wave and swam a few strokes in my best front crawl. It does, however, pay to be wary of the sea Harriet. One does not wish to be swept out (ending up deceased on holiday). So I kept my toes always touching down upon the sand. And in one bravura moment I took off the Hawaiian shorts and waved them above my head. “Yoo hoo dearie,” I called in the general direction of the beach as – tending somewhat to myopia – I couldn’t actually make out any people.
And then I returned to shore, naturally displaying my Raquel Welch-like physique to best effect as I strode towards the dunes (now re-clad in the shorts). But, do you know, I could not see the Sock. He seemed to have disappeared. I had to ask a total stranger – denuded of his clothing – if he could see a male (fully dressed) and a standard white poodle anywhere about. “There,” he said, pointing to a blob some 20 meters distant.
“There you are,” said the Sock crossly. “You were being swept along the beach. And when you got out of the sea, you set off in the opposite direction to where we were. Was that a flag I could see you waving?”
I don’t know Harriet. Why do one’s best efforts always remain unnoticed by the intended recipient!