Beach day

Sand dunes, mountains with pot holes. He’s skidding along the slopes, his tiny feet plodding and skipping over certain death.

A little girl piles onto an ever-growing bucket of sand, a castle in it’s own right. “Cover the seaweed, cover the seaweed”, she chants with a rhythm and inflection that births a jingle.

Pink sun-hat on her head, she grabs at star-shaped biscuits the with little crabby hands. Hand to bowl, smash to mouth and repeat.

The young leaders: “guys!” They keep digging. “Guys listen!” They pat at the walls of the trenches they have dug. “Guys listen to me!” This time exasperated. “Let’s dig a third hole, right over there!” He gets started and the others nod.
Another girl whips her head around to her friend and says “I’ll show you where to go”. She jumps into the sea without looking back to see if anyone is following.

He wades in tentatively. Stares as the sand suck at his feet. Forwards, a cool flush, backwards, the liquid rolls.

A watering hole. A puddle surrounding the pipe. Good for washing hands and feet, he’s discovered.

Things flow downstream. Just dig a line towards the sea and pour water from the very top. Watch as it flows like a viscous substance. Slurred, languorous.

Little boy follows the trail, the dip in the sand. It must lead somewhere, it’s a path after all.

Dark barley grains, black almost. They must be collected and separated from the lighter sand. How else does one layer the cake?

From time immemorial, the fetching of water. To the sea they go, and back to home base. Used for building. Used to refill the temporary well, the water mysteriously disappearing underground.

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On understanding the obsession with English weather-talk:

Only 2% of gingers in the world and they’re all congregated in London. You’d swear it was at least 34%. Although they comprise a substantial portion of the population, London teems with diversity, bearing the unmistakable face of globalisation.

London presents the historical backdrop on which the modern man walks: Ed, adamantly against Brexit (and sadly, his grandparents), gets on the Tube and sits next to a tanned Australian. He catches a little Italian in his ear on the way to work and eyes Hindi on the menu for a plate of steaming samosas during his lunch break at Borough market. He wonders whether it used to be a train station (it wasn’t; the market’s been around for 1000 years). After work, he rides a bike past St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Monument for the Great Fire of London, and finds himself flying through the East London markets where hijabs and crates of all trades abound. Vegetables, pyjamas, fake handbags, check. Home at last, he calls his Chinese-born-French girlfriend and greets her with a few lines he’s picked up from his colleague. Ed is a happy Londoner because he doesn’t have to lie about being culturally conscious when interviewed.

If you’re not bilingual, you’re probably biracial. Or maybe you’re a Briton through and through; it doesn’t matter. You’re not special for being different. Or perhaps you are- but so is everyone else.

But what about the rituals? What about tradition? Well, there’s Sunday Roast and Day Drinking and Drinking At All Times. Coffee and tea are not opposed. You’ll see friends, waiters, hobos, crouching with their smokes, men with stiff quiffs and absolutely no bins anywhere. The bins were my greatest disappointment; I will not be returning.

Just kidding. The weather determines all.

Your eyes

I thought: gorillas. Or guerrilla warfare. The kind you must shield your ears from. Laughter like bombs going off, cackles and obnoxious shouts of jubilee. I flinched at every sound, ears turning inwards, conch shell cochlea spiralling towards a fine point.

Overwhelmed by my own discomfort, I could not see the beauty and triumph of the moment: a revolutionary shout. A carriage of black people, celebrating themselves and their togetherness; pure, rowdy, group effervescence. The football stadium kind, when your team make the goal and boy, you’re so proud. When it’s girls night and yes it’s really about the dancing. When the Theban women gather for three nights with their baskets and torches to revel in the magic of womanhood.

“It was kinda cool. I thought that this must have been what it was like for Rosa Parks”, she said.

What an insightful thing to say, I thought. What an awesome picture. With that, my anger cooled, my heart glad.