Archive for October, 2008

Castles

October 15, 2008

They have decided to visit the beach. I have two minutes in which to decide to join. I envisage the trip. It interests some. I envisage staying here. It interests me less. I’ll go. The beach has memories for me. The sea may forget, but the beach does not.

We arrive. The sandwiches come out. I have none. I had no time in which to make some. I do not ask for one. I am a fussy eater. No one would benefit if I did.

I forget Bertrand’s name. I do not ask him for it. It does not matter. They go swimming. I walk.

A pebble gets in my sandal. I take them off. Somehow stepping on lots of stones barefooted is much more tolerable than having just one stone stuck in my footwear. The beach is mainly pebbles and rocks. Only a narrow strip near the water is sandy. I go there. I wonder what defines a beach. Is it the sand? Must a beach be sandy?

The sun comes in bursts. It’s been a while since the rays of that burning ball have reached us. Kids dig up the sand and form it into worlds. I admire the moat-makers and the battlements shaped by their own hand. One child has even moved away from the traditional sandcastle and formed a fortress of stones. It lacks the aesthetic qualities of its competition, but will no doubt outlive them. This child has chosen sturdiness over prettiness. I admire his will too. I do not care for the bucket-wielders. They are the mercenaries of the shore. Their joy seems to derive from the quantity of castles made. They are building imaginary property empires occupying large swathes of the narrow sandy strip. The temptation to trample their tiny towns is strong, but I resist. Their dynasty will not last long regardless. I step carefully through the sandy suburbia and continue on.

I skip stones. Badly. Very badly. I even miss the sea on one occasion. It takes skill to skip stones on the sea. The breaking of the waves must be judged with precision. I have neither the inclination nor the patience to work it out. I throw the remaining stones in my hand high into the air and listen to them splash. I watch them splash too, but it is the sound that I enjoy. And then I just remain there and I stare out into the vastness of water. I am transfixed by its relentlessness; enthralled by its gentle might.

I stand where the country ends, considering the waves. They trickle towards my toes like tiny fencers growing ever braver with each of the old sea’s yawns. There is a sense of anticipation; intangible, but definite, as though some great white foe is poised beneath the surface, awaiting the all-clear. Shortly, she will rise. The horizon seems to quaver. The ripples draw nearer my feet. Clouds scuttle over hurriedly, casting darknesses across the blue-green tide, like ghostly Pacmans running from the law, or a screensaver.

The moment passes, unresolved. I turn away. A woman is standing not too far down. She is also staring into the sea.  I wonder if she sensed it too. I check the time. I leave.

In the shop nearby, the clerk seems steadfastly humourless. The prices of ice-creams surprise me.  My two euro is not sufficient for some of them. I have been out of the game a while.
“How much is this one?” I ask.

He scans it. I see the figure. He holds out his hand. I take the Magnum back to the freezer. I return with a Galaxy.
“What about this one?”
He scans it. Again the figure is too high for me. Again, he holds out his hand. Again, I put the ice-cream back. It was at this point that I was hoping the clerk might intervene on my behalf and suggest one of the ice-creams within my ice-cream budget. He did not flinch. I am glad there was no queue. To avoid any further awkwardness, I change tack, dump the Galaxy and grab a bag of crisps – I often buy crisps. I know how much they cost. Although, Killiney is dear. Maybe everything here is out of my price range. I approach the counter, again. With slight consternation, I present my choice. The man remains indifferent. The crisps are scanned. The figure comes up. The hand comes out. I pay. He gives me change. I leave. I will not return. It is tainted.

Back at the beach, the light has changed and the air has lost its charm. Children have abandoned their sand and stone castles to be stormed by the water. They are not allowed to stay to defend their fortresses from their inevitable fate. Sunday parents pack up their Sunday children and return to their cars. Bertrand has finished his swim and is dry. We also leave. The sea remains and tomorrow the castles will be gone.