With the dead-eyed automation of a cat trying to cover its tracks after defecating in a flower bed, looking into the middle distance and not understanding what evolutionary processes have led to this moment, they intone, as one, “The beach!”
I am on a ‘beach holiday’, and the people I’m with, some of my closest friends, are turning into monsters before my eyes. When the question of what we’re doing today is asked there can be only one answer, and it’s a dreadful one. “The beach! The beach!” they chant, gradually hunching over and becoming Quasimodo with his “The bells! The bells!”
I have a well-developed aversion to beach holidays, assembled over many years of sand in shoes and various bodily fissures, puckering red skin and terror that the upper half of Quint’s body will emerge from the deep at any moment. The beach symbolises everything that’s wrong with the way people choose a holiday; principally, that in order to be happy and relaxed at the end of a break abroad you have to spend that entire trip roasting like half a chicken in a Harvester microwave.
For reasons I cannot explain, I am hot all the fucking time. Hot to the touch, high body temperature, ‘high metabolism’; call it what you will I’m burning on the inside, so the idea I’d want to burn on the outside too is bewildering. I explain this to people after they call me a miserable scrote for turning down a fun day of lying on a sunbed. I point out that you never hear me moan when it’s cold or when people run for their lives as the first drop of rain stabs at them like acid. But am I spared the pitying looks and whispers behind the back about my reluctance to join in what everyone must surely love? Don’t be ridiculous.
Without coming over all white supremacist I am perfectly happy with my skin staying the colour it is. It changes gradually as I age, turning from a light shade of pink into the dirty cream colour of the foam at the top of a pint of Guinness. I certainly don’t need it to be that odd mix of red, grey and brown people turn when they’ve lathered themselves up with Factor 10 and prostrated themselves on a plastic grill for eight hours straight.
There are people here who have moaned that their lunch order in the beach-side (covered) bar is taking too long because they’re wasting time they could spend sunbathing. Christ help us; if you want to burn that badly just specify cremation on your will, fill your pockets with pebbles and piss off out into the sea.
Sunbathing is officially the only activity more boring than the gym, but at least it’s preferable to trying to get to the bloody loungers on the most hateful substance known to man: sand. I was one of those kids who would as good as beg an increasingly implausible God for snow every day of the winter, and was simply overjoyed to slip and slide around an icy playground before ice and fun were privatised by the witch Thatcher. Sand is like anti-snow, shifty and hatefully scorching, and must be stopped.
Admittedly the sea itself is generally fine. I like swimming, and the sea makes a change from pools packed with children who get in with bladders full of urine and get out with faces full of shame. But this sea I’m looking at right now, from the happy vantage point of a hotel room balcony, is filled with peeling British tourists in costumes so tight you’ll find yourself emerging horrified from a brief trip beneath the surface, hoping that what just went in your ear was some brat’s inflatable banana rather than the gigantic appendance his father seems intent on squeezing into a pouch the size of those two-inch bags you find in Christmas crackers containing tiny screwdrivers.
I’m here, in southern Cyprus, for the wedding of two people I’ve known and loved for many years. Once I’d won the initial “Should we really invite that miserable twat?” debate there’s very little that would have stopped be being here, despite how much I hate weddings, because these people mean a hell of a lot to me.
And I’m not complaining that this has resulted in a beach holiday, as most of the group seem to be enjoying it despite the staggering heat. I do however thoroughly object to the mindset epitomised by the man who sees me every morning and riffs hilarious on a theme of “Going to smile today then?” I might if you find a way to turn the fucking sun down mate, though that might wreck your chances of going back looking like a Cypriot. How about we pop up to Reykjavik for a quick break around January time and see who’s smiling then?
Hard as it may be to understand as you crouch like a cornered animal and growl “the beach” at passers by, I am not staying away from the glorious conjunction of water and dirt because I’m a miserable bastard trying to put an unhappy edge on your wonderful week in the sun. It is just too fucking hot for me. Please leave me to sit in the bar and drink myself to oblivion. Join me when you like and I’ll act the usual pub simpleton you seem to accept when we’re not in situations requiring me to sweat like a fat man in a cake shop. Please, in the evening when things have cooled slightly, try not to waste my time and yours by banging on about how I’m a grumpy fucker who’s somehow not putting the effort in and why did you come anyway if you don’t like “The beach? The beach?”
I am a pasty white man, I get hot incredibly easily, and the beach is my enemy. Drop us all in the deep freeze of a Norwegian winter and see who’s the bloody life and soul of the party then.