Chapter 22 – At the Seaside

Tarquin had always been proud of his body, even though there wasn’t an awful lot of it. What there was he considered to be well-constructed and perfectly proportioned, and while he did not like to boast there were certain areas he was pretty sure would win a prize or two if he ever chose to cast his dignity aside and enter a competition.

Then he woke up and left his dream body in whatever Wonderland it inhabited, and the real world with its aches and pains and all its drab and depressing dreariness draped itself over and around him, like a duvet that has got itself wrapped around you but nothing like as nice or as comfortable. But he was determined to enjoy himself, because he believed that if you have been bothered enough or stupid enough to book a Bed & Breakfast for a week by the seaside it makes sense to get into the spirit of the thing and be jolly, or as jolly as you can manage. This was what Tarquin called “My Philosophy of Life”, although he had not really given it much thought.

After a 7 and a half out of ten full English breakfast surrounded by sundry other guests, all of whom Tarquin contrived to ignore, he made his way to the promenade. The beach was already well-stocked with what was (technically) humanity but, to Tarquin’s jaundiced vision, more akin to whale blubber slowly grilling beneath the watery English sun, sprawled on towels and staring at phones, while innumerable offspring ran around squealing at the tops of their voices or splashed about until (Tarquin hoped) they drowned unnoticed in the sea, in the depths of which the Kraken lay in wait as it had done for many years (not to mention Moby Dick). Tarquin purchased a ridiculously expensive ice cream from one of the many vendors on the promenade, and a spotty youth gave him the wrong change. Tarquin pointed out the error, engaged in a brief argument, which he won, and then betook himself to a deckchair to sit and enjoy and survey scornfully the scene before him.

And what was this? Tarquin’s heart skipped a beat. Along the promenade came a very comely young lady with an attractive spring in her step and a beguiling sway of the hips, her tightly-fitting denim shorts drawing Tarquin’s eyes away from the charnel house of the beach. He was certain that this lovely young lady was coming to him. That she paused occasionally to have a word and share a joke with other promenaders could not disguise her final destination: she had her eye on Tarquin, and Tarquin had all his eyes on her. After what seemed an age, she reached him. She was standing no more than a foot away. Tarquin looked up and into her eyes. He could smell her fragrance: white musk. Their eyes met. And she told him in an accent he thought was probably East European with perhaps a hint of Croydon that he needed to pay £2 to sit in the deckchair or she would have to insist that he move on. Tarquin sensed this was not a romantic overture, and handed over £2. Then, striking while the iron was less than lukewarm, in his most suave manner he enquired as to her plans for lunch, and would she care to join him for a bite of something and perhaps a glass of wine. She laughed, kind of, and did not answer with words. Her eyes glazed over, and then she was gone.

At lunchtime, as Tarquin wandered in search of something to eat that was not fried and accompanied by loud and obnoxious music he passed a beach-side bar, outside of which thousands of young people were drinking and chatting and having a Moby Dick of a time. Among them Tarquin noticed Deckchair Girl, draping herself all over and around the spotty youth he recognised from the ice cream stand. Or so it seemed. He may have imagined it, for sometimes Tarquin’s imagination would insist upon getting the better of him.



Conrad Titmuss





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