Oh I do like to be Beside the Seaside (or Fractured Thoughts from a Holiday Beach)

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I have to own up here, I love the beach: I love looking at it, I love walking on it, I love finding unexpected treasures and shiny things on it, but I hate laying on it.  I hate sand sticking to my skin, I hate sand between my toes, I hate it in my sandwiches and I hate it in my shorts.  In fact, now I come to think about it, I love the beach, but I hate the sand.

What a day on the beach does allow me is the unfettered opportunity (thank you mirrored sunglasses) to people watch, and what the people being watched on the beach seem to lose is all inhibition: if they’re going to row, they do so at the top of their voices; if they’re OCD about sand on the towel, they will spend hours sweeping and wafting, never sitting, never laying, constantly ‘tutting’ at whoever walks by; if the first splash of briny against the nethers is unduly cold, they will let the whole world know. 

Women of all ages, shapes and sizes look great on the beach.  Men look fat, burned and confused: wondering how long they have to sit before they can reasonably wander off to the bar; wondering how long they have to keep playing with this stupid biff-bat before they can sit down again; wondering how long they’ve got in the sun before they look like a flame-grilled Manitou.  Scattered along the water’s edge there is always an uneven line of Speedo’d men adopting the pose never seen in any other circumstance: ankle-deep in salt water, legs astride, hands on hips, they stare vacantly out to sea wondering how much further they would have to go out before they could decently have a wee?

Children – surely the only valid reason for spending an entire day on the beach – are being yelled at, cajoled and bribed with ice creams that will be 90% sand before the second lick.  Put a child on the beach and they will head towards the sea.  Put an adult on the beach and their whole life becomes dedicated to preventing the little buggers from drowning themselves, and quietening them when they threaten a screaming fit having been prevented from doing so.  Mothers wearing ill-considered bikinis chasing children are faced with the single dilemma: catch the child or constrain the breast?

On the whole, swimming costumes are made in two varieties: those designed to accentuate and those designed to conceal.  It is the accentuators that are least adapted to the female form and the most likely to put you off your lunchtime hotdog when worn by men.  The concealers are loose and voluminous, giving the beach the appearance of being a sea of animated tents, all attempting (there is nothing on this earth – including sunburn – as uncomfortable as sand in the sun cream) to stop themselves from cooking.

The beach is also always full of couples who, although undoubtedly together, are not yet fully comfortable in one another’s company and for whom the intimacy of having their back creamed by their partner is simply a step too far.  They are easily spotted: they have either a red back or a dislocated shoulder.  They never turn their back to the sun.  The beach is a canvas of bronzed fronts and skinned-fish backs.

Those who do not want to be here – surprisingly small in number – become increasingly apparent as the day grinds on.  They sit whilst everybody else lays, they wear T-shirts and shorts and refuse to eat sun-warmed sand-infused cheese and pickle baguettes, they decline the bottled water on the grounds of it being tepid and full of bread after the children got there first.  They write whilst everybody else reads.

All in all, I have to admit that the beach would probably be a better place without me…

8 Miles High* (or Fractured Thoughts from an Aircraft Seat)

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Just how difficult is it when the check-in person asks ‘Did you pack the suitcase yourself?’ not to answer ‘No, actually I got the butler to do it.’?

Why are the first passengers onboard always blithely unaware that there is a planeload of others behind them waiting to board?  Why can they never find their seats?  Why can they never open the overhead locker?  Why can they never lift their bags into the overhead locker?  Why can they never close the overhead locker?  Why do they have to stand in the aisle and chat about the fact that they can never do any of the above while the rest of us queue in the rain outside?  (N.B. the opened overhead locker is not overhead.  If you don’t believe me, try walking under one.)

I understand that not a single life has ever been saved by the under seat lifebelt following a ‘forced landing’ at sea.  They are officially there for the passenger’s peace of mind.  Peace of mind?  Really?  All they do to my mind is to make it even more aware that no life has ever been saved by the lifebelt following a forced landing at sea.  (N.B. Forced landing at sea = crash.)

If an oxygen mask falls from the panel above my head the stewards can relax: there is no way I’m helping anybody else get theirs on before I have put on my own.

Why is the eight-year old with Tourette’s always seated directly behind me and who the hell has painted a target for him/her on the back of my seat?

If policeman are getting younger, how come flight attendants are getting older?

Why is my Kindle still on Flight Mode from my last holiday?

Remember, every word read on a flight is forgotten on landing.

Why do I have the passionate need to have aeronautics explained to me as soon as the plane begins to lumber its way to take-off? 

Can we actually trust the same people whose rules insist that a bumble bee cannot fly to design a functional aircraft? 

Why is it impossible to convince myself that the whole thing is not just one big joke – because nothing of this size could possibly get off the ground – and I am the only one not in on it? 

Why does the back not hit the floor when the front lifts off?

Why does every flight contain a single individual who thinks that everybody else on the plane needs to hear his Sonic the Hedgehog progress?

Why is the person I have just spent two weeks trying to avoid always allocated the seat beside me?

Why does the drinks trolley always reach me last?

Why have they always sold out of Jack Daniels?

Why do all on-board Pringles taste of cheese & onion?

What the hell is that noise?

Exactly who is responsible for that smell?

A typical in-flight meal provides approximately 10% of the nutritional requirements of the average gnat.

Why does the person on the seat between me and the aisle never need the toilet?

The Earth is our friend until we are above it, then it is definitely the enemy.

A mosquito on a plane is worth 10,000 in the bush (and, let’s face it, nobody wants a mozzie in the bush).

However many people are on a flight as it comes into land, not a single one of them actually believes that a plane can fly quite that slowly.

Why do I always believe that I just might possibly be an international terrorist as soon as the passport official looks at me?

Why do I never recognise a single person from my flight at the baggage carousel?

Why is the belt on my suitcase never the colour I remember?

Why does the wheel always start to squeak as I pass through ‘Nothing to Declare’?

*Actually, commercial airplanes generally fly at somewhere between 5.9 and 7.2 miles high.  What were the Byrds thinking about?