Saturday, January 19, 2013

Swanning around

I was recently the writer in a devising project for a stage play. Devised writing is something completely alien to my usual writing style, and I very much enjoyed the process and experience. I was often given homework by the director, prompted by lines and concepts from the actors on the floor. This is one such piece, and I think it is quite evident why it was not suitable for the stage. It was, however, an interesting exercise for me to write a piece in my usual style, but prompted by something than my own observations.

For thousands of years swans have been associated with beautiful women in myths, legends and stories that survive to this day. From Leda conceiving Helen of Troy with Zeus in the form of a swan, to The Ugly Duckling and Swan Lake, the powerful association of women and swans is well worth an examination.

The pace of modern life is often likened to a bird gliding across the water, calm and beauty visible to all, frantic paddling hidden below the waterline. Watching a bright-eyed swan float elegantly by, all serene plumage and sinuous neck, you cannot see the tiny legs working hard underneath to keep everything afloat and moving in the right direction. How often does the morning ritual of the hair and makeup, skirts and high heels armour a woman for a day spent trying to make having it all seem effortless? We manage to make all the physical discomfort of our beauty regimes and absurd fashions seem natural and essential to our success.

Yet despite all this work, the rewards for being judged by beauty alone are few and unfulfilling, as men are so acquisitive and protective of their beautiful possessions. In medieval England the swans were designated as Royal animals, to be hunted and devoured by Royalty and aristocracy only. Concurrently across Europe was the custom of ‘The Lord’s Right’, the supposed right of the feudal Lord to the virginity of the women marrying on his estate the night before their wedding. Beauty in the eyes of man produces a wish to own and consume, until the next beautiful object is discovered. Whether our beauty fades with age, changes with the fashion or bores the once proud owner, there is no lasting happiness in being an item of desire.

But there is hope and levity to be found in the parallels with women and swans across the ages. The philosopher Juvenal in 200AD made a sarcastic reference that a good woman was a ‘rare bird, as rare on earth as a black swan.’ Of course we know now that black swans glide across the waters of the southern hemisphere and the start of equal rights for women shows there are good women the world over. How we revel in our chance to take our rare and gorgeous feathers into the workplace to dazzle the eyes of men while working equally as hard. How we are still judged by those feathers, not the work we actually do.

Swans by nature are fiercely protective of their family, prefer to mate for a lifetime and share the incubation of their eggs between male and female. Perhaps we can hope for the continued association of women and swans to encourage some new ideas for our society. To acknowledge the importance of the natural strengths of women, beyond just their beauty; strength in raising the next generation, adding planning for the next generation to the workplace and the primacy of commitment and equality everywhere. Perhaps inequality towards women will be a myth for future generations, leaving women judged only on beauty to ancient stories and medieval legend.

Monday, January 14, 2013


Dolls, like puppies, cry for the first few days they are with new Hosts. But, like puppies, Dolls are held and loved and taken to tea parties and given treats, so after a few days, they start to feel loved and stop crying. The Fey called from the Circles to Dolls are always on their first calling, so they are young and affectionate.

When I picked Abigail up on Saturday, her Host had been adamant that she moved, but had not mention talking. I assumed the Host was investing her doll with the characteristics of a Doll she remembered from childhood. Only about 5% of dolls owned by Hosts over 6-years-old call the Fey and become Dolls, so when I got home and Abigail wasn’t talking, I figured she was merely an adult’s doll and I placed her amongst my other housemates.

Last night I was woken up at about 2am and Abigail was at the end of my bed. I was so pleased. Dolls that find themselves in households without children sometimes forget how to talk. I assumed she had talked to my sister, the youngest in our household, and asked to be moved, so I lent forward to hug her, and she turned her head away from me.

I was so frightened it felt like my soul was yanked out of the top of my head and left yabbering about witch-hazel and wolfsbane up near the ceiling somewhere. And I think I might have stopped breathing. As I stopped moving though, Abigail ceased her contemplation of the bookshelf and turned her face back to me. The shock of the second movement had me back in my body in no time, because I was actually face to face with a still Doll.

When the Circles select us as consorts we are told that we can do what we do because we met a still Doll too young. They say our receptiveness to the unique needs of the Fey in Dolls is heightened by an experience that we don’t remember, but can still act on instinctively, and thus we are asked to be consorts. I have always maintained I remember my still Doll, Barbie, but I can tell you, I don’t remember this fright!

Abigail was watching me and I moved again, and again she lost interest in me and turned her head to peruse my bedside table. Suddenly it occurred to me that she liked looking at things that were still, sleeping. So, anxious that I give her some affection soon - the Fey do not do well without affection when on their first calling - I ignored my residual fright and lay her down next to me in bed. I needed to sleep, she liked still things, so I figured she could watch me while I slept.

This morning I woke up and it was clear that Abigail and I were going to get along fine. There is a scene in the movie of Interview with the Vampire when Claudia cuts off her beautiful curls and they grow back immediately. I always wanted perfect curls like hers, and curls that lasted forever. I woke up this morning with a head full of curls, loving set by Abigail while I slept.

I don't think she is an ordinary still Doll, my Abigail.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Current Housemates

Housemate One: Sister. Soon to be in London. Huzzah!

Housemate Two: Humpty Dumpty. Born the same time I was born. Better than Humpty on Play School, for sure.

Housemate Three: Green Dragon. Again, a friend from when I was very young. He could be a dinosaur. It's hard to tell.

Housemate Four: Queen Mab. A friendship cemented in Year Twelve Religion, named for a Shakespearean Fairy, she has a crucifix (body of Christ removed) at her waist.

Housemate Five: The Librarian. My orangutan friend, entrusted to me by the Ladies of The Broken Drummers on the occasion of my Leaving of London.

Housemate Six: Penguin. Because I've always been friends with penguins.

Housemate Seven: She comes with a bad reputation, but I think I can handle her.

Hey guys, this is Abigail!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday I’m in Love

I like to buck the trend, I don’t like Fridays. I don’t like Fridays because I love my workmates.


*burp* “Guess which end? That was a lost fart. I can sing through my bum. If you ever want a demonstration, tell me.”


*Workmate with Manflu drinking a can of Coke*
Manflu to Workmate 1: “Did you want a drink?”
Workmate 1: “No thanks, especially if you licked around the rim.”
Workmate 2: “If that’s what you’re into …”
Workmate 1: “Don’t you use a straw for that?”

“Have you ever drunk hot Milo with a straw? It makes it hotter. You have to have warm Milo to make it work.”

*Workmate with lost look on their face*
Workmate: “I had a can of Coke, and now I don’t.”
Me: “Do you drink it with a straw?”
Workmate: “No, it makes it too fast and my brain gets bubbly.”


Investigation officers, awful-cers or orifices?


*thoughtful eating of blueberry muffins throughout the department*
Me: “There is nothing that can't be solved with food around here.”
Workmate: “Except the loud toilet paper noises.”


*reading excerpt from CV*
“January 2008 – December 2010
The Perc Cafe
Key Tasks: waitressing, making coffee”
Workmate: “You're hired, you're funny.”

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Fey Circles

I saw this marvelous advert and decided to send the seller an email offering to be Abigail's new Host. I am sure I can keep Abigail in line, as I did my very naughty Barbie when I was five!

Dear Abigail’s Current Host

I run the Fey Circles Relocation Service for Dolls.

We offer a Protective Intermediary Service to human Hosts who are having their Doll extracted. When a Doll is being removed from Middle World, it is unwise to wait until The Circles call on you, especially if you do not have salt, milk and witch hazel on your person in the correct proportions.

We seek to prevent injuries and loss of life.

Abigail is due back to her Mother in less than a fortnight and we are so pleased we were able to locate you before the end of her allowed time in Middle World.

I was the Host for Abigail’s sister, Barbie, around thirty years ago. She was similarly wilful and I kept her in line by keeping her naked under a cupboard and chewing her feet off slowly.

She was a very acquiescent Barbie until her Mother came to fetch her.

Queen Mab has included this message for Abigail. I hope it will make dealing with her easier during the next few weeks, as we locate Abigail’s Glass for her return to her loving family.


Abigail, darling, all is forgiven! It’s almost time to come home.

The Fey Circles left a spider strangled in its own thread on my stoop last night, so I estimate you have about 13 days before you are required to come back through The Looking Glass.

Don’t be afraid of the return journey, it only hurts entering the Middle World. Coming back to The Circles is a great pleasure, you are coming home, after all! Just in case, we will have all the necessary needles and threads ready for your return, I’m sure all the flayed parts will be found this time.

Your sister Barbie is looking forward to seeing you again. We got around the problem of her missing feet by soldering her legwires to the accelerator and brake of her favourite Tonka Truck. She can get almost anywhere in that Truck.

Missing you terribly, your adoring Mother, Mab.

We look forward to working with you in this matter

Claire Madeleine
Middle World Fey Circles Consort, P.fey.D
Doll Extractor

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Almost The Midnight

It's almost The Midnight, and I am waiting for the third piece of news.

The first half of today was flat and boring and grumpy. By lunchtime I knew the extreme grumpiness was simply The World warning me that she was sending me something very, very soon.

I told my lovely lunch companion that something was coming. Over the last year I have developed some really excellent gut instincts that have only grown stronger and more correct over time.

Sure enough, The World sent me two marvellous pieces of news, exciting news, news that has changed the shape and direction of my next five years or so. The World even added two supplementary marvellous pieces of insightful and encouraging feedback, designed to help me move forward very quickly.

But somewhere out there, in the world, to one of my friends, a third, marvellous thing is happening. I look forward to hearing about it very soon indeed.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Real Life

This blog has given me many things over the last eight years; feedback and friends being the most fulfilling.

Any kind of feedback has always astonished and humbled me, because I write and post mostly for myself, I don’t often remember my blog has an audience (small as it is) at all.


Revisiting some of my writing has reminded me that I have fond wishes for my writing to travel and change with each reader.

I would like just one line written by me to survive the apocalypse - although I hope it will be used by the right people!

I would like at least one of my articles to be so subversive that it is banned by someone who likes banning stuff - although I have had a very unsatisfactory partial experience of that also.

I would like to have someone disagree with me so violently that they need to write about it. Bear with A Head Cold (Reprise) is my most read blog post, and it has collected pretty much the only comment on the entire blog. I am incredibly proud that it has gone on to be used to debunk the email that inspired my ire and my writing.


No explanation needed

Make sure you include me!

It also attracted one of the only pieces of criticism from a stranger I have been fortunate enough to find.

Rather perversely I find his criticism to be very complimentary. I am particularly pleased that he thinks I diagram my sentences, as I had to look up diagramming to work out what he was talking about! He also accuses me of logical dissection, which is very charming of him. I just call it ranting, to be honest.

Much as I like the Corvette criticism however, my fondest piece of feedback was positive feedback. It is a piece of art forwarded to me by someone who read my American Politics writing through the Org, the artistic collective that sprung up around zeFrank’s The Show.

Here is John Green reminiscing about The Show at the 9 minute and 9 second mark: John Green Meets zeFrank, and some other excellent ideas.

a bomb nation entitled this image “let me out! - or - an explanation of why americans love clairemadeleine's blog"
I will never forget his explanation for the image:

He said that while he did not agree with my politics - he was a Republican and I most certainly was not - he found my spontaneous and untried analysis was free of the noise of the American Media, and gave him a clearer lines of discussion in the politics of his nation.

Now that is a beautiful compliment to receive; and it reminds me that providing a little bit of clarity is actually the number one thing that I want the reader to experience from my written opinions.


All three of my Blog Buddies came to me in the last few months of my two years in London.


Sarah found my review of one of her performances and emailed to thank me for it. I was slightly overwhelmed to have been thanked by someone who had given me such pleasure. We chatted over the years and I witnessed (sometimes, Facebook, I do love what you do) her fabulous career.

Tonight I watched the trailer of a movie Sarah stars in (Gaspard Ulliel everyone, right next to my Blog Buddy Sarah!), and it is a nice feeling to see how far from the National Portrait Gallery we have come.


My second and third Blog Buddies arrived a month after Sarah, and in truth, I found them. Our mutual admiration of each other’s writing led Carolyn, Celina and I to keep a casual and appreciative eye on each other’s work, although we never met in person.

When Celina left her job as a corporate lawyer in Singapore and moved to Perth to study Veterinary Science, it took a simply ridiculous three years for us to catch up. And I wish I had not been so stupid, because Celina was marvelous, and I had too little time with her before she died in a car accident mere weeks before her Graduation.

Carolyn moved to London last year, and we have still to meet, especially because of Celina.



I can still see the sunlight on the geraniums in the roof garden outside my window the day in London that I found your blog. For some reason I even remember walking down the wood-paneled hallway to my workmate Laura to laugh about the first post I read of yours that was so great it made me keep reading. It was the post about alerting the authorities to the drugs in the luggage of an ex-boyfriend? Anyway, I loved it and stayed to read. And a few days later I started reading Slinky Cat and the rest is cross-continental, blog-related friendship history.

As I drove away from Celina's house four weeks ago I was smiling, because I knew that I would go to Singapore next year with her and meet you finally. And after that, whenever we got our husbands delivered and had kids, or our nephews and nieces went travelling, they would be made to be friends because we were all friends. It seemed inevitable that such a great friendship would be felt into the next generation.

When Celina and I finally got our act together to meet (and that took a criminal three years) I immediately felt the loss of the years I was 'too busy' to meet someone in my own city. She was like her writing and beyond it - funny and fast and able to leap ahead with new ideas and new jokes. When we went to breakfast the second time we talked so much we lost about 30 minutes - Celina had to go at noon, we said goodbye, found another topic of conversation and suddenly it was 12.30! As we finally parted by means of simply stopping a full conversation in mid-flow, I knew that not being able to stop talking was the sign of a good friendship to come.

Then I had Celina to my parent's house for breakfast because I love to cook for my friends, and I wanted her to see the house I grew up in. As I get older I appreciate meeting my friend's families and seeing their childhood homes as it gives me a shape to their stories of growing up. Celina let me take her on the tour of the house to look at the photos of my brothers and sister, the view from my window and hear the stories of my family. She ate my famous mini-quiches and declared that it was a triumph of a breakfast. The funny thing was that we only half discussed all our topics of interest because we had only a few hours - we never really finished our conversations fully because of time restrictions - and we promised we would have more time next time to discuss everything in full.

And in order to fulfill this promise Celina cooked me lunch four weeks ago at her house and it was a wonderful day. She cooked soup and vegetables and pork belly that made me a little teary it was so good. We talked for hours and finally got to finish all our conversations. We talked at the top of our voices, laughed until we snorted and we very rude about a whole lot of people who should have known better than to mess with us. We discussed our various hapless men in full, looking at them from all angles and amused each other with cutting remarks. We discussed where Celina would go after she finished her degree and we discussed how hard it is to work doing what you love but getting paid a pittance for it. I was looking forward to seeing her in Singapore and going to see her wherever in Australia she decided to practice as a vet. Celina showed me a photo of you and Miss J that she had in her room and we inspected her bookcase and she lent me two books to read.

She finally had to kick me out so she could study, but I left with books, the recipe for pork belly and the glow of many conversations delighted in and plans made. I went home and spent almost two weeks telling all my friends about the feast Celina cooked me. That lunch was so lovely I got out my pen and paper and wrote to thank her for her generosity and time. When Tim sent me a message on Facebook that she was gone and I rang him in response, I was so shocked that I hadn't truly reacted until he mentioned my letter. I had only thought about the letter that morning as I tried to calculate if Celina's family had gone home yet so she would be free to catch up and chat about the visit. I was missing her. I asked Tim if my letter had been opened and he said yes - and I started crying. I had finally realised what had happened and I was pathetically grateful that I had thanked Celina for her wonderful gift of her time, cooking and conversation. At least she knew a little bit of how much I appreciated her place in my life.

Quite apart from what a pleasure she was in person (and I always felt as if meeting up with Celina for food was an event and I would get a bit excited about how much fun we would have), it was what she had DONE that made me so thrilled to know her. Whenever I told any of my other friends about her, I would say she was the Corporate Lawyer from Singapore who had Saved to come to Perth to be A Vet (and I met her through Her Blog). Celina had done things, hard things, long years of study and work so she could take the steps she needed to towards her goals. She had character and she was a character because she worked hard and she cared about things other than money and the trappings of success. And it made her someone with whom you knew you could take flights of fancy because she was a dreamer as well.

I cannot adequately thank you for being the woman through whom I met Celina. Thank you. She made an impact on my life from the first meeting. The second last time I saw her, we went to a bookshop after our breakfast and I bought a biography of my favourite poet, Emily Dickinson. I have enjoyed the book immensely, but today sat down and wrote in the front of the book:

Bought in the company of Celina Chau 18 July 2010. Celina died in a car accident on Friday 3 September 2010.

I have added a verse from Emily to that inscription as well, but it is one of Emily's other poems that I would like to write now. When I first read it I was a stranger to great grief, and I merely admired its clever imagery. But now that I am gathering my thoughts of a short but important friendship to allow me to grieve, I appreciate the dichotomy at the heart of thinking of those who are not around, for as Shakespeare, you and I know - as we love, we lose ...

If recollecting were forgetting,
Then I remember not,
And if forgetting, recollecting,
How near I had forgot,
And if to miss, were merry,
And to mourn, were gay,
How very blithe the fingers
That gathered this, today!


Celina first came into my life during my last summer in London, when I became a devoted reader of her blog. I enjoyed the sharpness of her observation and the emotional dexterity of her writing. When Celina entered my life in person we soon discovered that we never ran out of things to say, just the time to say it in. She was elegant and alive, her eyes were always open and her wit ready to do battle with new ideas. The last gift Celina gave to me was her generosity - she cooked me lunch on a Saturday, we talked and laughed for four hours and she wrote out for me the recipe for the dish I loved. I wish to thank her family and her friends for sharing this wonderful woman with me, because even a short friendship taken away too soon was worth every minute.

I find it extraordinary that such an ephemeral corner of the internet could have brought me such stories, such heartfelt connections, such real life from the virtual. It really is worth every pixel and every word.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Wilful Feet


There are little girls all over the café, mostly about five years old, dressed in bright cotton dresses not that different to those of their mothers. The little girls are sending glittering streams of bubbles off into the breeze to catch the white-hot light of the descending sun. The bubbles drift over the volleyball court and through the players. Two dark and slender Islanders, both with the perfect proportions of models, and a classic sporty Perth girl with dirty blonde hair and a heart of gold. The rest are fifty-something Western Suburbs Dads in fabulous shape with yachting crew cuts. They still adopt that ‘older man’ walk though, shoulders back and leading with the stomach, except they have six packs.


There are two little girls on the beach; one four years old, one four times four years old (well, four times four years old on the inside, twice that on the outside). They are fighting their daily beach fight, the fight for their feet.

They both have very wilful feet.

Isabelle has feet that run away to the circus. They chase her up and down the shore, their imprints in the sand always a mere step behind her own. Sometimes she turns and chases them back along the line of footprints.

One time she ran so fast away from her feet, then so fast after them, that the footprints made pictures in the sand between the waves. One time a circle and one time Isabelle’s heart was on the sand. At four, running around after your feet and leaving you heart on the sand is easy, and unproblematic.

Claire has feet that run off to the sea with each wave, off to swim with the dolphins. As the waves retreat she is left with only her ankles on the sand, motionless until the next wave. Isabelle assures her dolphins eat fish, not feet. Claire’s feet almost always come back.

After luring their feet back from the dolphins and the blank canvas of the sand, Claire and Isabelle sit on the shore to wave at the waves. So close to the siren call of the sea, their feet are held in place and covered with a big pile of sand. The waves try to eat the pile of sand, trying to free their playmates, the feet.

Claire and Isabelle go home with their feet. Another sunset, another win at the beach.


“I bake a chocolate cake that you pour water over while it’s baking and a caramel sauce comes out. I can make that myself, a point of pride with me.”

general laughter

“He’s so proud of that!”

“Why shouldn’t I be? It’s the Lasagne of Cakes!”

The wind is perfect for keeping the mozzies away, but not so strong as to drive anyone back indoors. The temperature, even at 8 o’clock, with the sun set and wet bathers on, is almost perfect. It’s dinner time on the grass at Floreat Beach.

Next to me are a group of talkative teenagers with one adult chaperone, and I suspect they are some kind of youth group. This group holds the young male cook - I approve of any man who can bake a cake.

On the other side of me are three girls engaged in a Sex and the City (Perth Edition) conversation over fish and chips, with wine. There are lots of older couples having a low-key Dinner Party for six, with sausages.

A family of four, with two teenaged kids, arrive eating icecreams at the end of their beach walk. The young girl has dropped hers and is close to tears, awkwardly obsessed with telling her parents she thought that they would make her eat it anyway, while they repeatedly assure her that they will buy her another one. She does not listen to them, and I am rueful around the madness of being a teenager again.

I would like to stay, but it is going to get cold, and my feet keep wriggling their toes cheekily at the sea.


My Drum’n’Bass DJ neighbour, known also as The Knight in Shining Armani from his epic rescue of me from my toilet with the jammed door, and the follow up Strange Lady in the Afternoon incident, is playing Africa by Toto for the tenth time in a row. That can’t be right …

Made in WA

I admire, from a comfortable distance and usually in the shade, people who DO things.

I don’t really DO things. I go places. I participate. Things are DONE by other people and I am there to cheer them on.

I only actively DO something because it is a necessity, and usually I do it under great duress. No one has ever accused me of being an Action Woman.

Except reading, I actually DO reading.

I wish I DID more action things though. It would make me way cooler. Action is so attractive, so inspirational. It generates energy and moves the heart and the head of the onlooker and it is the reason tangible things are achieved in this world.

I always feel I should be DOING more, so I admire people who DO things.

On the other hand, I adore people who MAKE things. Mostly people who MAKE words DO things, because that is pretty much what I want to DO.

Things I MAKE:

Usually plastic, always colourful, recently described by a friend as ‘rawr-I’m-going-to-eat-your-attention’ jewellery.

Usually fatty, almost always yummy, definitely the main reason I should be DOING more things!

Usually funny, always intelligent, mostly the people who make me DO new stuff without me noticing because I am distracted by the fun of MAKING friends with them.


Anyone who MAKES something out of nothing, or something else, has my absolute respect. To reach out and form the world as it is into something newly imagined! What a skill!

And as for those amazing people, the gods of my idolatry, who MAKE the word into sentences that make you FEEL and THINK and LAUGH and CRY and DECIDE TO DO STUFF? Well, I think you get my drift.

So, I’m off to DO some worshipping and MAKE appropriate offerings before I head out on my mission to get the things I MAKE to DO things. Then I am going to make lunch, read a book on the beach and call a friend.

Thursday, January 03, 2013


I know a teacher who studies a new subject or skill every few years so she remembers what it is like to be a student and keeps her teaching fresh and responsive. I admire her for her dedication in following this inspirational theory, but I show considerably less commitment each time I try the same technique.

I have a German dictionary, a beautiful jewellers tool set and two bicycles (among other abandoned, yet aspiration items) that bear witness to my love of new activities and my short attention span regarding anything that isn’t directly mentioned in Shakespeare.

As a control freak with an eye for detail that … wavers … I used to hold an unhelpful belief that I knew stuff, a lot of stuff, and I coasted, unwisely, on that belief. Last year I started the year feeling in control of the usual stuff, the stuff I always felt in control of, and within about two months everything went seriously awesome.

I was invited, repeatedly, through a new job, new friends and new information, to become a student again. I felt in control through the first few lessons of 2012, but things rapidly escalated and I became ever so slightly addicted to the adrenalin rush of having to learn many things really fast.

I ended last year learning some seriously new skills from people I respect greatly, and I seem to have become comfortable with this carefree student attitude again. Which means I had better prepare for another interesting year! I predict that I will be required to improve that wavering eye for detail, I hope that I will be required to cede even more of my lovingly horded control, and I suspect that I will still have a lot more fun than is strictly necessary.

Today I talked to a workmate with whom I had not exchanged a single word for a full year, only nods in the corridor. We were in the lunchroom together and I asked him if he had eaten too much food for Christmas. He told me that he and his family had eaten so much he still had the Christmas cake he made, fondant icing remaining untouched. This grandfather had the tattoos of a young man, and his face lit up as he described the cake, baked to a recipe from “that English Sheila on the TV”, Nigella was my first guess, for the win!

I love learning something new each day, especially something lovely and unexpected about another person. It is an exercise in freedom each day, requiring us to abandon old ways and adopt new ways.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Sketches in the Sand


The streets are deserted, as is fitting for the morning after a Perthwide party, and I join a peloton of MAMILs on West Coast Highway. They were the largest I had encountered yet, at least thirty strong, and I overtook them jauntily on an empty highway.

Ten minutes later I was driving out of the carpark of a very expensive and very closed beach café and the MAMILs and I cornered together from different directions. I precipitated a wordless, deep throated call to travel down the line, warning that there was a tiny car occupying the tight corner!

NOTE: MAMILs – Middle Aged Men In Lycra, or, Men Who Brunch (in Lycra)


I was just turning to walk back down the beach when I saw him, a golden lion of a man with a classically good-looking face, bright blue eyes and gold streaked brown hair. He had a long, ideally muscled tan body with glistening gold hair over every inch. He wore perfectly fitting red shorts, thin enough to cling to all the right curves. I turned around and started back down the beach.

Past the circle of Hipsters in sorbet coloured beach shorts (apricot, lemon, pistachio, blueberry) and Wayfarers in crayon colours spiking a volleyball around their too-close circle. Without warning the ball dropped and they unwound the circle into a line and headed into the waves like hairy-chested, side-fringed ducklings.

Past the seriously dark Indian man with ‘I Work Up North’ tattoos and muscles, wooden prayer beads splayed across plush velvet skin.

Past a young man with the perfect chiselled chest of a Roman marble and skin the colour of marble too - an IT tan, pitch black hair and, to dress such a stunning physique, the ugliest boardshorts imaginable.

Back to my siblings, the boys admiring our neighbours, two lovely looking thirty-somethings in stylish but fun bikinis and the hottest straw hats on the beach. From those pretty faces came surprisingly ocker accents when the ocean flooded over the sand towards their towels. They clutched undone bikini tops to boobs and saved their bags, leaving the towels to be soaked. No girlish screeches, just surprised exclamations and then wordless co-operation as they took the waterlogged towels and wrung them out, holding an end each with practised teamwork.

The beach lion had overtaken me as I reached my towel and had settled on the shoreline near me as I headed into the water. When he hit the surf next to me, the glistening drops of water spangled his mane and I was too intimidated to do anything but smile tightly at his polite eye contact. I watched him walk away down the sand, the beautiful, bashful beach god in his perfect red shorts.


We were all standing, sweltering, in at least five paintings. Those of us in the sea were on an alien beach in a petrochemical peacock and jade green sea brushed with pearl grey. Watching the sunset was like watching the end of the world, the sun sitting on a burning orange skyline with the island and container ship profiles suggesting the ruins of dying civilisations. To the right a grey striated rainstorm made up of sheets of silver rain was coasting down from the north, throwing rainbows ahead of it. Behind the hundreds of people in bathers holding beers was a clear blue sky over the baking land. To the left the clouds were shaped by the upper winds into towering shapes that became Alpine valleys or stunning mesas depending on your perspective, and it was all wrapped up in the muggy heat of too much weather in one place.