It was meant to be another weekend spent with the girls. A weekend away from work and the hustle and bustle of London. The destination was Southend-on-Sea, Essex. A location famous for its seaside, a whole range of activities for children and loads of fish and chips shops to choose from.
Since it was a sunny Sunday afternoon, Ivonne, Claire and I decided to head down to the Southend-on-Sea Beach immediately after church service. The weather was just about perfect after a long period of gloomy and wet days.
First point of call was to go for a walk to fill our hungry bellies at one of the few noodle bars in town. Trust me, it was the most healthy thing we could find in a town that mostly served fish and chips, ice cream and cotton candy within every square feet.
After lunch, we managed to drag our tired feet and over-filled bellies to the beach. Though we were all so full, we thought chilling at the beach would aid the digestion of our meal.
The people and activities we met on the beach were similar to that which you would find at any UK beach at time of the Year. Most People were sunbathing and trying to take in the last of the summer sun because we all knew that in a few weeks we would all be swapping our summer clothes for winter jackets, boots and thermal wears.
To our left was this couple frolicking on the beach sand. Consumed by the intense heat and passion of the moment, they seemed to be oblivious to their surrounding or the heat coming from the sand and pebbles. They must have been in their late 30s or early 40s. They kind of reminded me of Richard Gere and Diane Lane in the movie ‘Unfaithful’ as their passion was evident for all passers-by to see. Either that or they were middle-aged couples who, having dropped of their children off with their family or friends, decided to catch up on lost intimacy moments. Or they recently met/hooked-up and were probably still in an euphoric-honeymoon-where-have-you-been-all-my-life state.
Myself, Ivonne and Claire couldn’t figure out why they didn’t bring a blanket. We felt a bit of sympathy for them hoping they won’t leave the beach with too much sunburn or scars.
“Surely, these people should have brought a blanket or something.” said Claire
“Oh well, perhaps they didn’t know that they will be in so much ‘heat’ today, Ivonne interjected.
We got bored looking at them and decided to scan other areas.
To our right was this dude who seemed to be collecting money for the chairs on the beach. The girls and I were already seated on three chairs and we could see that the dark-skinned dude with dreadlocks was walking towards our direction.
“Its £3 to sit on one of those you know”, he said with an air of authority acting like the Commander-in-Chief of the beach chair patrol unit.
“That’s too much money… we don’t have change to spare and besides we are not staying for long” Claire responded. We all knew she was trying to get us not to pay for the seats and the dude could tell because we were giggling uncontrollably.
Rummaging though my bag I found £3. We begged him if he could let us pay £3 for an hour for the 3 chairs. After much deliberation and sensing we were not prepared to leave the comfort of our chairs, he accepted our bargain. But before he left, we politely asked if he would take us group picture and he gladly obliged.
After our group photos session, we continued in our auto pre-occupation of taking selfies. As we were facing the sun, it was difficult to take a good selfie without squinting. So we decided to turn our backs to the sun. In front of us were people already seated on a stone barricade. But nothing prepared us for the vision we saw next… because right in front of us was a scene we never saw coming.
He looked like someone in his sixties with a handful of grey hair scattered all over his head. He was wearing baggy shorts and a short-sleeve shirts with the buttons unbuttoned from the abdomen up. He sat on the stone barricade that demarcated the beach from the town centre. This was a small fence about 2-3 meters high.
The grey-haired man looked somewhat frayed and sat directly opposite us. It was impossible for us to miss him because he was funny-looking, seemed off and a bit out-of-place. It took about 60 seconds before we realised that he did have some tricks above his sleeves. You could tell by the grin splattered right across his face. His lips were slightly crooked such that he wasn’t giving away the extent of his pleasure or probably that was his idea of fun.
“Can you girls see what I’m seeing right now”, asked Ivonne?
“What sort of randy old man is this one now… exposing his scrotum for us to see?” Claire replied with a long hiss.
I wasn’t wearing my glasses so I was the last in the party to catch their drift. I bent my head to look downwards and alas, I saw what the other two girls where talking about. Yes! the fray looking grey-haired man was displaying his ‘business’ for us to see.
I looked up to see if the man in question was unaware but to my greatest shock (and I think to us all), his grin became wider as he saw our reaction to his display. His grin also hinted that he certainly was aware that he had put his ‘business’ on display specifically for our viewing dis/pleasure. This confirmed to us that it was intentional especially because he didn’t appear senile. on the contrary, he appeared to be in control of the situation, unperturbed by the look on our faces and annoyingly having a blast at our expense.
It looked like something I had seen shoved down the throats of contestant on television shows like ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here” or “Fear Factor”. It had the appearance of a 100-year-old ostrich egg which had been boiled some weeks back but was never eaten and then fell into a cotton field.
My companions were very much irritated and after about 3 minutes we thought we’ve had enough. We decided it was much better to turn our chairs back to the initial position because squinting at the sun was no doubt a better alternative to our current view.
The silly grey-haired man was definitely having fun and it was obvious that he was catching his trip out of our dismay, contempt and irritation.
Less than a minute after we turned our backs at him, I couldn’t help but look back to see who else he was taunting. But he was nowhere to be found. Claire and Ivvone were certain that he was indeed a lonely, sick, silly man. I think some generations do have them!
It was all we could talk about until the smell and taste of the blue cotton-candy bought by Clare drowned our irritation. I guess the sugar played its part in jolting us back to the high spirit we once were before we ever laid eyes on the grey-haired man.
And that was what the three girls saw at the Southend-on-Sea beach last summer. Hopefully, there would be better scenes to look at this summer while the story of the grey-haired becomes a tale in the dim and distant past.
But in the meantime, I can hardly wait for Spring because I think I’ve had enough of winter already!