23 June 2007


Worm's Head, Rhosilli, Wales By Pete

an extract...

We stood up and began our descent to the beach, slipping and sliding down the hill. The beach was cold and deserted, just what I had wanted. This was what Wales meant to me; a desolate beach in autumn, Atlantic weather blowing into your face, into your bones. Just you and a mate, wading out into the waters, silently agreeing that no one else will ever understand the joy you are both feeling, as you hop on your boards and paddle towards the impact zone of the heaving (or not so heaving) waves.

It was one of those surfs that I cannot really remember much about. I can remember that the sets were very few and far between. I can remember the weather. How the sky looked, how the sea looked. I can remember the seal that made a brief appearance but each and every wave blurred into one. Sometimes, I try hard to remember waves gone by. Waves that I have ridden that I know were some of my best. I try to remember the way I caught a wave, did I ease into it early? Or was it a sketchy last second late take off? I try and remember the first drop, how steep the wave was and how fast it peeled away. I try and remember each and every turn. But it all eludes me. Memories of the best waves are always elusive and that is how they should be, as it keeps you going back for more. Sometimes surfing is simply an ongoing quest to re-achieve that indescribable feeling, to reconnect with a few of life’s simpler and purer moments.

After surfing, we changed on the beach back into our rain-sodden clothes and began the long walk home. We decided to head to the road and perhaps catch a bus. We walked a couple of miles, our shoes squelching and our inner thighs growing raw as they rubbed against each other in the damp cold until we made it to Llanrhystud. We decided to go into a pub before trying to catch a bus into Aberystwyth.

We scraped around for enough change for two pints and sat down in the corner across from the open fire. There were several grizzled old drinkers sitting around the dusty wooden bar, smoking endless cigarettes and drinking bottomless pints, as much a part of the pub as the woodwork. No one paid us much attention, no doubt they grumbled about “bloody stuu-dents” invading their pub, their space, their little piece of this miserable planet.

“So is it serious between you and that girl then?” Gareth inquired.

“Early days still innit?” I said trying to shrug off his inquiry.

“What are you talking about early days? Jus ‘ow many girlfriends ‘ave ‘ou had anyway mush?” Gareth always exaggerated his accent when he mocked me.

“Orite, fuck off. I don’t know do I? I know fuck all about it, there you happy now?”

“Word of advice, don’t make too much off it. You know what I mean? Don’t fall too hard.”

“Of course I won’t” I was lying of course. It was already too late.

“See, you’ll never own her and she should never own you. This isn’t a sexist thing, it’s just, well people are like places you visit. You go there but there’s no point in trying to hang onto it.”

“A very romantic view on life, you have Gareth.” I joked.

He raised his eyebrows as if chastising me, “Seriously though, I think it is. I’m not just talking about people you might fuck but all people, family and friends included.”

“What are you on about now? What about you and Delaura?”

“That was just a bit of fun, for both us. For one I don’t think two people should commit to one another for life.”

“So you are saying you want to be free to fuck as many people, whenever you like?”

“No it goes beyond that. Way beyond that. I just don’t think we should put so much pressure on ourselves to force relationships to work. Whether it is someone you are sleeping with or your best mate.” His tone was serious now.

“Are you trying to tell me something here?”

“Of course I fucking am but not about us. What I mean is friends are where you are, not where you’ve been.”

“So what have you been reading then?”

“Yeah, guilty as charged there I’m afraid. I did get that from a book. A sci-fi novel of all genres. Anyway, I know you are an emotional ice cube...”

I frowned disapprovingly at the bastard not because he was wrong but because he knew more about me than I was comfortable with. He continued,

“...but right now, you are my best mate. But tomorrow, if I leave for Timbuk-bloody-tu or somewhere, that’s that. No point holding on. You see?”

“Sounds bleak.” I grumbled

“No it’s beautiful mun. And it should be the same for you and that girl. For everyone. It’s liberating don’t you see?”

We drank up and walked home in silence, forgetting about taking the bus. As we walked, I daydreamed of a sunset I saw a few months prior. It was a few days before or after the summer solstice and I was sitting on top of the cooling westward facing sand dunes at Llangennith. The swell was only a few feet high but it was rolling in perfectly uniform lines each equally spaced out. As each swell peaked it was briefly lit by the dying sun before it gently crumbled into white water. It was high tide and the white water was brighter than seemed natural. It was frothy and glowing, spreading itself over and finally sinking into the sand, leaving a magical trace of its existence before finally sinking back into the orange sea. The sky was mainly blue to the west but blackening to my rear in the east. Wisps of pink, white and reds were sprayed throughout the blue. A light offshore breeze was blowing through the dune grass, making a faint hissing sound.

I sat there and I tried to take it all in. The wind, the waves, the warmth, the sand, the sea, the sky, the clouds, the light, the dark. I wanted to hold onto it so desperately. I remember wondering to myself, just how I may hold onto a moment like that. I also remember a feeling of intense frustration that I could not be a part of it, be more within it than I already was. Gareth was right, I think. I thought back to a book I was reading while I worked in Evans’ garden. To grasp something is to lose it, it had told me.