Sleeping on the Beach


There are two kinds of travelling. One kind occurs when the destination is the most important thing and the straighter and faster the road to there the better. The second kind values the journey more than the arrival: it doesn't matter if the road is long or rough. The pleasure of stopping for a few hours to see an old friend is a more than adequate recompense for the time spent, the deviation from the main route. Even a dead end can be cherished for what it promises to reveal.

There are plenty of dead end roads in Cornwall. They lead to car parks on cliff-tops, sandy beaches, or villages on inlets where the strength of the tides is broken on a rocky bar far out in the water.

This road led to the sea through miles of fields, many now golden and stubbly as the harvest moved towards its close. At the end there was no car park, only a bulbous curve of gravel, large enough to turn a caravan about in summer but no more than that.

There were no caravans to be seen at this particular road end, at six o'clock on this particular morning. Only an unoccupied car, a silver Capri, parked on the ocean side of the road. The bonnet of the car was slightly open, indicating a possible unsolved engine problem.

Off the road a walking track led a little way along the cliff before turning seaward, taking a plunging turn down the escarpment towards the shore. The path was steep and rocky, folding back on itself many times until it reached the bottom where a small sandy alcove of beach sloped down to the water.

After cursing both their decision to follow the suggestion of a local with no stake in what might happen next and their bad luck with the leaky radiator, the driver and his passenger had decided that a night on the beach might be more comfortable than one spent crunched up in their stranded car. They were there now, the two of them, clothes piled under their heads, bodies sandwiched between a pair of tartan blankets. Doyle lay sprawled across his sleeping partner, legs wrapped around thighs, one arm flung over a broad back.

Doyle woke first, as the morning light spread itself around them. He lifted himself slowly, peering about. The most obvious sign of last night's activities, a small stack of empty brown bottles, lay directly behind his head. There were other reminders too, not as visible. He rolled himself off Bodie, wincing and rubbing his eyes.

"Christ, Bodie, that home brew of your mate's packs a wallop."

Bodie groaned. "About ten percent. Give or take."

"Gave a bit more than that."

Bodie pushed himself up on one elbow and looked at Doyle with an affectionate smile. "Yeah," he said. "Seem to remember you did."

He reached out to brush a few grains of sand out of Doyle's hair. Quick as a snake, Doyle grabbed his hand and forced it down.

"Don't make jokes, Bodie. I'm warning you. I'll bloody kill you if you do."

Stilling himself, Bodie stared into Doyle's eyes, seeing them glitter with a brittle anticipation.

"It wasn't a joke." He realised that he knew what the trouble was, that he would probably be the same way if their roles had been reversed, so he spoke slowly, carefully. It meant too much. "We both wanted it. God, Ray, I'm getting turned on again just thinking about what we did."

Something harsh and lonely fled from Doyle at that moment. "Good. Wasn't just the booze then."

As he spoke he released Bodie's hand, letting his fingers trail over the back of it, caressing slightly. But almost immediately he twisted away, hauling at the pile behind his head, pulling his clothes on.

"C'mon, we need to get moving. Got the radiator to fix. Do you have any gaffer tape in the car?"

"Nah. There's a couple of ponds up the road. Fill up the empties. With a bit of sludge to choke the leak, it'll be fine."

Once dressed they picked up the blankets, shaking the sand out as much as was possible. Bodie grabbed the empty bottles of Sergeant Henderson's 'Best Old Stingo' as well and they walked back up the cliff path without talking. They poured pond water into the radiator, noting with satisfaction that the leak was a slow one. Another trip to top up the bottles and they were ready to go on their way.

Doyle slammed down the bonnet and looked at Bodie. "Fancy doing this again?" he said.

Bodie knew exactly what Doyle meant. "I'd prefer a bed next time."

"Fine, then." An easy smile from Doyle now, but one filled with knowledge and promise. "Give me the keys. It's my turn to drive."

There's a lusty liquor which
Good fellows use to take-a,
It is distill'd with nard most rich,
And water of the lake-a;
Of hop a little quantity,
And barm to it they bring too;
Being barrell'd up, they call't a cup
Of dainty good old stingo.

-- THE END --

April 2006

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