Note……Before we begin, I’d just like to point out that almost all of the names of the local ‘Bude’ characters, in this mostly true aquatic tale, have been changed to protect their privacy, spare their blushes, and, yes, probably to protect me from them if they should recognise themselves!
At sometime not long after the turn of the ‘new’ Millennium, on a late Friday morning in July, the word had got around that there was a local crew driving down the coast from Bude to Bossiney for a surf. I was at the time, when the call came through to Jimmie, gardening on a little job with him on a small property high on the cliffs above Millook.
I was new to surfing and only been ‘in’ a few times. I could hear the conversation, (if you could call it that), it was another friend of ours, Ronnie, a guy that didn’t waste too many words, and all he said to Jimmie was “Surf Jimmie? Bossinney?” Jimmie, also a man of few words, unless he was talking about his amazing exploits on the football pitch, or about the latest album by the bland Coldplay, (and no, that wasn’t a spelling error), had looked over to me and simply substituted his name for mine by saying “Surf Geordie? Bossiney?” (That was their nickname for me, because I had recently moved to Cornwall from Northumberland).
I hadn’t needed much persuading. It had been a long, tiresome week and I needed some ‘R and R’. We swiftly packed all of our gardening tools away into our own vehicles, and then we both drove back to my place. I parked up my van and quickly grabbed my board and wet-suit from the garden shed, and a bath towel off the washing line. I put them into the back of Jimmie’s van, and then jumped up into the cab alongside him. Jimmie, a proper surfer, was of course already prepared as his board and wet-suit always went everywhere with him.
There were a fair few vehicles in our little surfing convoy driving the short trip down from Bude that day. We were people from all walks of life, there were two gardeners of course, a plumber, an optician, an office clerk from the local builder’s merchants, (who was off ‘ill’), an unemployed lad, at least one unemployable lad, a surfboard shaper, a student, a mechanic, a doctor, a joiner, a teacher, and the best carpet fitter in the country. (You can put the cheque in the post, ha, ha!) We were just one big happy, watery fraternity. There weren’t any artificial class lines drawn on our sand. We were all in it together (the sea that is)! Just as the Cornish motto says…”One and All!”
The surfboard and surfer laden vehicles in our convoy included Ronnie’s trusty, ever present ‘old school’ V.W. camper van, (see my previous story), Jimmie’s flash new V.W. van, various other work vans, a few family estates, and some real old bangers too. We soon arrived, and we parked-up just off of the ‘B’ road that connects Tintagel to Boscastle, alongside a beech hedge on the perimeter of a cliff-top field. We all quickly changed into our surfing gear at the side of the road, (dodging the speeding locals, whilst balancing on one leg, trying desperately to put my wetsuit on without falling into the road in my case), and then we all dodged the cattle across a cow-pat covered field towards the cliff edge.
We had to climb down a 400 feet plus cliff side. The other Cornish ‘beys’ and ‘maids’ had been going there for many years and knew the rickety old spiral walkway well. As we all gingerly walked down, it had creaked and groaned under our combined weights. The strong sea-breezes kept blowing my surfboard violently around, threatening to knock Jimmie over the iron hand-rail and down towards an untimely, painful death on the jagged, vicious rocks below. I was relieved to finally put my feet down on to the warm sand.
We walked through a throng of happy sun worshipping tourists, many of them Dutch and German. A sweet little girl with cute blonde ringlets pointed at me as I walked through their midst, and she said “Look Mummy, a proper surfer man”. I looked around to see him too, only to realise that I was at the end of our line and she had meant me. ‘Mummy’ was quite unimpressed and she stifled a giggle. I felt like a fraud. I felt like a boy in a boy-band being mistaken for a musician. The other guys and girls were indeed all ‘proper surfers’, most of them had looked the part too with their sun-kissed tans and long flowing locks, but as for me I may have looked a little bit like one in my wet-suit, with my board tucked under my arm, but I knew that I wasn’t a ‘proper’ surfer, or at least I knew that I wasn’t one just yet!
The others all ran quickly into the sea. After a last minute wax down with ‘Mr Zog’s Sex Wax’ and attaching the leash to my ankle I ran in too. The conditions were very flat, but looking on the bright side I knew I wouldn’t be taking another heavy wave pounding like I had at Widdie a few weeks earlier. There weren’t any waves as such, just gentle little ripples. I was happy to just paddle out to just beyond the breaking surf, and relax on my board, enjoying the sunshine on my back.
Every now and then there was a gentle ripple of seawater that would run around me on its way towards the beach, sending delightful little sensual shivers right through my entire body. The others were a longer distance ‘out the back’. They were just lazing around too, discussing the previous night’s antics in the pub and making general surfing ‘chit-chat’. Occasionally one or more of them would break-away from the ‘surfing chat-room’ and paddle in front of an approaching slightly bigger wave. They would then briefly rise up, like graceful ballet dancers, or a trout rising to a mayfly, onto their feet, before diving, or jumping off a few seconds or so later. This ‘Bossiney wave’ was a glassy, mellow sort of a wave. In musical terms the ‘Widdie wave’ which had battered me so, had been like the ‘Sex Pistols’, it was aggressive and loud, but the Bossiney wave was more like the Eagles, it was, I had briefly thought, easy going and gentle. I decided to join the others for a bit of banter, and it was so easy to paddle out to them. The sun was glinting off the calm sea. I was beginning to unwind a little and feel like a proper surfer now.
Eventually, a bit bored by the surfing gossip I had decided to paddle back towards the beach again, and to lie on my board a bit closer to the small breakers. I laid there continuing to soak up the warmth of the Sun’s rays, and I did some ‘people watching.’ All of the time these little cool ripples of water kept passing right through me; it was exquisite. What I hadn’t perhaps realised, in my relaxed state, was that I was slowly drifting into the water where the waves were breaking. I had been totally misled by appearances. The ‘Bossiney wave’, whilst very small in stature, is actually very powerful; it was the Charlie Magri of waves!
All of a sudden, taking me completely by surprise, one of these powerful little waves picked me and my board right up and, like a legendary giant from Lyonesse, it had hurled us both ferociously towards the shingly beach where all the tourists were sunning themselves. It had all happened so quickly and so unexpectedly. One moment there I had been lying sunbathing on my board, happily watching the pretty girls applying their sun tan creams, and then the next I had been lying prostrate on the stony beach with my face a good foot deeper than the rest of my body. I had just experienced my first ‘beach-dump’.
How not to approach and chat up an attractive lady on the beach……
I slowly raised my head up. I snorted seawater out of my nostrils, spat out shingle, shells, seaweed, and thousands of tiny particles of plastic, and rubbed bits of tiny grit out of my face. I then saw, only about eighteen inches in front of me on the sand, a pair of golden brown sandy feet in a pair of red flip-flops! These, I noticed, upon closer inspection, were attached to a pair of well bronzed and very shapely female legs, which in turn belonged to a very pretty ‘thirty something’ lady. She had beautiful long straight black hair, parted in the middle and swept back behind her cute little ears. My eyes travelled slowly upwards from my prone position on the beach, on a journey of delightful discovery. She was sat in a deck chair alongside a grumpy looking middle-aged guy who I assumed to be her partner. She was wearing a red bikini, and reading one of those glossy Cornish monthly magazines that the tourists and Cornish ex-pats like to read.
She lowered her expensive sunglasses to see what had so suddenly, and so unexpectedly, arrived at her feet. Our eyes met. Maybe she had just put out a little prayer, asking ‘god’ for a short, stocky, bronzed, good-looking surfer? (Well, I’m sure that even ‘god’ fu**s up from time to time). But she had seemed quite unfazed to see me laying there so close to her sandy flip-flops. She smiled down at me. “Do you come here often?” She said in a very sexy, cultured, and husky voice. I laughed, impolitely spat out some lingering shingle, and replied. “Damn! You beat me to it, that was going to be my line!”
“Well, you’ll just have to just think of another one now”. She giggled. “O.K.” I had replied. “My submarine has just sunk, I’m the only survivor, and I don’t suppose you could put me up for the night could you?”
“Oh, dear.” She said. “You’ll have to do much better than that, I’m a classy girl you know, and I’ve got my standards.” There was an impatient, angry cough for attention from her miserable looking partner, who, to be frank, had a face that only a mother could love, and frankly she would struggle too. He gave me one of those ‘hands off she’s mine’ sort of looks and said, in very measured, concise public school tones, “When you think you have seen quite enough of my wife’s body I would appreciate it if you would just pick yourself and your damn surfboard up, and f**k off back into the sea where you bloody well came from.” (Who did he think I was? The Man from Atlantis perhaps?)
He followed this up with a sharp reprimanding look at the gorgeous lady. In return she gave him a look that said “Who got out of bed the wrong side this morning Tarquin?” She looked back down at me, smiled, winked, and said “Take no notice of ‘Mr Grumpy Pants’ he scratched his brand new B.M.W. on some of your Cornish brambles this morning”. She then raised her sunglasses back up and continued reading her glossy Cornish mag.
The feature she was reading was standard fare for those sort of magazines. It was an article about some rich Southerners who had sold their mansion in Oxford and bought a small farm in Crackington Haven. Apparently they were struggling to make ends meet in Cornwall, and they had had to let the au-pair go, start maintaining their own garden, do their own housework, sell off one of their Audis, and take young Sebastian out of his public school. The poor dears. Life really was throwing everything at them. I do hope that they survived all of the turmoil.
I painfully rose to my feet and spat out a few more bits of hard to shift and lingering shingle. I was briefly tempted to have a little dig back at ‘Mr Grumpy Pants’ but I didn’t want to spoil anybodys day, not even his. I picked up my board which had settled a little bit to my right, and then carelessly turned around back towards the sea and my mates. As I did so I almost smacked him on his head with the business pointy end of my board, but luckily for him he had seen it coming and had ducked just in time! The lovely lady had been watching my departure over the top of her sunglasses, and she laughed, but sadly that just had the effect of annoying him even more. He stood up and yelled “Damn surfers! They think they own the bloody beach!” I tried not to laugh and carried on walking out into the sea with a big smile on my face. My work there was done.
Jimmie had seen my epic ‘beach-dump’ and its aftermath, (named because that’s what the wave does to you, it dumps you on the beach like a load of washed up, discarded sea debris). He was still laughing; he had thought it hilarious. “So Geordie, did you get her number? Surely there must have been an easier and more dignified way of approaching her?”
“No”, I said, “I don’t think Tarquin would have been too keen on the idea.”
Oh, that’s a shame “, said Jimmie, “She looks really lovely from here”. I assured him that she looked even lovelier close-up.
“Oh, and by the way Geordie, don’t be misled by how small ‘the wave’ is here at Bossiney, it still packs a very powerful punch you know!” I sarcastically thanked him for his belated concern, and said that I would be sure to look out for it in the future. Jimmie told me that ‘beach dumps’ are like a rite of passage for all new surfers, and that all surfers have experienced them at some point. “It happens to the best of us Geordie, but it just wouldn’t do to warn a novice of the dangers, because that would only spoil everybody else’s fun!”
But I like to think that I made that lovely young lady’s day just that little bit more exciting than it might otherwise have been, had I not have landed at her feet. I wonder if she is still in a relationship with that chinless wonder, and whether she still remembers her holidays in Cornwall that year, and the lanky, hopeless surfer in the antique wet-suit who had briefly disturbed her reading.
Constructive comments below are very welcomed. Glowing praise even more so. It’s how I know that you have been here. Offers of highly paid writing gigs, though unlikely, would be lovely too. But just for the record, all spammers can just go and **** themselves.
All written work by Mark Anthony Wyatt, Bude, Cornwall. March 22nd, 2015. Edited Feb, 2016.
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