Crumbs of comfort on the beach

Emma Rees shares her holiday diary from the dunes

August 24, 2017
Cliff Richard and cuttlefish on the beach
Source: iStock montage

07.47 First morning in Cornwall. Set out for beach in car.

07.49 Fail to get husband to sing along, to tune of Cliff’s famous song: “We’re all going on a summer holiday! Lacan, Kristeva and Foucault, too…”

07.50 Husband remembers he hasn’t heard news yet: turns up car radio.

08.01 Pile out of car with dog; help husband set up Beach Base Camp (BBC).

08.11 Wonky festival chairs up; fresh water in dog’s bowl. Husband begins to read. As an intellectual, have taken own summer reading cues from recent feature in leading higher education journal. Pull from bag 1,300-page 19th-century Russian novel and chunky monograph on economically problematic development of interwar cuttlefish farming in Algarve. Quietly settle down to read.

08.13 Cuttlefish are ceph-alo-pods. Ask husband what this means. Husband does not look up from book. Says to google it. Odd response: on reaching beach, both realised only decent mobile internet signal is back at car park.

08.14 Dog and I set off for car park. Reputable research resource tells me that cephalopods “have a distinct head with large eyes and a ring of tentacles around a beaked mouth, and are able to release a cloud of inky fluid to confuse predators”.

08.18 Unaccountably think of recently retired colleague.

08.19 Car park beginning to fill up with insufferable holidaymakers. Shake head intellectually at uniform mundanity of middle-class lives.

08.22 Lock up Range Rover; slip Birkenstocks back on. Join queue to buy Earl Grey, Assam and small pack of Duchy Original organic oaty biscuits. Stick phone back in Waitrose carrier bag; head for beach.

08.45 Husband takes tea and biscuits.

08.50 Contemplate cuttlefish and nibble biscuit. Dog sighs loud sigh; gazes in intensely Adonis-like biscuity judgement.

08.52 Take pity on dog. Attempt to hand over bit of biscuit. Biscuit doesn’t break well; snaps, spraying little shower of crumbs all over everywhere.

08.53 Husband momentarily ceases reading. Tell him that buying cuttlefish volume in attempt to broaden scholarly horizons might have been error.

08.56 Turn to Russian novel. Think back to undergrad “Russian for conversation” lessons. Recall as much as possible. Can remember only phrase sounding something like “Yanuh ponnimayo”. Can’t remember what it means.

09.03 Page six. Main character’s “face suddenly assumed an expression of profound and sincere devotion and respect, mingled with sadness”.

09.04 Unaccountably catch dog’s eye.

09.05 Kick off sandals; tell husband going paddling. Husband continues to read.

09.06 Run down to water’s edge with dog.

09.07 Run into water.

09.08 Run back to BBC.

09.10 Wrap towel around self quietly so as not to disturb reading.

09.11 Wrap blanket over towel.

09.12 Wrap husband’s jacket over blanket over towel. Ask husband what book’s about.

09.13 Husband snaps book shut. Offers to go to fetch more tea.

09.16 Close eyes for moment. Mentally compose summer “to-do” list.

09.44 Wake as dog and husband return to BBC. Put Russian novel on top of cuttlefish catastrophe. Pick up prizewinning dystopian novel.

09.48 Tell husband it’s not even 10am yet.

09.49 Husband replies, “No. It isn’t.” Oddly pointed tone. Liberate oaty crumb from cleavage. Smile contentedly to self.

Emma Rees is professor of literature and gender studies at the University of Chester, where she is director of the Institute of Gender Studies.

Laurie is away

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