Hastings, UK, August 1964

by Peggy Unsworth

In my watercolor done at the beach,
the sea’s a sullen beast
snarling at a murky sky. Men in suits
snooze on benches, or
gaze out to sea, trilby brims
flipped down against the glare, collars
turned up against a stiff breeze.
Chilled day-trippers, having
paid for their deckchairs,
tough out the wind, as they
fight tattered Daily Mirrors.

Children run wild,
intoxicated by whiffs of spume.
Hair flying high, they
swing bright little buckets and spades.
Come low tide they’ll find precious sand,
well, grit, soon to be a turreted castle.
Right before high tide they’ll
kick it to smithereens, then
cheer as swirling seas
engulf the beach. Gulls
wheel and squabble, folk
huddle together for warmth.
At high tide, us locals
squirm on the ever
diminishing pebbled beach, as
beneath skimpy towels we
struggle with wet swimsuits.

Yes, gulls wheel and squabble and folk
squirm and struggle. Back then, little hardships
made a day at the beach an adventure
punctuated by Punch and Judy,
jellied eels, fish-and-chips
wrapped in newspaper limp with vinegar,
washed down with milky tea from the Thermos,
so hot, so sweet, so strong.

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