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The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.

(William H. Gass: American novelist, short-story writer, essayist, critic, and philosophy professor)

Oh, if only! I do try.


At the low-tide line I watch a purple and white pippy, quite a large one, trying to retreat into the sand. However, it has a problem. It can’t seem to tilt itself from horizontal to vertical. It heaves itself through 30° … through another 30° … and finally it reaches perpendicular. Now, it faces another problem: the wavelets aren’t coming in far enough to moisten the sand so it can burrow down. I watch, urging the waves on. One comes close: it moistens the under-sand enough for a slight descending wiggle. Five more waves retreat a good metre away. Then, what it’s waiting for. A bigger wave shushes in, whirling far beyond the pippy, and when it recedes all that’s left is a faint bubble under the sand.


An elderly man and woman arrive separately, him in a white ute, her in a small silver car. They set up camp: a blue striped chair, towels, a bilum bag they don’t unpack. He slathers himself with suncream and they set off barefooted along the beach. They’ve only taken a few paces, when they stop and turn to face each other. The conversation becomes vociferous, but it isn’t at all hostile. After a few moments they walk on and shortly stop again, face each other, laughing and still speaking emphatically. This is how they progress further and further along the beach. At their last face-off as they disappear in the distance, she stretches up and reaches under the broad brim of his straw hat and they kiss, still laughing. After a while they return along the beach, amicably, side by side. When they reach their beach camp they strip off and head for the water. She high-steps her way out through the lengthy shallows; stops before the water deepens beyond her knees; slides down into it. He keeps walking out to the wave break, frolics for a while, and finally torpedos into shore, head tucked down, shoulders hunched, body a straight line. They lounge in the sun for a while, and then head back to the white ute and the small silver car.


A colony of seagulls clusters together on the sand, all looking out to sea. It must be grooming time. Their beaks are busy amongst the feathers. Some stand on one leg, wing or tail raised,displaying white spots on black, or black pinions. One puts its head down and scurries purposefully, snapping at the air. A few nestle down in hollows in the sand. When people pass they turn their backs and move in a leisurely way up the beach. Occasionally one glides in on spread wings and lands daintily before it takes a few stumbling steps into stasis. When a number of new arrivals land there’s a flurry, and a few aggressive moves, but the colony soon settles back to the business of grooming and gazing out to sea.


It’s midday on a sunny weekend. There are a few groups on the sand: a couple in the shade of a striped beach umbrella; a mother and daughter sheltered by a beach tent; a gaggle of young men and women taking pot luck with the sun; a sleek slim couple, silver, tan and startling white, warming up for immersion with a passionate embrace; a touch of elegance on a flat patch where the dunes meet the bush, she in a bright orange dress, he in a straw boater, both with a glass in hand, something decanted from the lime green cooler bag between them. Then there’s a solitary beach bag disgorging towels.

No-one dances in blithely today: the sea which has been pleasantly warm for a few weeks has dropped a few degrees. They toe-test before choosing a place to deposit their gear, and flop, and discard T-shirts, and then move slowly through the shallows, arms raised against the initial chill, or to twist hair into a knot. They become a stumbling silhouette, carving a human shape out of the blue sky, the blue sea, the whiteness of breaking waves. For a while they are mere heads, occasionally acquiring shoulders as the swell diminishes or they bounce above it. Very occasionally they sprout arms and a face as they catch a wave. They don’t stay in long, and recover a complete body and human features as they return to the beach. A woman with a heavily tattooed thigh shakes her head at a tilt to remove ocean from ears, and anxious fingers adjust straps and elastic.

A solitary figure carrying a coiled yellow towel and a pair of sandals moves slowly along the beach, a nearly empty canvas bag hanging across his back.

It’s lunchtime and the beach begins to empty. At the boat ramp, an ageing woman dressed in bright tight yellow, vividly hennaed hair piled into a horizontal french roll, a large yellow flower nested under it, is talking to a local who never speaks to anyone. As we pass he says: “Anyone can talk to me any time, love.”


An unlikely trio of dogs frolic while their owners surf: a whippet, whippet thin, almost two-dimensional; a solid sand-and-charcoal mastiff with frown marks that match the body markings; and a brown cattle dog, alert and ready to round up any sheep or cows that stray into his bailiwick. In the shade of the hill a black dog lies, tied to a rock with his lead. A taciturn local arrives with his hyper-friendly Jack Russell who talks to everyone, his owner to no-one. A bouncy young woman tries to pretend that her dog hasn’t just defecated on the pristine beach and surreptitiously kicks sand over the gleaming turds. Later on she comes back with a plastic bag, but she doesn’t excavate. A woman dressed in buff is halfway a long the beach, an obedient black dog at her heels. In the distance there’s a fisherman with a black shape lying beside his chair. I’m eager to add another dog to my tally, but the black shape turns out to be his tackle bag. But here comes Maisie to complete the complement of Spud dogs: a large black bounding dog, full of tail wagging and licking friendliness. She sits beside her owner (who carries a reticule of her excrement) and begs, paws up, for a treat.

This post is number two of a series inspired by icelandpenny who does such things so wonderfully. In reply to my comment on a post of hers, she said Go and settle in somewhere delightful & just see what happens … A reversal of the usual, eh? Let it come to us, instead of rushing around looking for “it.”