I was sitting by the beach on the weekend, watching my sons’ early attempts at surfing, when a complete stranger sat down next to me on the beach bench and started chatting. That’s how it is in small communities. Here I was just enjoying my daily dose of inspiration, really quite a nice moment of solitude, when I was suddenly drawn into a pretty random conversation.
It’s one of the beauties of a move interstate to a smaller place. Everything is new, kind of quaint, and very uplifting. One of the things that stands out is how friendly the locals are. Total strangers have a chat, just because they can. There’s none of that fixed-and-averted-gaze-so-that-our-eyes-don’t-meet etiquette that all cities dwellers know so well. Perhaps it’s a two degrees of separation thing, but people are genuinely interested to talk and just pass the time.
Some gems have been passed to me in these conversations. The kind of observations that many city folk are just too busy to consider, or notice, because they’re too caught up in the hectic nature of a whirlwind week. When you slow down, I’ve discovered, you begin to notice amazing things. The scattered billiard ball effect of the tiny balls that sand crabs make is just one example. I’m getting a sense that once you look more closely and pay more attention, there’s a lot more to it. I can see Professor Brian Cox enthusing about the mathematical patterns behind the apparent haphazard positioning of these teeny balls. Symmetry and dare I say, noticeable linear placements, radiating out from the centre.
But back to that conversation. I’ve never heard someone talk up concreting and tiling so enthusiastically before, but yesterday, all the positives were poured along with the slab. There’s great creative satisfaction in tiling, apparently, because “you start with grey and end up with bling”. I love it. We shouldn’t take anything for granted.
Another gem from this beach side chat was a clear loathing of Facebook. While we were talking, I took a pic of the beach, because, well, it looked spectacular. He was full of disbelief and disdain. “You’re not gonna post that, like on a time line? Geez, show me what you had for breakfast. As if I’d fuckin’ care”
“You know what I call Facebook? Casebook. Because it’s just people’s shit up there online and it’s ripe for stalkers. They can just case the joint. Fuckin’ headcases.”
He offered up a totally different perspective, one that sat right in the real, sandy, salty, coastal world and it was good to hear it. End of story on social media, there wasn't much point countering his point of view 'cause it was pretty rock solid. I didn’t tell him I was busily trying to build an Instagram community, so yeah, that photo I’d just taken was for my beach photo bank.
Just as I was being told by this local that in his heyday he was a pretty top-notch surfer, known as King of the Middle (a notorious break way out the back), my older son ended up on the rocks. Yep, he looked like he’d been through a cheese grater. But the cool thing? The ever-watchful lifeguards were really on the job. Having spotted the incident from the tower at the other end of the beach, one rode the life-saving buggy all the way to the other end to meet him when he came out of the water. He checked out the many scratches and urged him to head down to the tower to get cleaned up. When I walked down, the other life guard on duty asked me if ‘he’s your little fella?’ Delivered with no irony, just concern. My 6’1” little fella.
Sundays at the beach have a great sense of community. It’s simple and healthy and downright refreshing.