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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Wilkommen to ze Beach!

Picnic-002sm.jpg UP AT 6.30am TODAY so that we could spend the whole day at the beach. Not by choice, mind: but work. Not even my own. Today was the annual company picnic, and since 'tis my Goddess who plans these picnics for her small insurance broker company - and their matching Xmas parties too - it was a day spent on final preparations and running Point. It does not matter that the actual events are executed and catered by hired professionals: somebody has to provide the Vision. Somebody has to be the Company Rep: somebody has to tell them what they've all to do, who's all coming; somebody has to provide the booze and the ice and the giveaways and the prizes for them to administer. Somebody has to mind the door, tred the floor, socialize, answer questions, deal with issues: somebody has to be the company Face. Somebody has to tidy up afterwards.

Still, it's a day on the beach. A private, fenced-off, beer-and-wine-licensed party on a glorious burning-bright Will Rogers State Beach. Picnic-016sm.jpgThat's in Santa Monica, case I didn't tell you - Los Angeles County jurisdiction. I think I've mentioned nannyfascist LA County before, and their maniform rules and prohibitions? Every year provides another twist; but then, Councils have to justify themselves somehow don't they? What's the point of having Power if you can't make rules with it? To recap: the permit for the party, which includes a license to provide beer and wine to guests and allows them to drink it - no hard liquor, mind, so margarita machines are strictly verboten - the permit requires that the area be fenced-off and patrolled by hired security guards of a number dependent on how many people are supposed to turn-up (one of their functions - and I am so totally not kidding - is to make sure nobody who may be intoxicated tries to walk across nearby Pacific Coast Highway, PCH). You are also required to hire a Lifeguard for the day, who will sit between your fence and the ocean watching for trouble. This year drinkers of alcohol were obliged to wear a bright pink wriststrap that could not be removed without tearing. Only one strap was permitted to be issued per person, and only people wearing the pink straps could be given alcohol. BUT: nobody wearing a pink strap was allowed to set foot in the water. I mean, not even a toe: and the lifeguard was there to enforce it.

I always feel so much safer knowing Nanny is watching-out for me, don't you? Here on the very edge of the Free World the local authorities like to proffer a taste of the all-knowing all-powerful socialitarianism one is likely to encounter in the Asian states at the other edge of the ocean. I think that's nice: they can be so thoughtful at times. It's as though they've sat down and thought: Someone might depart Santa Monica in a blow-up Kontikki Raft one day and set sail for the Horizon. Wouldn't it be nice if they were ready-acclimatized for the Far Side? Wouldn't be such a shock to their systems then. Like those times you visit the theater, pop outside for a smoke at half-time? When the guards do not let you leave if you happen to be carrying any other drink than coffee? Might be alcohol! and everyone knows it is against the law to drink alcohol-like beverages outside in Los Angeles. Nanny knows best.

All the more surprising, then, that I'm allowed to sit six hours in Los Angeles County sunshine - doubled-dosed by reflection off the sand - to sit six hours in that without a hint of sunscreen? Way I figure it my wonderful first wife spent her whole short life under the grey-gloom clouds of east-central Scotland, and died one winter of malignant metastatic melanoma. I, at least, want to be sure I've earned it should the same thing happen to me. Picnic-010sm.jpgTomorrow, out diggin' and fixin' in the garden, tomorrow I'll wear sunscreen: but that's because I've burnt my arse off today. I'm glowing, radiating, as I type. It was magnificently hot today, with just a taint of breeze coming off the Pacific. One of those strange and unexpected inversions: strangers naturally associate California with sunshine and surf-booming beaches, but for the most part the California coastline is surprisingly cold and gloomy: you want Sun, head inland to the valleys, where I live. The coast has the marine layer to keep it cool, and the Pacific to keep it cloudy and weathered. The ocean itself is not very warm - freezin g to us, in fact. It's temperature is somewhere in the low-to-mid fifties supposedly, but since outside the ocean on the beach is in the nineties, that's like a forty degree difference. So it's cold. Oh forgoodnesssake NOOOO!, my constant-whiner auld scottish friend, it surely is not as cold as the North Sea. But then again, What the hell is, in your mind? Some folk never let up. Some folk, they landed in this country no matter how many years ago, the sausages, the beans, will always have been better back in Scotland and the sea will always have been colder. Nothing can ever diminish these facts, and nobody is permitted to not hear them. Americans - my wife included - are familiar with this phenomenon. Their answer - as indeed is hers, and nowadays my own - is simply Go Back! Or shut the f**k up! Always with the choice. Quite.

I didn't spend the whole day just sitting in the sun, no. Spent an hour at least stood at waters edge in amongst the broken surf. Fascinating, mesmerising, just standing in the rush of surf watching the swirl and foam, trying to predict the high ones that reach up past your knees; figuring it ain't so easy to do that? Picnic-014sm.jpgIt's not like you just watch for the big waves coming in: these invariably break early anyhow. You expect a large wash, but it doesn't happen. Then, totally unexpected, you'll be very-nearly swept off your feet from behind, by water going back out that barely broke your ankles on the way in? Thus the swirl of competing forces: water coming in always meets water going out, and where they meet they break and pull the sand up with them. But it isn't just water coming in and going out; it's sections of water coming in and going out at different angles all at once. The wettest events seem to occur when an incoming wave arrives early, before the last has had a chance to run back out again. Water on water, soaken pants. How easy it is, you allow yourself, for your mind to drift and gambol away with the waves; to daydream and stare at the patterns. To become immersed, though not physically? You can do this at any beach on any sea in any country: but there is something undeniably fantastic about soaking your toes in the Pacific, on a beach in Santa Monica, fully past caring about anything. No matter what my nanny says.

[I'll put pictures up in the morning - my other PC's are too busy right now to be loading the camera]


Blogger DarkoV said...

In that one-or-the-other category of Darwinism, darken my circle for "Survival of the Fittest." That's why this California (or is it just Los Angeles County?) Nanny Patrol gets the temper fired up. If one is at a company function at the beach and one gets totally snookered and one happens to crawl on all fours to the water line, in hopes of joining one's historical quadropeds who were coming out of the water, why should the law be stopping you? If you happen to, ahem, drown, due to either your being zonked, or you being a lousy swimmer, or you being at the point in your life where your presence was not required, why should the law stand in your way? Unless, of course, the Kansas Board of Education has infiltrated the LA Police force. Not out of design nor out of intelligence.

6:30 AM  
Anonymous stephenesque said...

At the last company beach outing I attended (many years ago) we were forced to play Mandatory Strategic Volleyball for hours on end. Why can't they just let people damn well relax???

6:01 AM  
Blogger F.C. Bearded said...

Is there anything more despicable than Forced Fun at company events? "You vill enchoy yousilf, Ja?"

Although there were games at this picnic, participation in them was entirely voluntary. There were quite a few little kids who enjoy that kind of thing. The owner of the company, to his credit, is of the opinion that he just wants to park his arse on the beach for the day, drink some wine, read a novel, generally veg out. He does not want to care that nobody is playing volleyball. Doesn't want to care about anything, which is why it's up to my wife to organize the event and deal with the whiners.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Cowtown Pattie said...

Well, at least your wife's company has SOMETHING for its employees...I work in a very small office, lucky to get a burger at lunchtime for an atta girl...

7:13 PM  
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10:16 PM  

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