T’WAS the Isle of Man’s blazing hot summer of 2012 (Thursday, May 24, to Tuesday, May 29, inclusive) and on the Sunday I put on the shorts and did what my mother used to tell me when I was a small boy, which was: ‘Go and play down on the shore.’
My parents’ boarding house in Douglas was on Queen’s Promenade and, because they were busy in mid-summer, the longer I stayed down there, the better.
All I had to do was trot across the road. You didn’t even have to look one way, never mind two.
The only traffic risk was being trampled to death under a horse tram and they tended to pull up for small boys.
This summer’s visit started by car. There was only one parking space on the promenade and I lined up my Mini One for it, hood down.
Standing in the space was a young woman talking peevishly into a mobile phone. I waited for her to move, trying to look amiable.
She ignored me until she delivered one last snarl into the phone and stepped back on to the pavement.
I parked and thanked her. She looked away in sullen silence, which was a pity. She already had a face like a lost battle and a smile would have made her defeat less painful to see.
In the old days I would have gone down on to the shore with a one-handed vault over the railings. This time I walked down some steps and I had a more friendly encounter with a girl I met standing by Cringle’s Rock. Surprisingly, she knew me. ‘Do you mind if I sit on it,’ she asked shyly.
I told her she had the Freedom of the Rock. She had a body that was custom-built for her bikini.
Sixty years ago I would also have offered her my heart, or at least a night out at the flicks.
There weren’t many of us on the shore but many of them were children.
There were two young men in the sea. They ran out of the wavelets hand-in-hand and skipping joyously. One wore a pair of swimming trunks, the other a mankini which, if you don’t know, is a sort of slingshot arrangement favoured by Borat in which a man can sling his private property.
In my memory men on the shore used to wear a cap, a suit and waistcoat, their shoes and socks off, and trousers rolled up for the purpose of paddling.
I don’t think they would know what to do with a mankini. Dog owners would find one useful when they wanted to sling a ball long distances.
I was some hours on the shore. In the shorts I wasn’t a pretty sight. But nobody objected and children didn’t run screaming to clutch at their mothers’ skirts.
In time, hunger drove me off the shore, as it used to when I was able to go home and see what was left from the visitors’ dinner tables. But where Studley House used to be there is now a rather bleak-looking block of flats.
I had an ice cream instead, a double raspberry ripple, and drove off licking it.
If the boys in blue had seen me they would have busted me for driving with one hand holding a mobile cone.
• THE Manx Independent advertised for a deputy head gardener to work in the grounds of a house at Sulby saying: ‘We are looking for a no nonsense down to earth attitude.’
I wouldn’t stand for that myself.
• A READER asking for anonymity e-mailed to say: ‘A couple of weeks ago the media reported the commencement of the horse tram service for the summer and it was stated that the Mayor was in attendance.
‘Didn’t they mean the mare?’