Travel writers hate beaches, according to British columnist A.A.Gill. It’s not the beaches themselves they hate, it’s trying to find something interesting and original to say about them.
I understand the problem. Nothing ever happens at the beach, except on Baywatch , so where’s the story?
I’ve been reading Gill’s collection of travel writing, Here & There. He delights in being a contrarian, hating anything popular and praising anything others scorn. I see from his entry on Wikipedia that he’s successfully offended animal rights activists by shooting a baboon, as well as the Welsh, German, Albanian, gay, lesbian and transgender communities. Offended them, not shot them, I mean. I look forward to reading more of his work.
I thought he was on the money on the beaches however. ‘Beaches are for holidays and travel writers don’t do holidays…A beach is a sandpit for grown-ups.’
I’m not a swimmer, or a surfer and after a brush with melanoma I’m certainly not a sunbather. I like to look at beaches, and I think I’d even enjoy walking along them if it didn’t bring sand into the house later.
But there is very little to be said about them.
A few examples… If you think you can do better with an original word picture of the places below, be my guest!
You see what I mean?
Then, just to be contrarian, A.A.Gill comes up with this…
‘The reason I like beaches, and the reason travel writers don’t, is that they have no narrative. They don’t tell stories. They are atonal song cycles, mood without plot…There is no end to this peace, just as Blake said, to see the world in a grain of sand, to pick up shells and see an infinity in your hand.’
Next time I have to write about a beach, I’ll try to do better. I’ll brush up my atonal song cycles and try to see infinity.