DO TRAVEL WRITERS HATE BEACHES?

It's all happening on de Koog Beach, Texel Island, Netherlands.

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!

Greymouth Beach on New Zealand's wild west coast. 'Wild, windswept, rocky...um...'

Merricks Beach, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria. 'Deserted, sandy...watery...beachy...'

South Cape Bay, Tasmania. 'Wild, windswept...no, damn, I've already used that one!'

The beach from the film The Beach, Phi Phi Island, Thailand. 'Brightly-coloured boats line the shore, while behind them the craggy cliffs rise sharply...'

Beach at de Haan, Belgium. 'Cold, grey, uninviting, with only a single garden gnome to break the monotony...'

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.

8 Comments

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8 responses to “DO TRAVEL WRITERS HATE BEACHES?

  1. Mike

    And William Blake. Don’t forget William Blake.

  2. Just Googled him, Mike.

    He started Auguries of Innocence with ‘To see a world in a grain of sand’, then immediately moved off the beach to talk about flowers and wrens and wanton boys and more interesting stuff.

  3. Pingback: DO TRAVEL WRITERS HATE BEACHES? | Richard Tulloch's LIFE … | Today Headlines

  4. I love beaches, especially Main Beach where I grew up. I love to surf, don’t sun bake and love nothing more than an early walk, complete with sand.
    I also love A.A. Gill and I think your writing is delightful. Where is your travel book?

    • Keep passing the compliments, Debra!

      Maybe the secret to writing a successful travel book is to be really rude about boring places – see Mark Twain, Paul Theroux and now A.A.Gill. It’s fun to read, you get paid more and people think you must know what you’re talking about.

  5. Do me a deserted beach, wild, windswept and rocky, anytime! Nothing cures a writer’s block better than salty winds sanding your soul. Gorgeous pictures, Richard!
    -Mina

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