So much for our early start. Having crawled into the camp-bed in Rice Krispies’ spare room at three in the morning, I was not up to much until half nine this morning; and that was rather earlier than anyone else was up to anything. I wandered out of the basement to see if perhaps doing dishes is quieter in other people’s houses of a morning, but everyone got up and badly needed coffee instead while I was still only thinking about it. Maybe I was thinking about it too loudly – it sure felt like it. I was not feeling very well; indeed, this is one of the few times I have woken up with a pounding headache after a night on the razz. To add insult to injury, this was some fairly quiet razz, although we were admittedly mixing alcohols I don’t usually drink. And I knew it, so possibly it was psychosomatic. And I slept very poorly, being mobile-less, and therefore alarm-clock-less, and knowing we had to get up early and do something scary.
Rice Krispies, somewhat to my astonishment, was also panicking about the task we had set ourselves. Or maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. We were, after all, off to get our kit off on a (hopefully) deserted beach, sing Jerusalem and then go skinny dipping. All on camera. If you think this plan makes no sense: hush. There is a Good Reason, but it would take far too long to explain. (Besides, it has to do with suffragettes and feminism; and these days, hating feminism is more In than ever, right? So now you, dear reader, can get on with hating feminism, and probably, me, and let us mention it no more. You can just imagine me Not shaving my legs while ranting about how men are evil or something. Neither happens to be something I get up to, but it’s the age of the internet, where more knowledge is freely available than ever before in history, so nothing gets reported correctly anymore.)
I will say, however, that never have two people assembled so much stuff in order to go and take their damn clothes off. Blankets, dressing-gowns, towels, thermii, emergency rations and a hasty selection of the most pro-anarchy music we could find, just to get in the mood. And an enormous tripod. The photo-documentary started before we did; god, I look god-awful. Rice Krispies and the guys, of course, looked fine; the latter buggered off to Weetabix’s place to drink tea and chill in the warmth.
Still. It was turning into a very lovely day, after all the crappy weather that has dogged us since Christmas. True, the light was fairly ominous for… just past noon (yeah, so much for the early start, the countryside will be mobbed with Healthy, Wholesome types who will take one look at us and burn us at the stake), but it was suitably apocalyptic in mood. As we roared down the road in a battered wee surfer car, cheesy metal blaring, taking turns to yell, Oh fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!
I was hyperventilating with terror before we even arrived.
And did we ever arrive. Okay, we got lost first, and I had to peel apart the damp and clammy pages of a battered road-map, all of which had long since left the binding – but as soon as I found the right one, suddenly, there was the sea, and there was a shaft of sunlight illuminating first a dramatic, red-stone ruined castle, and then a sea-bounded crag with a white lighthouse clinging to the side, snowy breakers attacking it from all around. This alone was worth the trip. Though it seemed a trifle more windy than it was in Edinburgh.
And here is the entrance to the pay-in carpark, and here, down a rutted track bounded by more ruins and ivy so thick you can barely make out the trees, is what looks like a very promisingly empty carpark. Oh no, there’s a car. Oh no, that’s the overflow carpark. The carpark itself… is mobbed and there are at least eleventy small children on the beach. Bugger. And the waves are the size of houses.
Having paid, we got out for a look around anyway; Rice Krispies surfs and had just discovered a rather promising destination. My fingers went numb before I’d got a rollie lit; they were painful by the time it was finished, and Rice Krispies announced, on our bolt back to the car for some warmth, that the keys had gone missing. We had gone all of ten feet.
But we found the keys. Right. All we need to do is get out of here without needing a gang of friendly strangers to push, to find a deserted beach, and to actually do this. And after that brief, significant-looking break in the clouds, the light is starting to go already. Ha – at first, we had merely been terrified of doing this; now we were just as terrified of not doing it. And after telling everyone up to and including our mothers ahead of time, oh wail! If we hadn’t, nobody would have thought anything of it if we too had stayed in and been warm – now, however, there is Something To Prove. And by god, if there is anything I am more of a sucker for than a terrible idea, it is Having Something To Prove.
Let us head straight for that beach that is always deserted, said Rice Krispies. It will be deserted, for the waves are not very good.
These are ‘not very good’? I said nervously as we came within sight of it. They were the size of me.
Usually, they aren’t very good, Rice Krispies said. Look, no cars! – Oh dear, do you think the caravan park is open?
Which would be rather a disaster, because the caravan park bounded right on the beach. In fact, when we went on a reccy, there was a sign advising that the tide comes in so far that people have to take a short-cut through it (but only under these circumstances, the sign added). Naturally, to read this sign, we had already taken a short-cut through the caravan park. We crept along, whispering, like people with a sign over their heads saying, Up To No Good.
The beach was vast, and desolate as the end of the world. The wind blew so hard I shivered even through jeans, two fleeces and a load of long thermals. There was nobody in sight except for a fisherman in his waders. Oh bugger.
Bugger the fisherman, we said, going back to the car for our stuff, Let’s do it anyway. It’ll take five minutes and we’ll be so far away we’ll be pale blue blobs.
I could no longer tell if I was shaking with cold or with terror.
I know, I know, skinny-dipping is something everyone’s done – well, everyone but us – but it’s one thing to do it when you’re seventeen and adventurous and quite another to do it – for the first time – when you’re old enough to know better. Certainly, old enough to have looked better. Or, as someone put it to Rice Krispies, Once you hit thirty, everything you do that’s Bad, you do on purpose.
I don’t like those waves, I said as we crept conspicuously back to the beach. I know it’s stupid, but all my life I’ve had these dreams where I get swept away by a giant wave. And this tide looks distinctly menacing. I’m sure it’s already much further away than it was five minutes ago.
Oh I’ve had those dreams all my life too! Rice Krispies said. And I surf!
Oh. Well, maybe everyone gets them then?
Well hey – maybe it’s a sign that we’re both going to DIE out here, within the hour! Better get on the phone to Weetabix and his mate, give them a chance to get a cast-iron alibi together.
Hmm, maybe it is a good thing we told everyone we were doing this.
And luck was with us – that fisherman has vanished. (Eek – only as I type this, does it now occur to me – maybe he was washed out to sea! We never thought of it!)
I will say, I have never been so terrified in all my life as when we got the camera set up and started getting our kit off. However, this is probably a lie because there have been numerous times when I thought I was going to die, often of my own stupidity, and they were all terrifying too – however, generally by that point, I’m trying to escape from the situation, not get further into it. It occurred to me, as I flashed my lily white arse to the world in broad daylight, that this marked where Rice Krispies and I officially crossed a line into ‘flippin’ mental’ territory.
It also occurred to me, that, despite being even colder and my nerves singing with fear, I suddenly felt more damn alive than I have all year. (It also occurred to me that when Rice Krispies was setting up limpets to mark where we had to stand, she placed hers on the downwind side, grr).
And it was zero moment. We belted out the words – ha, suddenly I am in a situation where I cannot mime along, unlike church – and then we ran for the sea (and the sea was ever such a long way away) and did it get any deeper as we piled in? No, it did not. I ran until it was up to my thighs, and continued running for what felt like several minutes without seeing any improvement on the situation – and then a wave reared up as high as a house and fell on us and I decided maybe that was Sufficient and let’s get back to the shore before a sea-monster comes looming up too. Or, more prosaically, before my fingers get too cold to operate the zips and buttons on everything and we are found dead, having failed to get our kit back on.
I think we were the happiest and most astounded people on earth for those few minutes, however; even if we were also suddenly the most clumsy people on earth. Especially when we got back to the car and discovered a small family had turned up and we had got out of there just in the nick of time.
The feeling of being smug and delighted with ourselves lasted through the triumphant unscrewing of the thermos (everything was like being drunk, except with the novel touch that my head was clear as a bell and only my fingers were drunk), through the belated shivering and all the journey home, towards a smouldering and ominously beautiful sunset over the Firth of Forth.
Then, however, we had to watch the footage. Corks. In common with roughly fifty percent of people who live in close proximity to cameras, I hate photos of myself; I hate videos of myself even more because I move like a very self-conscious brick; I hate footage of me singing with a passion normally reserved for the genocidal – and this is all of that and no clothes.
(I should point out that Rice Krispies shares my sentiments, only about footage of her, and yet this was all her idea).
For some reason, we both loved it. If by ‘loved’ I mean, chortled ourselves senseless while watching it over and over again. Go figure. But, it’s hilarious! You can actually see me do a full-body cringe when I turn and look at the sea, where it roars up and down the beach like a whole posse of lions. It takes us nearly a full minute, at full pelt, to get all the way down there, by which point we are two tiny dots that are suddenly enveloped by a wall of white. Monty Python intro sequence, you have nothing on this!
No, I am not linking to it, you will just have to use your imagination.
So the feeling of being smug and delighted with ourselves lasted through calling the lads to come over and watch our video too (after being explicitly warned that it is about as sexy as Jackass). (Still, they did not take very long to come round). It was replaced rather suddenly by a feeling of urgently needing to go to bed, however; and I will say this for skinny dipping – it is The magic hangover cure people have sought all these millenia.
Rice Krispies, who had been doing all the driving, passed out on the couch so Weetabix made dinner and me and his mate blitzed the kitchen. Since there was no way Rice Krispies was fit to drive me home, we rounded off with some beers while slagging off Harry Potter. (Ah, I have missed television. There is just no point to it, however, if you aren’t sitting slagging it off.) Three beers between four, to be precise. It was, surprisingly, quite sufficient.
And so, the New Year has begun with an intrepid (if very stupid) adventure, and we carried it off successfully and everything – and now, I am probably going to have the best sleep I will have all 2011.