Friday, September 21, 2007

A Plaice in the Rain

"Fish and chips?"

"Yes. And a walk along the promenade."


It is impossible to eat fried fish and walk and talk all at once, in the rain.


"Just chips then? And a plastic fork?"

"OK. Chips. And a plastic fork."


The forks were wooden memories, then not now, but they, like all utensils, served their purpose for a walk along the promenade in the rain. Why people should choose such an occupation is not necessary to explain, for seaside towns, come hottest summer's day or bitterest January evening, maintain their promenades, like the sitting rooms of pretentious old ladies.

A lone, crazy golfer putted a par four in five or more and tilted his cap against the downpour. We waved our forks in his direction though he did not see. He moved on to Henry's upturned bucket, painted red and yellow now, usurped of prior purpose. We moved along, our chips resisted spearing.

A promenade is a piece of time, held together by parasols and begonias. It flowers in perpetuity: conceited blooms of April are replaced by tulips, dahlias, then chrysanthemums, planted by council workers who never return to admire their work.

The hotel shutters were all but closed, basements filled with warmth and rest, rooms loomed stark naked overhead.

We stopped at a bin, a tub on a stick buried to its knees in promenade concrete, and poured the water from our polystyrene trays. It would have been as easy to stop and poke them full of holes with the little wooden forks, but we chose to save them.

Somebody left a bar; someone else entered it. A waft of beery heat drifted our way. It was tempting but this was a promenade in the rain. Not even benches tempt a cessation of such activity, offering as they do only a promise of wet invisible paint stripes on pants and a glimpse of some promenader past before, consigned to small plaque.

By now the puddles had taken over most of the paving. We stepped over them, careful to avoid the cracks between the flags in some kind of misplaced superstition of luck falling to the strata below. The rain had made it inside our coats, making us giggle through chattering teeth. The warmth of potatoes is a limited lifespan. The plaice would have been welcome now, but it is impossible to eat fried fish and walk and talk all at once, in the rain.

Boats and swans drifted in and out of view beyond the shrubbery, blinding us with their brilliance against the background fading green to black of night. Junk beneath the lake, all of it manmade, invisible, impossible discarded stuff, mattered less than each drop of rain that fell.

We imagined a passing car as a horsedrawn carriage, loaded with courting couple and chaperone, all in period, boots and skirts and top hats and cravats. Another we transformed to a penny farthing before our eyes on the rainy promenade. Gas lights now sparked to life and made a glittery mess of the view.

The view: a seaside almost out of season; broken bottles; rusting cans; cigarette ends; drooping flora and a lone, crazy golfer.


"We should have got the plaice."

"I know."


It is impossible to eat fried fish and walk and talk all at once, in the rain.


"You were right."


We cast our forks into the lake and turned the way we had come.