CANVAS

Why do I only see stripes when I’m on a beach? I never notice them otherwise and now realise they are usually orange and yellow, always in canvas, a deckchair, a windbreak…..the very sight of them raises my expectations. They’re my muses.

 I’ll start here. I set up the easel; it’s hard to get it right in sand. I intended to start further up on the hill but the perspective here is perfect. There are two old people, backsides plumped down into deck chairs. The woman’s bum sags almost to the ground. I can tell it’s a she because of the pink flip flops – while he remains motionless, a cup of tea at right angles in his left hand.  It doesn’t move, I watch for minutes. She is moving about crossing her legs, running her fingers round her tight white perm, fiddling with a picnic basket.  All this continuous movement contrasts with the man’s complete stillness.

 The sea’s there, as usual, but low down on the horizon and I see the hunch of a back on the sand in front of them, lower down.

 This is beginning to obsess me. I stop myself blinking, thinking I will miss it – when he actually moves – so I stand staring. She is up and down, in a tight yellow sundress, sort of shouting across at him. This must be it. I will him to drink the damned tea but the cup stays exactly where it is. So do his feet and head. I’m convincing myself now that he’s had a stroke and just needs her to touch his shoulder before he keels over with the cup in one last embrace with the beach.  Surely she thinks the same?!

But no, she’s off down to the water. I see this out of the corner of my eye as I must not miss the move. My artist’s eye is planning the stripes, how much distance between them, but my eye is transfixed on the cup.

 I have to do this. I walk slowly, casually, the few hundred yards over the sand in the direction of the chair. It’s getting nearer, the cup is growing bigger, turning blue, with his big hand clutching it in a strangely feminine grasp. I slowly make my way round the side away from the cup in order to see the whole picture front-on. As I pass, the man looks up at me, we nod a silent greeting.

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