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  • Philip Bryer

The Last Man on Earth

“On the beach you can dance to the rock and roll.” Rock and roll – like Cliff once said.

Or as The Who put it, “A beach is a place where a man can feel he’s the only soul in the world that’s real.”

In my experience, having never actually danced like Cliff on the sands at Weymouth or Worthing myself, The Who are a little more on the money. Despite Cliff having the more obviously appropriate name to be linked with seaside fun, of course.

Some years back, we were on the beach, Mrs Bryer and I, and as is the way of these things I got up to take myself off for a stroll. We’d been there for the best part of the morning and, once you’d lathered up with factor 8 (which in those days was considered to be so strong that it was akin to popping on a burka) and read for a bit and looked out to sea, and nudged your snoozing better half because that’s definitely a whale surfacing right there and not a turtle. Well, once you’ve done all that, and watched the tide coming in or going out, and gone for a cooling dip or two, and come back and brushed off the sand that’s stuck to your feet on the way back, but however diligent you are with brushing it off as you squat on the edge of the sunbed there’s still plenty to be found in your shoes as you slip them on and announce you’re going for a walk, and would she like to join me? She peers over the top of the novel she picked up from the Sex’n’Shopping shelf at the airport bookshop, and the silence and the reflection of yourself in her shades is enough to tell you that, no, she isn’t coming, which is fine – because there’s nothing like exploring on your own, as when you discover something – well, who are you going to come back and tell?

Away I went, it wasn’t too crowded anyway, but after a quarter-of-a-mile the people had thinned out delightfully, and after hiking on a bit further I was truly alone. I struck out along a spit of sand which led to a spectacular nowhere in particular. Surrounded now on three sides by the sparkling crystal sea, I slipped off my shoes and walked on into the end of the world. The Last Man on Earth.

“You’ve got to see this,” I suggested a couple of days later, “this is where I walked the other day. It’s fabulous, so isolated, you’re like the only people on the planet.”

However, the Robinson Crusoe on an all-inclusive jolly pales into blank depression and disappointment when one finds out that others have not only discovered the Last Place on Earth, but are busy discovering it with surfboards and shouting and, well, to be fair, I think there were only a couple of other fairly quiet people there, but they ruined it for us, as I’m sure we did for them.

After a bit of back to nature it’s back we go to our rooms of an evening, and we shower away the grit, the sweat and the suncream, until we’re as pink and scrubbed as we were as babes, but then we slap on the greasy after-sun lotion and douse ourselves in pungent insect repellent, so we’re ready to face the evening all stinking and slippery.

Better by far to have the simple life. On a jet-lagged early morning walk in Sri Lanka we paused under the palm trees that ringed the beach, watching the waves break as the huge tropical sun burst into view over the emerald sea.

“Look at that old bloke,” I remarked. “Sitting on the beach there, what a way to start the day. He’s getting up now, look, adjusting his sarong, and kicking sand into the hole, and eurgh, wiping his bottom with a handful of sand. Still quite a way to start the day. Perhaps we’ll go up the far end of the beach today, though, and no digging…”

Man in sea

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