Beach, where

Friday 1st July 2011

SAND gets everywhere. No trip to the seaside would be complete without grains carried home in socks or shoes. Paris will soon celebrate a tenth year of urban beaches on the banks of the Seine. Three decades ago, we imported two tons of the stuff into a school drama hall for a sixth form production of Jean Anouilh’s Antigone.

The caretaker was called Sid. A former local darts champion, he would sing loudly when patrolling the corridors. Everybody loved him. Mischievous humour.

“See the queue down there? They’ve all got something in common.”

I was returning keys, heading home after a rehearsal. Thirty or so women were outside the main building. On weekday evenings the premises were often used for night classes.

“Well…er.. they’re all female. What are they here for, Sid?”

“Enrolment. Ladies League of Health and Beauty. Same crowd, year in year out. But look at them. They should ask for their money back. It obviously isn’t working.”

When I put the sand idea to him, he laughed, expressed only mild concern about the floor, suggested I telephone a local gravel company, and borrowed a mate’s dropside truck.

“Sharp, Holm or Shellingford Dry?” the manager asked. “What’s it for again?”

“School play. I want a sort of Arabian setting.”

“Shovels by the back door. Help yourselves.”

It was hot work. We’d be late back. I was contemplating asking to use the phone to arrange cover for my next lesson. Whereupon a large excavator trundled into view, accompanied by the grinning manager and his office staff. One bite of the grab and the cargo was aboard.

Bucket loads of kids used brushes, plastic bags, boxes, improvised paddles and bare hands to unload the beach into the drama studio. The A-level students wafted across the golden desert like lifelong nomads. Sound and movement were stunningly effective.

The school groundsman came to see me.

“What’ll you do with that sand?”

I was worried he’d demand we remove it from the premises.


“Can I have it? For the rugby pitches.”

Sand gets everywhere.







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One Response to Beach, where

  1. Jo Knowles says:

    I remember it well ….. and Sid was such a character.

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