Salt water in the lungs

2010-12-15 00:00

I’VE still got it on my bedroom wall — a plastic plate covered in splodges of oil paint. The splodges are rather dimmed by a 41-year accumulation of dust. But I can’t bear to get rid of this relic of a happy south coast holiday.

I was four and we were at a Margate hotel called, I think, the White House. Or maybe it was Whitehall. Whatever, it was most certainly all-white in every which way. This was, let us not forget, 1969.

We’d done Margate flat. By which I mean we’d been literally flattened. Its waves had dunked us. Its waves had dunked us again. And again. All those oxygen-deprived, lungs-filled-with-salt-water minutes of dunkeddom no doubt shed some light on my present mental deficiencies. There were even a few “Oh! Hello Great-gran, what are you suddenly doing here from beyond the grave?” near-death drowning experiences interspersed. Well, that was just about all Margate had to offer for entertainment back then.

Which rather explains why my bored-to-death, “one more beach talent contest and I’ll offer myself as a sacrifice to the nearest shark if only it means escape from this horror” parents perked up when they discovered that the hotel had a resident artist. Off they dashed to his room, my sister and I in tow.

I can remember it as if it happened only five minutes ago.

The artist’s walls were coated with the kind of

lurid kitsch that only the late sixties were capable of. He was particularly fond of a nauseating orange, which he counterpointed with an unusually bilious green. He didn’t even have the excuse of post-Summer of Love psychedelia. Such modern notions most definitely hadn’t seeped down to Margate by 1969.

“Oh, how lovely!” fluted my mother, her eyes darting frantically in search of the nearest escape route. “You have such talent!”

My father just stood glumly. It didn’t involve rugby or cricket so he wasn’t interested to start with, and anyway he was rather enjoying watching my mother deal with this masterclass of politeness at its most challenging.

“Which one to choose!” my mother trilled in a frenzy of ladylikeness that was rapidly approaching hysteria.

My father still just stood there glumly, only even more glumly now because it was looking increasingly as if this little misadventure would end with him having to fork out some hard-earned bucks.

“This one I particularly like,” hyperventilated my mother. “The riot of colour! The embracing of the abstract! It’s such a departure from your other work!”

“It’s my palette,” muttered the artist.

“Ah! Well ... It just goes to show ... Ha ha! What do I know? Erm, yes ... Uh, is it for sale?”

Fifty cents glumly grabbed from my father’s pocket later, we fled in disarray, proud owners of the artist’s greatest work.

That’s the south coast for you — lots of salt water in the lungs and even more happy memories.

I wouldn’t get rid of that plastic plate for the world.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.