Beach Thoughts                                                                                                                                                                        Posted 8th May 2013  

Beach thoughts.  They come and go wilfully, migrants using your head like a transit camp.  A small plane drones across the cloudless sky, trailing a banner which reads: "Ramusa - 20 Anos Sin Justicia".  Who or what is Ramusa?  An imprisoned Basque terrorist?  What injustice has been suffered for 20 years?  Wrongful imprisonment?  I'll probably never know.

The plane flies slowly into silence, taking its fluttering tail of outrage with it.  It hasn't exactly mobilised the beach.  Here the big questions are whether it's time to lie on your stomach for a change so that you don't finish up as a two-tone person - brown chest, white back - or time to walk the punishing 100 yards or so to that cafe for another cold drink.  Decisions, decisions.

I like the honesty of beaches.  Here the fat, the thin, the barge-bottomed, the lumpy-legged, the goddesses and the geeks appear as just themselves.  The sun refuses to differentiate among them, grants a kind of absolution from individual frailties.  A tan makes anybody look better.  Legs that just look heavy when they're white can achieve the statuesque by going brown.  I suppose any body comes closer to looking like a work of art when it's done in bronze.

Quite a lot of women here have gone topless.  It's interesting how quickly the fact becomes unremarkable.  Roland Barthes says somewhere that the erotic lies in the half-hidden, in the suggestion rather than the full statement.  It is the unanticipated glimpse of cleavage, the briefly exposed stretch of thigh which stir the interest.  I can see what he means.  Topless women lying in the sun or trudging along a beach or reprimanding their children for dripping sea-water on them are innocent of erotic implications.  Banality remains banality, even when it has no clothes on.
Beach thoughts.  Perhaps eroticism achieves intensity in proportion to the strength of the taboos it is circumventing.  The glimpse Barthes refers to is essentially a glimpse of the forbidden, a sight of what you were not supposed to see, like Actaeon coming upon the goddess Diana naked.  The strength of the taboo he broke is illustrated by the ferocity of his punishment.  He was turned into a stag and pursued and torn to pieces by his own hounds.  Those ancient Greeks took their taboos seriously.

We no longer do.  Probably the closest thing to a taboo young people have these days will relate to the wearing of a wrong designer label or listening to a Cliff Richard record.  They are not questions of substance, just of style.  Even what was supposed to be the ultimate taboo, murder, has been demystified and wanders our streets aimlessly every other weekend.  The dark gods have been dethroned and dressed in casual clothes.

Eros is one of them.  The demystification of sex has its advantages, of course.  These women baring their upper bodies to the sun are a healthy expression of unselfconsciousness.  But then this is Calella uncovered.  When I think of television programmes like Ibiza Uncovered, I begin to wonder if the Victorians' attitude to sex didn't have more going for it than I had thought.  Their sexual repression may have caused them ludicrously to see suggestiveness in the legs of a piano, so that they might cover them up.  But at least they acknowledged the disruptive potency of the sexual urge.

Contemporary society is so glib about sex that it tends to trivialise it into being no more than a bodily function, like going to the toilet.  Far from covering the piano legs, some of us would be more likely to carve them into improbably sexy shapes.

I wonder how Ramusa is getting on.  There are kayaks for hire over there.  I wouldn't mind trying that, but I would like to have some private lessons first.  What if you capsized and were trapped upside down in your kayak?  And had to be carried ashore and given artificial respiration.  Embarrassing.  Or drowned.  At least that would be one way to avoid the embarrassment.

Is even embarrassment going out of date?  Certainly nothing seemed to embarrass some of those people in Ibiza Uncovered.  In one of the programmes a man and a woman who seemed to have just met went into a cubicle of a public toilet to have sex and emerged smiling to camera.

Sigmund Freud would be out of a job these days.  He probably didn't realise how specific to his time some of his findings were.  They related to a profoundly inhibited society and the members of that society whom he treated were mainly middle class.  In other words, they belonged to the social group most determined to wear a mask of politeness over the dark reality of their feelings.

It was obviously from there Freud developed the idea of the id, that primitive part of the mind where dark impulses lurk which can't be acknowledged by the ego.  He wanted to introduce them to each other.  "Where id was," he wrote, "there ego shall be."  I think he may have got it back to front.  Now where ego is, you are sure to find id having a party.  You don't have to introduce them to each other.  They're the best of pals already.  The id isn't just quietly acknowledged either.  These days it likes to appear on the telly.

I suppose you could see that as progress.  To me it looks like a shallowing of our natures. I'm not voting for sexual neuroses for everybody, but I think the trivialising of what was once seen as a source of passion into a whim is a kind of libel on life.  In any case, the compulsion to turn the individual experience of sex into a mechanical event looks to me like a neurosis in itself.  Bring back the darkness of the id.

A swim is called for.  From out here the people on the beach look abandoned, as if they have been washed up there.  I suppose in a sense we all have been, since this is where we come from.  Beach thoughts.