I have not swum from Petit Tor Beach for probably 18 months. Whilst it is a lovely little beach of white limestone pebbles it is quite a way to walk and something of an effort down the very slippery path. The additional appeal for me it that it collects driftwood. I have stowed my bow saw and I am not disappointed by the 10m long branchless, slender tree trunk that has been wedged between the rocks at the high water mark.
The major downside to the beach is that it attracts naturists and as I step out on the beach there is a man in the altogether having a swim. That in itself is not a problem and in itself the fact that he then stands there full frontal watching me for the entire time it takes me to get changed and then pick my way down over the stones and get out past the breaking waves is also not a problem. So long as he keeps his distance. It is only as I turn and look back from the water that I realize I have another watcher.
In the usual way I have dumped my bag, towel, boots and clothes on the beach. I work on the principal that if people can see the contents of your bag they are unlikely to walk off with it on the off chance. Where I have gone wrong today is that my car key is not hidden away under a rock or behind a clump of grass but is still in my bag. If the bag goes then I have a problem. It is too late now. Psychologically though I have the feeling that if two people see a bag that clearly belongs to a 3rd person then either would have to be pretty bold to simply walk over, pick it up and walk off with it. Whereas in a crowd no-one knows whose is what and that security blanket is ripped away. In this case there is no safety in numbers. Ah well, worse things happen at sea. But I am at sea!
The sun is shining strongly and it is a very warm autumn day, but then the high headland cuts out the sunshine as I swim around to the Gentlemen’s Bathing Place and by the time I clear the headland a band of thin cloud is beginning to pass hazily in front of the sun. I swim out further but the cloud is creeping forward faster and I am not going to regain the sunshine and now it is becoming chilly. From way out here though I can see that ‘Watcher No2’ is now leaving the beach and he walks straight by my bag. Disconcertingly that leaves ‘Watcher No1’ who is also dressing but slowly and is also clearly watching me. He walks slowly across the beach stopping every ten paces or so to watch me. I am getting a bit pissed off actually. Do I swim in and tell him to ‘go away’ or do I string it out and hope he just goes away?
He is not going but stands and watches me swim in and pick my way over the pebbles back to my towel. Eventually, and I do mean eventually, he turns his back and walks off. I do appreciate I bring this sort of thing on myself, long hair, women’s swimsuit, people make assumptions and people do take a second glance, but this is so far beyond that. In addition today after the insanity that was last night’s Vegas evening, where in one sketch I was a bride and in the next Lola the showgirl from the song Copacabana, I have bright red painted fingernails and toenails. Not that those should be visible from a distance. Why at no point did it occur to me that if I was buying nail polish then remover would be a good idea as maybe there would be none in the house? Sometimes the hamster falls asleep on the wheel.
It is true though that you can feel when you are being watched and if it is a sixth sense then mine is well tuned. I turn my head on the pretext of drying my hair and he is still there. He’s not easy to spot, but there he is just at the point where the footpath starts under the trees, slightly obscured by bushes, but still there and still staring at me. Has he really not figured yet that he is not going to get a flash of breasts, or is he looking out for something different? Does he not get that if I were a woman I would certainly never go to this beach by myself right from the get go? This is creepy and it has spoilt my afternoon. I turn and stare back and like someone with a guilty conscience he immediately turns and leaves.
Am I still feeling paranoid? Yes I am. However, making any sort of sudden approach across these stones is not going to happen and it would take me only a second to grab the saw from my bag and having accidentally nicked myself with it any number of times I suspect it would appear an effective deterrent.
In the meantime I shall cut a length off the tree trunk and give my stalker plenty of time to be somewhere else.