It is time, I fear, to tell An Incident from our recent holiday. It has nothing to do with the spud bar the fact that he was 20 feet away but missed it entirely. This is a Good Thing as seeing one's mother pulled naked from the ocean is possibly 'scar for life' material. But I digress.
It was lovely and hot in Biarritz that week. Sadly however work was the order of the day and so I could only manage to get to the sea quite late. Luckily it was still hot and sunny, less luckily the tide was coming in making swimming a bit iffy.
Late one afternoon we went to one of our favourite beaches; a beach with quite dodgy swimming as the sand shelves off quite sharply. This forces the waves to pound their way into the beach rather than roll beatifically into nothing and makes paddling almost impossible. There was a sharp cross-current and after the Frog lurched back from his swim with sand in his hair it was clear that the sea had teeth.
I am, however, made of the sort of stuff that is likely to see me swimming off the coast of Devon in March and jumping into freezing mountain pools for the fun of it. I'm a strong swimmer and secretly I rather thought the Frog was exaggerating and had just bungled his dismount.
The swimming flags were close together and probably 100 people or more were crammed between them, some on the shore, the majority just into the surf line and a brave few in the breakers.
Cockily, I (dressed only in a bikini that someone should have stolen and burned) waded in, expertly dodged the waves and was out beyond the surf in no time. The cross-current was perfect for allowing a good long swim without the dreary necessity of actually going anywhere. 'Heavenly' I thought to myself, swimming endlessly on the spot 'being able to stretch my muscles like this'.
Presently I felt I'd had a good amount of exercise and should probably go in. I monitored the waves. I rode the swell. I held back from the breakers. I was carried into the shore, perfectly vertical, ahead of a wave. I landed, en pointe, daintily in front of the crowd. Just as I was at my MOST cocky, a wave I'd ignored because, after all, I was walking up the shelf on dry land, knocked me flying.
As I got up, I realised with horror that it had pulled my bikini bottoms clean down to my ankles and I was now sitting, naked from the waist down, in front of 100 gurning tourists. I sat in the swirling tide hanging on to my kecks trying to pull them up discreetly and was halfway there when the next wave dragged me under. I emerged still hanging onto my knickers and nearly had them up when the next one came and took me for a proper dragging.
This time when I sat up, I realised my bra was now hanging by one strap and I was entirely nude. Feeling nothing but embarrassment I let the next wave take me, hoping to get back out into the deeper water but suddenly, what's this? Two strong arms had me from behind!!
Was it the Frog? Was it Superman? No! It was a young, handsome French lifeguard! Woo hoo! Sadly, he was trying to drag me out of the water. A wave came, he gestured with his head and we dove under, me still hanging on to my clothes.
At that point, a second life-guard joined the party... and THAT, my friends, is how it took two strapping young men to drag me from the sea, naked, resistant and shouting 'Non! Non! Mes culottes! Mes culottes!!!'
I think being 45 helps in these cases as I managed with some level of experience to both shrug back into my bra and pull up my pants before they stood me up in front of the over-excited crowd. I tried to maintain a semblence of dignity but within seconds realised that there was so much sand in my drawers that they were sagging down to my thighs like a wet nappy.
Lifeguard number one looked at me, puzzled and possibly put out that I wasn't melting with thanks. I looked at him. We looked at the sea. 'C'est dur' he said. 'Oui, c'est dur' I said, manipulating sand out of my labia and pretending nothing was happening.
Ursula Andress, eat your heart out...