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His day at the beach

I’ve dug out the writing and typed it up as I wrote it so you needn’t try deciphering my handwriting.

It was like any old day at the beach hut. The waves washed upon the shore, butterflies fluttered by, birds sang in the summer sun – no one could have expected it to end in such disaster. We had got up late and slowly, caught the midday train just in time, and wandered lackadaisically down to out small hut on the beach, stopping off briefly to pick up some light refreshments at the village shop and chatting amiably with the cheerful woman behind the till.
My brothers and I were glad to be down at the beach again with our father. He had been busy at work and arguing intermittently with our mother. He was very stressed – recently he’d been to the doctor’s more frequently to check up about his irregular heartbeat – however he had been prescribed appropriate medication and undergone an operation recently to correct the rhythm. But today the sun was shining and we could laugh and jest. Leaving him to get changed, my brothers and I, already in our trunks and sun cream applied enthusiastically, sprinted to the water and leapt in guffawing and splashing with abandon. Time passed and we tired but continued playing, however our father had not joined us. We had forgotten in our play, but it was his weekend off with us and we wanted him to join in our fun.
Eventually, reluctantly, and being the eldest, I decided to leave the comfort of the cool river, to tiptoe, shivering in the breeze, up to the hut, without any worry playing my mind. Arriving at the hut I saw my father resting on the steps. “Come on, Dad!” I said, “We’ve been waiting for you for ages.”
Upon receiving no response I got closer – perplexed but unconcerned as of yet. Again I questioned him but he made no comprehensible reply – instead he seemed to emit a groan like a sick animal, unsure of its predicament. This bizarre and unnatural behaviour began to frighten me. Still not understanding the severity of the situation, I continued to talk to him. Yet as his responses became no less confused, my panic and sense of dread grew and grew. A quiver in my voice I asked “Dad? Are you all right? What’s wrong?”
Then, tears pricking at my eyes – my distress clearly exhibited – I bombarded him with my fearful queries: “Dad! What is it? Has someone died? Is it work? Dad! Is it mum? A divorce? Dad! Dad! Say something!”
Still I received no reply and now I noticed how his foot was bent unnaturally under the step and his face sloped to the side. Terrified, I only knew one thing to do: call Mum. I ran into the hut, fumbling desperately for my dad’s bag and his phone therein. With shaking fingers I dialled my mother’s number and waited what seemed an age – my heart palpitating in my chest. No response! Voicemail! In full-thrown panic I tried again: boop, boop, boop the ringtone went, tears no rolling down my salt-stained cheeks.
She picked up. “Mum! Mum!” I cried, “Something’s wrong! Something’s wrong with Dad!”
“What? What is it?” she asked, her own distress immediately apparent.
“I don’t know! He’s not talking, just making weird noises – and something’s wrong with his face!” I said.
“OK, I’m on my way!” she replied, “Go get help!”
Putting back the phone, I stumbled back into the sunlight, past my moaning father and scanned the beach for aid. Fortunately it was a busy day and there was a family not too far away down the beach. Normally, I would have been far too shy to even make eye-contact, but, in my desperation, I overcame that and ran to them.
“Oh, hello,” the father said, “Are you all right?”
“It’s – it’s my Dad,” I stuttered, “Something’s really wrong – I don’t understand – please, can you come with me? Come and help!”
He and his wife got up immediately and I led them at a pace back to the hut. Judging by the concern and shock on their faces I knew something was, indeed, seriously wrong. They sat with him and spoke to him but again to no avail. Suddenly, he made a stranger noise and lent forward awkwardly – and vomited on the sand. It was thin and pink and thoroughly disgusting. Without a moment’s hesitation the man took out his phone and dialled the emergency services as the woman sat my dad up again and spoke to him, grabbing a bowl from inside in case he threw up again – which he did. Again and again.
I just stood. Paralysed by fear and incomprehension, staring at my father who I could not recognise. At length, the husband explained the situation to the operator, giving detailed instructions on how to find us down the bumpy turn-off that headed the trail to the shore. His frustration, too, gave me cause for fear until at last it seemed the message had been conveyed, and an ambulance was on its way.
At some point, I could not say when, I must have sat down and my brothers come up from the water, finally intrigued by my delay. Other beachgoers had gathered to assist and now, my initial role over, I could just sit. And I did. Staring at my – what must be my father – but terrifying. The lack of expression on his face and awkward position – and worst of all the fear – pure fear – I perceived in his eyes. This man I hold in such high repute – brought so low by a cause I could not understand. My brothers’ countenances offered no further elucidation. My younger seemed just as perplexed and concerned, sitting silently in the shade. And the youngest, at first scared in the way a six-year-old is, had lapsed into playing in the sand nonchalantly – unaware of the disaster that had struck.
I do not remember what went through my mind, except the flood of relief and conviction that “he’d be OK” upon hearing that the ambulance was coming to find him. But the fear never really left me – it never really has.

Didn’t realise it was so long – wrote it for a mock English gcse earlier this year. It’s not wholly accurate, a bit embellished, but I hope it might help at all.

All the best,

James

That day at the beach

In July 2013, I went swimming with my 3 sons. I was a screenwriter on my day off. The sons went in the river – and I had a stroke. I was 49.
Three months’ rehab taught me to talk and walk again (sort of). But it was only when I went back home that I realised life would be very different. To add insult to (brain) injury, I found I couldn’t write.
But now, 6 years later, I can. Differently…

It was 26 July 2013, a Friday in the summer holidays. A film I’d written was showing in Colchester that evening and I was due to answer questions after it. I always looked forward to that sort of thing. I was so used to talking about my screenplays and meeting indifference that to talk about them and meet enthusiasm (however mild) was refreshing. My wife was out giving a talk about her novel and I decided to take our 3 boys swimming. We have a hut at Wrabness on the Stour estuary, which is tidal; you can only swim at high water. Today it was scheduled for 4pm.
We went by train. It’s only one stop but then it’s about 20 minutes’ walk, longer when you have a 6-year-old in tow. It was very hot. We stopped for ice creams on the way. Finally we got there and the boys went in the sea while I opened up the hut.
Then I started to feel very strange, sat down on the floor and threw up. And I remember thinking: I must pull myself together before the boys come out…
Finally my eldest son – 12 at the time – came out and found me. I couldn’t talk or move much. He found my phone and rang my wife who was driving home, half an hour away. She asked him if there were anyone else on the beach. It’s always very quiet there but in the distance he could see a couple. (I don’t remember them to look at but their name was Hitchcock!) They came over, took one look at me and quickly called an ambulance. They could see I’d had a stroke.
The Hitchcocks looked after me and the boys until a first responder arrived. Then the ambulance couldn’t make it down the track to the beach so I had to somehow get in the first responder’s car and be driven up to the ambulance. My wife had turned up by now and she came to the hospital with me. The Hitchcocks took the boys home to our house. And went out of our lives back to London…
I never did make it to my film. It was called The Liability.