Yesterday, on the promenade near the pier.
‘Want to see me juggle these on my unicycle? Well, do you?’ The crowd cheers.
He carries two pair of lighted torches in his right hand, moves with confidence, with ease. Isolating individuals, he says. ‘Louder. More emotion, I’m used to more. I usually get more than this. Do you want to see me juggle on my unicycle? Come on, tell me.’ He laughs. ‘I want your money really, but come on, do want to see this or not?’ The crowd bellows.
Hemmed in, still he continues his circuit, laughing, joking, making no attempt to mount the unicycle he has two young men holding. I walk away, but keep looking back. The unicycle can wait; not yet, time enough to judge when.
The pier is thronged; families crowded in the shelters eating chips, burgers, ice cream. People in groups, or by themselves, promenade first along one side to the pier head, and then back.
Passing a group of young men, I watch a seagull hover, drop; just miss the chips one of the boys is holding. Alarmed, he looks at his friends, grins. ‘What happened there? Did you see that? Cheeky.’ They laugh but stay where they’re standing looking over the rails at the sea below. A second time the gull drops. The boy recoils, loosening his grip on the packet, scattering its contents across the pier deck. Seagulls descend, squabbling, fighting. The boy watches his chips disappear. ‘Shit, bastards, I really wanted to eat those.’ His friends giggle, joke with each other. One says, ‘Just get some more then? Maybe they’ll come looking for seconds?’ He says, ‘Fuck off. Fancy a drink now.’
A pigeon lands, pecks at the deck. The boy lunges, kicks at it, kicks at nothing but fresh air. ‘Ah, what the fuck. Come on, time for a pint, eh?’
The promenade is quiet this morning. A few people out walking dogs, out running. Some just sitting solitary, enjoying the morning sun. Away from the bars, souvenir stalls, I pass a bench with flowers tied to one of the armrests; withered, fading now but still there, still a memory.