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Confessions Of An English Sand-Eater

15 February 2001
My name is James, and I have a problem.

I stood watching the green-grey waves collapse and run up the shore, hoping that one of them could be bothered to run far enough towards me to make my feet wet and cold. But the tide was going out, so that was getting less likely by the minute. Just like the rest of my life; what was once so full of promise, was now looking utterly hopeless. Young, fresh, just out of a reputable university course and yet it had proven impossible to find work. I was faced with a mountain of debt, had no way of clearing it, and could not see any way out of the problem. I was totally alone in the world, and saw no hope, except for disappearing Reginald Perrin-like into the infinite distance.

I looked up and down the grey beach that was the place of many a joyous summer as an infant, making sand-castles and finding shells. I knelt down to feel and smell the sand, repository of many a happy day. I remember looking at the small pile of grains in my hand and feeling like there was nothing else that remained in my life of any meaning. But the rush as I tasted the grit on my tongue and heard it rasp and squeak against my teeth erased all that had been before. I had new purpose. With hindsight, it was an act of pure desperation that would lead on to many other desperate acts in the future.

After the mental and spiritual release from my desperate situation at that young and tender age, I pursued my new purpose with a passionate vigour. As I write, having now spent the larger proportion of my life experiencing and investigating the varied effects of sand-eating, I am surely in such a position of knowledgeable authority to be fully justified in preparing this treatise. I have cultivated an intimate relationship with my narcotic lover, based on a deep and broad understanding of her many moods and incarnations. As the aim of this work is to provide a balanced record of my tumultuous d'alliance, I will simply recount the results of my lengthy experience of sand-taking, both while under her control, and during the struggle to free myself from it.

One of my first realisations in the early days of my youthful adventures was that it is very difficult to find suitable sand on the shores of my home island. True, there are some sandy beaches, such as the one from which I launched my passage to infamy. But there are all too many pebble and coral beaches, which provide an altogether too painful alternative to my chosen catalyst. This has clearly resulted in the substitution of sand-eating among the land-locked counties for the taking of gravel. This more coarse version, as I have discovered during some discourse with its practitioners, while requiring some conditioning and acclimatisation to its ingestion, does produce similar effects on the mind and spirit as my finer choice. Personally, I find this practice extremely vulgar, as there always remains evidence of their habit in the U-bend of their toilet bowl. Unnecessary too, as I discovered the ease with which more subtle and foreign alternatives can be ordered for import. Geology departments of local universities are all too happy to provide samples to Western scholars.

Upon journeying the length and breadth of my home land, and discovering little in way of palatable variation, I turned my attention to the multitudes of foreign possibilities. I settled upon two favourites, each the other's opposite, but both exquisite in every conceivable way. The first, Philippine White, is as fine as flour and even whiter. The fineness of this sand from a particular Philippine island, continually pounded and ground by the relentless South China Seas, means that it can be enjoyed in any array of circumstance, either mixed with food (a throw-back to the consumption of inevitably sandy sandwiches as a child) or alone, or even inhaled through the nose. This latter diversion I have attempted, although I do not feel that it is as worthwhile an exercise as the normal method.

My second choice from across the seas is the foreboding Hawaiian Black. This volcanic sand is coarse and heavy, and can only be properly enjoyed when taken by itself. Indeed, it is this variety that I took with me at all times, contained in a tiny chinoiserie snuff bottle worn around my neck. With this variety, the quality is improved dramatically if taken from the correct part of the beach. My preference is for exactly at the high-tide mark. While this may require more filtering to remove jots of jetsam, it is neither too salty due to constant mixing with sea-water, nor too earthy, due to proximity to soil.

And so I spent countless years of my adult life researching and experiencing every possible type and combination of sands, and such a devotion now tells its toll in my autumnal years. The main physical sign of my past is the state of my teeth. Regular use of sand does cause a significant acceleration in the wearing down of teeth. I now require a full set of dentures, and have done so for some time. But by far the most profound has been the effect of my anti-social behaviour for such an extended period of time. I consistently chose to take my sand alone in private, and would often turn my friends away and out of my house so that I could renew my acquaintance with that more powerful love of mine. It is this effect, multiplied over many years, that finally caused me to fight off the entrancing seducer that is sand.

But what can be done to protect society from the ultimately evil temptress that so claimed my life? Should we restrict entry onto our nations beaches? Should legislation be passed? Should we set up 'rehabilitation' clinics that provide patients with gradually ever decreasing amounts of grit in their food? Should we educate parents to prevent eating sand as children, so that the initial taste is not there to return ever more powerful in later life? I fear that such measures, although they will finally make public what has always been a silent social assassin, will not solve the problem of habitual sand-eating. It is too ingrained in our social psyche (remember tales of old where soldiers used to chew pebbles to stave off hunger), and all to virulent a force to be overturned by simple acts of men. My only hope is that my small story here will inspire those already caught in the web to attempt to break free. My salvation came too late.


Previously on upsideclown


Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
16 October 2003. James writes: Jakesy's School of Urban Driving
24 September 2003. James writes: Chapter One
4 September 2003. James writes: The Silicon Soul
14 August 2003. James writes: A Room With 100 Seats
24 July 2003. James writes: English For Beginners
3 July 2003. James writes: Coldplay are crap. Discuss.
9 June 2003. James writes: It Takes All Sorts
22 May 2003. James writes: Lesson 2: Buying his Gran for a tenner
1 May 2003. James writes: Rosencrantz and Leytonstone
10 April 2003. James writes: Character Building
20 March 2003. James writes: So This Is It. What Are We Going To Do About It?
27 February 2003. James writes: Street Level Zero
6 February 2003. James writes: Reference: James Noteworthy
16 January 2003. James writes: Kissing George Clooney for just £99!
26 December 2002. James writes: Hongkong In Four Tableaux
5 December 2002. James writes: We Are Your Idea
14 November 2002. James writes: The Knight Of Spring Fervent
24 October 2002. James writes: Go On, Be Honest
7 October 2002. James writes: Cold Comfort
12 September 2002. James writes: Peas In A Pod
22 August 2002. James writes: Seed Investment
1 August 2002. James writes: We Are QPR
11 July 2002. James writes: The Road to Ossuna
20 June 2002. James writes: Pret A Teleporter
27 May 2002. James writes: A Play On Words
2 May 2002. James writes: Labour Saving Device
8 April 2002. James writes: Beggaring Belief
14 March 2002. James writes: Small Things
18 February 2002. James writes: Drop Dead Letters
24 January 2002. James writes: High-Rise Rhapsody
27 December 2001. James writes: My drift's too hip to resist.
6 December 2001. James writes: My Lord Has No Nose
12 November 2001. James writes: A Job For Life
18 October 2001. James writes: Which is the cleverest animal?
24 September 2001. James writes: Interview With An Automatum
30 August 2001. James writes: Each To Their Own
6 August 2001. James writes: An Escape, In Sonata Form
12 July 2001. James writes: Truckloads Of Goodies
18 June 2001. James writes: There's No Such Thing As A Coincidence
24 May 2001. James writes: It's All True - The Paper Says So
30 April 2001. James writes: A Letter From Prisyn
16 April 2001. James writes: I Quit
15 March 2001. James writes: An Essay In Procrastination
15 February 2001. James writes: Confessions Of An English Sand-Eater
22 January 2001. James writes: The Future And The Pasta
28 December 2000. James writes: Never drink with men in red
4 December 2000. James writes: The Underground
9 November 2000. James writes: Right answer. Wrong answer
16 October 2000. James writes: The March of Proudfoot: Part I
21 September 2000. James writes: You haven't got a chance
28 August 2000. James writes: Bad, man. Wicked
24 July 2000. James writes: I play games with street lamps

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