Normally I dislike those stories that begin with 'when I was young...', but in this instance there is no other (or better) alternative, so here goes... Oh, and before you cry, “Well, how old is she? She can't be more than twelve!” I'll have you know I'm thirty four, but feel closer to fifty. With that trifling matter cleared up, I'll say it again, here goes...
was young, I had an unusual role model. Unusual in the sense that he
was a version of my dad, only three times taller and bigger all over.
Dad then was roughly five foot eleven, his statute now is shrinking,
but at eight years of age that seemed tall and we were always
comparing as Mum was only five foot three and I was desperate to
overshoot her. And I did by three inches eventually and being
willowy, or if you prefer beanpole-like I managed to look even
taller. Anyhow that's beside the point and makes not the slightest
difference to this story.
parents worked full-time, most of my summers were spent at the
seaside, Middleton-on-Sea to be exact, with my grandparents, the Good
Witch and Troll, and occasionally Uncle Dingle and the cousins,
Sam-Sam and Judo Nell, and this was where in '89 I stumbled on the
Giant. And yes, stumble is the right word as not looking where I was
going, as per usual, I tripped over one of his pasty calves while he
was sun-bathing. Ordinary people don't do that in Bognor, sun-bathing
that is, but admiring your footprints in the sand is I assure you
quite normal. Backwards walking is a common sport that all ages
let's return to his calf, which to me seemed to resemble an uncooked
chicken drumstick, only thrice the length and size. I pondered if a
flock of seagulls might have dropped it as I had not yet allowed my
eyes to travel further up, and when they did, I admit I momentarily
froze. I'd never seen a man built like this – King Kong, yes, but
not a Dad on a grand scale.
my clumsy trip didn't seem to have disturbed him. He probably didn't
feel a thing, and so when I'd recovered from my shock I chose to zoom
in, as a photographer's daughter naturally does, and study him closer
up. His flesh was chalky white and marbled with blue veins. His legs
were smooth, but his arms and chest were covered with dark, curly
hairs. His large nose was mottled pink and there was the beginnings
of a grey shadow on his chin. His head hair was plastered down, being
still damp, and on the crown there was a tiny bald spot like a desert
island surrounded by its own sea of chestnut brown. There were many
contradictions in his elongated frame, but that he was a man and a
giant I was pretty much convinced, especially as he wore similar
swimming trunks to my dad's, except his were pearly, seashell white,
and dad's were navy blue.
just about to check he was napping and not dead, when he opened one
eye and regarded me like a tired dog keeping watch over its owner. He
stretched his lean arms overhead, “Hello imp!” he said in a broad
Dorset accent which came out as a boom, and then broke into a toothy
grin, “Cat got your tongue?”
my head, “I didn't think so,” he said, “but you've been taught
never to speak to strangers. Am I right?” I soundlessly nodded in
reply. “Good. Go get your nan.” I raced off as he slowly peeled
himself off the sand, and hurried back, pulling the Good Witch by the
hand, to where the Giant now stood in all his magnificent height.
Mil, I thought she was your girl.”
it's you John!”
Good Witch turned to me and said, “This is a friend of ours –
John Hurrell. He's a giant swimmer,” and then she shouted up to the
cloud-scattered blue sky, “and this, John, is my granddaughter.”
to meet you,” the Giant said sticking out a large pinkie finger
which I clasped with my child-sized hand.
made, when summers came I always went to find the giant swimmer.
Picture credit: A Swimmer, Paul Cezanne