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A day at the beach with Margaret Drabble

Sea breezes, the squawk of gulls, the scent of coco and salty air; I am at the beach.

Colorful mini shops on wheels sell cheerful brightly colored bikinis, towels and beaded jewellery. The sky is dotted with para-sailors and the water with windsurfers, paddle boats and bobbing heads. Mothers call out to their children to cover up or come in for an extra slather of sun protection. Others squeal under the first blast of icy water that gushes out of the outdoor showers. Everything is vibrant light and vibrant life. Such a perfect day in all its exquisite details.

Lounging under my flapping orange umbrella, I feel both deliciously cocooned and also part of it all. On my lap lies, A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman, by Margaret Drabble (13 collected short stories). I am gobbling up her stories in between bites of the most delicious grilled ham and cheese toastie on the planet (everything tastes more amazing when consumed in idyllic surroundings, don't you find?)

These stories about women are organized in chronological order, beginning in the 1960's through to the naughts. Margaret Drabble heightens the senses (thus our awareness) through her expert attention to details. Details are very important.

She captures the minutiae of women and examines their transformation, within, alongside and at the forefront of society. Coming of age, middle age, old age, relationships (toxic and positive), the way family, sex and loneliness is viewed are all explored. There are trapped women, women reduced to debris, driven women, duplicitous females, feminists and non. There is self-worth and identity (and our constant questioning, examining and tweaking of these qualities) at the center of it all, over a period of four decades.

Each story seamlessly glides into the next so that the book reads as a natural (universal) progression of women and their continued experiences and developments.

As the blinding high noon glitter slips slowly into dusk, umbrellas are shut, families gather up their things and head out and the beach empties. I slip into my sweater and jeans and continue to sit there. You can now hear the sound of the waves, see the shadowy cloud streaked sky and feel a slight damp chill in the air.

Margaret Drabble's book is shut and tucked away in my beach bag. Staring out to sea, I linger over her words in a moment of peaceful unhurried reflection.

Thank you Margaret Drabble, for an unforgettable day at the beach..


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