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This is my home, he thought, this is my life.
Catching the number twelve bus, Bill watched his neighbourhood pass through the window, his head pressed against the glass like a small child; he felt the impact of each rise and fall of the suburbs. He watched adolescents pushing cigarettes to pre-teens, young mothers pushing prams whilst chatting on their mobile phones; a tramp slumped in a shop doorway offering a dog-eared copy of The Big Issue. He watched locals sit in stationary cars and sound their horns in frustration, as trams idled past full of tourists. On the seat in front of him, BFC ruled in orange marker pen, while proclamations of young lust had been carved lovingly into the leather of the seat next to him. In truth, Bill's neighbourhood had passed away many years ago; this was now just the place he lived.
The doors swung open and Bill descended the three steps slowly. He heard mutterings and tuts from the growing queue behind, but Bill went at his own speed, his own arthritic pace. As he stepped down onto the promenade, two young boys pushed past him, bumping and jostling him. Their branded trainers pounding the tarmac towards the arcade, loose chain jangling in their pockets. Behind him, a young man stopped to help a mother off the bus with her pram. Bill smiled; maybe all was not lost in the world.
He approached the stretch of beach where the deck chairs were stored, paid a crisp five pound note to a tanned man who kindly set-up a deck chair for him. He lowered himself gingerly into the candy-striped deck chair and reached into his pocket to withdraw the small scrap of newspaper he had freshly torn from this morning's Chronicle. Looking down he re-read the article and again a tear formed in his eye. Taking a pristine white handkerchief from his hip pocket, he slipped it beneath his glasses lens and vigorously rubbed the socket of his right eye until it turned red.
The seafront was quiet in comparison to when he'd last made the effort to come here. It was the height of summer and he had been appalled and frightened by the overwhelming volume of people. His daughter Elizabeth had visited from London and brought her two children. They loved coming to the beach to build sandcastles, and throw stones at the waves as they broke and foamed in the shallows. Bill was glad when Lizzie finally took him home. That day with Lizzie and the grandchildren was the first time he'd been back to the beach since Ethel had died eight years to the day; he despised it as much as that day.
In his twenties, he was handsome and suave. He'd worked most of the bars, clubs and cabaret establishments along the front; it was his life, his income and was how he met his wife.