This woman is often on the beach early in the morning, generally very early, because I have come to recognise her fresh barefoot print walking ahead of me on the wet sand. Sometimes she puts the end of the stick down near her left foot, but I couldn’t find a photo of that print, and the dayI took the above photo she was just carrying it. The footprints she leaves are very distinctive – she might have hammer toes – and she always walks on firm damp sand. One winter morning she was walking in thick socks … not sure of that rationale. After finding her fresh tracks just as I start walking, I will generally pass her coming westwards towards me on her return leg. Some summer mornings she must be there very early indeed, as on the other day when I took a few photos of her without her realising, it was only just past 7am. and she was on her return, nearly to the point where she enters and leaves the beach.
Apart from the distinctive tracks we all leave we also move and behave distinctively so that there are quite a few regulars I recognise from a distance – they walk or run in a certain way, have particular dogs, some wave, smile, nod, some stare straight ahead clearly in a zone. A couple of ladies talk loud and long as they briskly walk together, I hear them as the come up behind and pass me; there are three guys with very hairy legs and trim firm buttocks often jogging together (must take a pic for you some time..), and if I’m running later than usual I stand a chance of meeting a neighbour with a little black poodle called ‘Brian’. Interestingly dogs are different on the beach, the wide open space means there is room for all, and but even dogs who might snarl or fight elsewhere will meet, exchange some recognition the way dogs do, and either move on or play together a bit before moving on.
I also need to start thinking of her as the barefoot lady rather than the bag lady. Glancing at her from a disance, at first I used to think she picked up beach offerings things – candles, beads and so on, perhaps a good piece of fruit or veg, and carry them along in her bag. Now I know that is not so, and that her bag prolly just holds her shoes and that she prefers to be barefoot on the firm sand. In the past couple of years I have watched her as closely as you can get without appearing to be stickybeaking – she doesn’t disturb any of those things – she does use her stick to poke about a bit in the heaps of seaweed and other material on the beach, though. She seemed absent for a few months and is now walking unevenly -hip? I wonder. A couple of years ago, one day I made a motion to speak to her but she held up her hand as if to stay ‘stop’ and continued on her way – I have never approached her again – for whatever reason she prefers to be solitary at least on the beach.