I like Maracas Beach. It’s fun. I play with the other children in the sand. I am the only one wearing a sun hat. Mum pretends to chase me. I run, giggling, half-looking over my shoulder. I go into the water. I can swim away. I am still laughing. The water gets deeper. I know I need to get back. I can’t. I swim and I swim. An invisible power is pulling me away from the beach. I’m scared. Mum is too. I’m crying. Surfers help us back to the beach. Red flags mean danger.
Maracas Beach! Sprawling and crowded. Shark roti and milk drunk from coconuts. This was a real beach with hot fine sand, none of the infernal stones found on English beaches.
I had never understood the meaning of the flags before this day. Sure I had seen them – yellow, yellow/red and red.
I was messing about with my mum, we were running along the beach and I strayed into the water. I was an able swimmer and had no fear swimming out to escape my mother even if nothing was underfoot.
I felt myself being pulled out by the current. I swam my hardest but was only going backwards. I was in trouble. Mum realised and grabbed hold of me except the current was still too strong. It was terrifying. Luckily, some nearby surfers helped us out until we had shifting sand underneath our feet again. That was the day I understood what the red flags meant, no swimming.