Sea Breeze

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic


Guest House proprietor makes a huge mistake by accepting to pose as a life model for artist Rupert McAdam.

Submitted: February 03, 2018

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Submitted: February 03, 2018

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SEA BREEZE

 

Chinmouth, a small fishing village on the South coast of Devon, is a popular holiday resort for holidaymakers’ who wish for peace and quiet during their well-earned rest.

As one would expect, Chinmouth is situated at the mouth of the River Chin. To call the Chin a river is a bit of a grandiose statement, as it is no more than a rivulet, or brook which is fed by rain water running off the Pintoc hills to the North of the village. The Chin’s mouth was permanently closed during the 18th century on Thursday the 15th of November in 1798, after a dispute between land owners of the village and Iain McClude the Mayor of Chinmouth. Iain McClude, Scottish by birth, wanted to change the name of the village to The Firth of Chin. The name change was obviously only going to happen with a fair vote. Suspicious of McClude’s vote fiddling in the past, the land owners firmly believed that the vote would be rigged and the lovely name of Chinmouth would be lost and only remain as a footnote in history books.

On the night before voting day, a large team of villagers transported boulders from the Chinmouth Quarry in the Pintoc Hills by horse and cart to the narrow mouth of the Chin. The team completely blocked the mouth of the little brook in protest with hundreds of boulders. By One ‘o Clock in the morning of the 15th of November the Chin was dammed. To say the Mayor was horrified would be an understatement. Iain McClude resigned from his seat instantaneously with a flap of tailcoat and top hat firmly placed on his noddle. In his parting rant he shouted “Hoo can ye call this village a mooth or firth noo ye have blocked the Chin!” Although the villagers were victorious, the consequences of blocking the mouth of the Chin would eventually lead to catastrophic flooding after heavy rainfall. In the mid-1800s, fens and drains were dug to cope with damming of the Chin. There is still a small trickle constantly dribbling through the boulder dam just to remind the sea that they were once friends. However, all is not lost, they do have a bit of a kiss with each another at hightide.

Unlike most seaside resorts that capitalize on tourists with their attractions, gift and novelty shops, Chinmouth has very few of these qualities. There are only essential shops such as a grocery combined with a post office, a fish and chip shop, a café and an outdoor specialist shop catering for the camper, hiker, cyclist and angler. Uncharacteristically of the local sentiment, the post office does sell saucy seaside post cards for visitors to disgust their friends and relations with.

One thing that Chinmouth does boast is many guest houses. Ocean Lane is lined with guest houses, it isn’t difficult to find one to stay in, even during holiday peak time. At one point, one of the most popular guest houses was Sea Breeze, not least because the proprietor Iris Campbell was licenced to supply alcoholic beverages on the premises. Iris and her late husband Sydney opened up their spacious home as a guest house in the 1980s. Iris and Sydney’s hobbies were naturism and target practice with powerful firearms; sometimes they enjoyed both hobbies simultaneously. The opening of an unofficial nudist beach in Chinmouth, where Iris and Sydney were frequent visitors, became a mecca for those who enjoyed getting the sea air to their bodies without fear of voyeurs spoiling their holidays. There is however a coin slotted telescope on the promenade, which could encourage naughtiness from schoolboys. The telescope coin slot only takes 1/- pieces, but these can be bought from the grocers for the Princely sum of £1 each. Needless to say, most people feel a bit ripped off, so don’t bother.

 

Iris and Sydney once had an advert published in the top of the shelf magazine ‘Naturist Monthly’ to boost clientele. It read: - Sea Breeze, the ideal West Country guest house for naturists. Leave your pyjamas and nighties at home! Unfortunately, this advert encouraged the wrong type of clientele at times. One visitor insisted that certain items of his cooked breakfast were arranged in a rather vulgar fashion; Iris and Sydney soon grew to regret advertising the guest house as suitable for naturists. As the guest house welcomed all-comers, it could also prove rather uncomfortable for fully clothed ordinary guests at meal times, particularly as the proprietors served their culinary delights in the nude. For the following holiday seasons, Sea Breeze became a traditional guest house for ordinary holiday makers, with the odd naturist customer being turned away at the slightest glimpse of an ankle.

In the early 1990s, Sydney passed away after a short illness and left complete ownership of Sea Breeze to Iris in his will. Iris wasn’t really certain at the time whether she wanted to carry on running the guest house on her own, she had lost her soulmate and couldn’t see past her grief. One late evening, Sydney visited Iris in a dream, to encourage her to continue running Sea Breeze. Cheered by Sydney’s visitation, Iris shook herself back into work and ran the business wonderfully.

Shortly after Sydney’s death, Iris became prone to sleepwalking and was often seen walking down Ocean Lane late at night. Far too occasionally, Iris’s somnambulism became confused with naturism. One day in the early hours of the morning, Iris was spotted walking topless by two policemen who had met for a secret smoke in a bus shelter.

“Excuse me ma’am, we’ve reason to believe you are committing the offence of indecent exposure, according to section number…whatever it is!” said one of the policeman shortly after popping a Polo Mint in his mouth to disguise that he’d been having a crafty drag.

Iris shook from her sleep, mortified that she had been found half-dressed in the street. With two generous police helmets pressed into use as a makeshift bra, Iris was safely escorted home with no further action taken.

Iris’s naked somnambulism wasn’t restricted to outdoors, a number of Sea Breeze guests had been woken abruptly during the hours of darkness, to find Iris completely naked, vacuum cleaning their room.

 

Sea Breeze was no stranger to celebrities staying within its walls.  In the Autumn/Winter of 1998, actors Donald Penn and Roger Rayburn enjoyed a lengthy stay while appearing in the long running murder mystery play ‘Don’t Call Me Baby Doll You Fiend!’ at the Watermill Theatre in nearby Clamdon. Donald and Roger found the food very good, if repetitive.

Sunday boasted the traditional roast with all the trimmings, with spotted dick and custard for desert.

Monday the corned beef hash with mashed potatoes and baked beans, and knickerbocker glory for afters.

Tuesday, cottage or shepherd’s pie, depending on which mince was used, with seasonal vegetables fresh from the freezer, and apple crumble with clotted cream and custard to finish with.

Wednesday was macaroni cheese with chipolata sausages, and a gut busting jam roly-poly and custard for afters.

Thursday, chicken curry and basmati rice with mango chutney and a choice of poppadum or naan bread, and lemon sorbet afterwards to cool the tongue. Donald and Roger often gave the curry a miss, as it led to flatulence on stage. Roger also had a kissing scene in the play and didn’t think it fair to snog poor Vivienne Plumstead, should he accidentally belch. The fact that Vivienne enjoyed a good old chilli con carne on Wednesday evenings before the show, showed that she didn’t share Roger’s gentlemanly sentiment.

Friday night was fish and chip night, which was always breaded haddock. Unlike all the other excellent meals Iris served at the table, the breaded haddock was slightly overdone and crunchy rather than crispy. The breaded haddock became a running joke between the actors.

“I say, Roger dear boy! I wonder what we are having for dinner tonight?”

“Oh, the ‘dreaded’ haddock no doubt old bean, ha ha!”

The upside of Saturday dinner time was that there was no need to tread the boards at The Watermill Theatre, because Saturday night was Bingo night for the locals of Clamdon. And so, after dinner, which was homemade pizza followed by a block of Neapolitan ice cream between two wafers, Roger and Donald could have a right old booze-up in Iris’s bar. Because of the time of year there weren’t many guests; very often it would be just Roger and Donald imbibing Iris’s wonderful range of real ales and Highland whiskies. Sometimes, when she wasn’t busy, Iris would join the actors for a drink. The boys would impress Iris with their thespian stories, most of them extremely exaggerated, many of them fabricated. Occasionally Iris would have a few drinks too many and profess that ‘It’s getting very hot in here!’, unfastening a button or three of her polyester blouse. This was often a signal for Roger and Donald to retire to their rooms, as nudity was sure to follow. It wasn’t that Iris was unattractive; indeed, the boys found her ravishing. However, both having the experience of Iris vacuum cleaning nude in their rooms in the early hours of the morning made them feel very uncomfortable. Nevertheless, this experience would become grossly exaggerated for the actors’ future yarns for those keen to listen.

 

Sea Breeze once had the honour of having an artist as a long staying guest. Specializing in still life, Rupert McAdam had a desire to branch out and try a bit of life model painting; enter Iris Campbell.

Rupert looked every bit the artist. He wore brown corduroy trousers, a green Fair Isle cardigan, a Paisley shirt, and a purple cravat.  His ‘I’m not bald really’ hairstyle was a work of art itself. Unlike the traditional combover modelled by many balding men, Rupert’s hairstyle was very unique. With very long hair grown from the back of his head and wrapped around his head a number of times, with a spray hair lacquer to hold it in place, Rupert appeared to be wearing a hair turban. To complete the look, Rupert smoked a briar pipe filled with his own concoction of tobacco called ‘Lady’s Charmer’. The ingredients of this potent smoky brew were a third St Bruno, a third Three Nuns and a third dried lavender which he blended together to charm the ladies with its fragrance. The fact that it made his breath smell awful, ensured that the charm would only work to a certain extent.

In the bar, Rupert would beguile Iris with tales of water colour and oil medium painting.

It didn’t take many whiskies to cajole Iris into becoming the subject of Rupert’s work. Actually, I’ll rephrase that; it didn’t take any whiskies to cajole Iris into becoming the subject of Rupert’s work. Having heard of Iris’s naturism and naked somnambulism, he was sure it would be easy to achieve her co-operation. After many sessions, when it was convenient for Iris to disrobe without fear of horrifying the other guests, Rupert finished his pièce de résistance. Iris was taken aback and extremely impressed with the accuracy of lifelike quality in the portrait. One could have mistaken the painting for a photograph, such was Rupert’s attention to fine detail.

 

Many months after Rupert McAdam had ended his four months stay at Sea Breeze, Iris had a few unsettling experiences whilst shopping for groceries in nearby Clamdon Town. Iris became aware of tittering, tutting and the holier than though comments of ‘She ought to be ashamed of herself!’ when queuing at the checkout in the Bronco supermarket. That, and becoming even more aware of being the subject of lecherous leering from that certain type of man, made the whole shopping experience a very awkward and uncomfortable one.

It wasn’t until after loading the boot of her car with shopping and making her way to her favourite side-street café for a well-deserved coffee and a slice of chocolate cake, that she spied an horrific sight through a small fine art gallery window. In full view, two portraits of a very naked Iris were on sale for extortionate prices. One of the paintings Iris was fully aware of, as she had modelled for Rupert to paint it; but the other one of her doing the nude Hoover bit came as an utter shock. It was obvious that Rupert had taken advantage of Iris with his 35mm camera and stole a few candid photographs whilst she somnambulated one night in his room.

Iris stormed into the fine art gallery in rage.

“Those two paintings over there!” Iris shouted, shaking an angry a finger at the paintings in the shop window.

“Oh yes, the nudes. They are rather popular, particularly the naked house-maid. I’ve sold five of them in the last fortnight!” exclaimed the art dealer.

“Five?” Iris shrieked.

“Oh yes, these aren’t the originals. Rupert McAdam has been busily making copies, such is the demand for the beautiful paintings. Would you like to buy one madam? I have screen printed copies for a quarter of the price if you are interested.” said the art dealer with enthusiasm.

“He’s even had screen prints made of them for goodness sake!” said Iris with exasperation.

“I must say, that is if I may be so bold, you do look very much like the subject!” said the art dealer.

“That’s because it is me, you very stupid man!” bellowed Iris.

It never occurred to Iris that Rupert would sell the painting, or indeed set up a production line to sell more.

“Where is he? Where can I find that evil McAdam man?” asked Iris.

“Oh, well he did tell me that with the profit he has made with the paintings, and more so the screen prints which have been fairing exceedingly well by mail order, he was going to the south of France to broaden his pallet so to speak. Saint Tropez I think it was.” said the art dealer.

Iris stormed out of the gallery, pushing the offending portraits off their easels, re-entering the shop to knock over a couple of innocent bystander local landscape paintings by Hilda Grabmarch, just for good measure.

Shortly after this awful experience, Iris suffered verbal abuse from jealous women whose husbands had shown obvious support for her. She received seedy phone calls from heavy breathing perverts asking her ‘Tell me, what you aren’t wearing?’ Very conscious of public opinion of her, Iris took to walking about town wearing a duffel coat and ski mask in disguise. Everywhere she visited, people said ‘Hello Iris!’

Before long, word had stretched so far and wide, that Ocean Lane was patrolled by an army of trilby and gabardine mackintosh wearing, binocular wielding opportunists just hoping to catch an eyeful.

All this became too much for Iris, she closed the guest house and became recluse behind drawn curtains.

A full year had passed with no one apart from the milkman and grocery delivery boy seeing Iris, even then, only through a crack in the door to hand a cheque to pay the bills. Rumour had it that Iris’s fingernails had grown to Fu Man Chu proportions and her hair long and bedraggled. Iris became known as ‘The Witch of Ocean Lane’, with small children playing knockdown ginger. The children’s fun was rather abbreviated, as the whole point of knock down ginger is for someone to open their door to see who has knocked on their door in the first place; Iris opened her door to no one.

 

One early summer Saturday morning, a dogwalker noticed See Breeze’s door was wide open. Not worrying about it too much, the dogwalker walked his dog back home, thinking no more of the situation.

On the Sunday morning that weekend, the same dogwalker saw that Iris’s door was still open; he became concerned and telephoned the police. A nosy parker neighbour told the police that she had seen Iris walking down Ocean Lane to the beach late on the Friday evening; the police investigated. There on the shingle laid a duffle coat and ski mask. Had Iris committed suicide?

Strange coincidences followed shortly after finding Iris’s coat and mask. It transpired that on the Saturday morning of Iris’s disappearance, local Fisherman Jim Plattock reported the theft of his small fishing boat and 2 barrels of diesel fuel.  On the Sunday afternoon after Iris’s belongings were found on the beach, police and a forensic squad entered Sea Breeze and found one of Sydney’s Remington rifles missing from his rifle rack.  The ammunition stock book in a cupboard by the rifle rack read that there should be three boxes of 0.27 calibre bullets, the police only found one.

Three months after Iris’s disappearance, the international news reported the discovery of a completely naked man’s badly decomposed body bobbing about at La Goulette in the bay of Tunis. Originally, local fishermen mistook the corpse for a large jellyfish with trailing tentacles; on close inspection they saw that the tentacles were long trailing hair from the head of a man.  A post-mortem confirmed that the man had been shot three times in the back and one in the back of his head.  Did I say completely naked? Not really, the man was still wearing a purple cravat.

Around about this time Sea Breeze was sold, and an English woman bought a house on the French Riviera. She opened the house to guests for bed and breakfast. She called the house, Brise de Mer.

 

John Saunders (Vernham Chronicles) © 2017

 


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