INVASION OF THE MYSTERY BEACH HUTS!
Recently, hundreds of these mysterious little huts have appeared on our beaches. They are, as you can see, white, about eight feet tall and roofed with a sort of parasol. All along the Dubai coastline they are now dotted along the sand in neat little his-and-hers pairs, situated about every hundred yards or so. I am fascinated by them.
At first glance they appear to be changing huts for bathers – and this would indeed be a practical and innovative idea (and thus somewhat out of character for this part of the world, one might say if one were in a cynical mood, which one invariably is these days) – but so far the little metal doors have been permanently locked and it would be a hell of an ungainly squeeze to cram one’s fat British head underneath the thin metal wall (not that I tried to. Obviously. Ahem).
Some of the huts are covered in advertisements, which makes me think that they might simply be small cylindrical bill-boards – an ingenious scheme to make money out of thin air and to prevent us from feeling deprived of the usual onslaught of aggressive consumerism, even while relaxing on the beach.
They are vaguely reminiscent of traditional French urinals, don’t you think? I am basing this on my encyclopaedic knowledge of French history and culture gleaned entirely from Allo Allo, of course… One half expects to see the faces of Rene Artois and Michelle of the Resistance (hers adorned with an unconvincing false moustache) peering over the top of the wall, while the awful English spy disguised as a policeman sidles up with his beach-towel and says loudly, “I am just pissing by the bitch for a quick swom in the soo…” and Rene looks into the camera and rolls his eyes theatrically to the sound of canned laughter…
It is possible that they are in fact alien space-craft. Certainly the way in which they appeared, almost overnight, in such vast numbers is suggestive of some sort of well-orchestrated incursion. If this were an episode of Doctor Who they would no doubt turn out to be Genesis Arks for the Daleks, a new model of the TARDIS manufactured by the Master, or Cybermen teleporters. Or something. Though why the Doctor’s various nemeses would stage an invasion on this part of the planet is beyond me. Unless they were after the oil. Or a bit of winter sunshine and a nice cocktail.
The huts remind me of the bathing machines beloved by the Victorians: a ludicrously cumbersome way of getting in and out of the sea without anyone glimpsing you in your comedy stripy swimwear. I have always loved the concept of bathing machines, if only because the word ‘machine’ suggests something much more exciting and hi-tech than a shed on wheels. They did at least save people from the humiliation of an indecorous changing incident – a terror that haunts the British in their darkest nightmares.
While it is important to respect the local culture here and to be appropriately dressed at all times when in public, in many other parts of the world, people will gaily strip off their damp swimwear and parade around totally starkers. Not so much the British, though… British women are natural experts at changing clothes discreetly on beaches that lack appropriate facilities – even in the face of a typhoon, or an unexpected seagull attack. We instinctively know all sorts of Houdini-esque tricks with knickers and bra-straps that mean the swift and dignified change into a bikini is nothing short of an unfathomable magic trick. British men, on the other hand, tend to wobble about on one leg whilst clutching two ends of a towel between their teeth, inevitably swearing, falling face-first in the sand and shrieking to their wives in panic, “The arse is out!”
Do you think these enigmatic huts might indeed be changing facilities? I do hope so! Or perhaps they will be emergency first aid depots. Or dovecotes. Or ice-cream stands. Or tin tents for people who can sleep standing up. Or nesting boxes for flamingos?
All suggestions would be most gratefully received…