A Day at the Camel Races with Queen Cleopatra by Chris Green
They no longer race camels at Blue Anchor Bay. There are not even donkeys on the beach these days, and to be fair, not very much sand left. But back in the day, you would have been able to enjoy a day out by the sea at Blue Anchor with fields of camels racing along the beach for big prize money. As the animals thundered towards you in a billowing cloud of sand and spray, you would find yourself lifted by the roar of the festive crowd cheering, each spectator hoping their fancy would win the race. It was an exciting spectacle, a fine way to spend a sunny afternoon. I remember remarking to friends long afterwards that a day at the Camel Races with Queen Cleopatra was perhaps the perfect day out.
When many years later, I moved to Watchet, two miles along the Somerset coast, Blue Anchor was no longer like this. Not that I was expecting it to be. My earlier impression of it had been based on a one-off experience. Queen Cleopatra referred to Saskia, my girlfriend at the time, who a friend had commented bore a striking resemblance to the statuesque Egyptian beauty. Saskia and I had been camping at a coastal site nearby. The illusion of the camels thundering along the sandy beach was attributable to the substantial dose of LSD we had taken. This was way before the days of so-called microdosing.
Naturally, no one around these parts today would be able to remember the camels, but I also discovered no one could recall when the donkeys had disappeared from the beach or even if there had ever been any at Blue Anchor. The man in the museum suggested I must have been hallucinating. The only donkeys nearby, he said, had been at Weston. And while many old photos showed that Blue Anchor was indeed once a primarily sandy beach, no one knew what had happened to the sand to leave us with the uneven stretch of stony shingle we see at the resort today. Surely high tides cannot be have been responsible for all of the loss.
This illustrates the importance of keeping a clear photographic record of the changes taking place around you. Each moment is a timepiece. You will not get a second chance to record it. Once it’s gone it’s gone. I wish Saskia and I had had the foresight to take photos of the camel races at Blue Anchor all those years ago. A shot or two of the colourful revellers soaking up the carnival atmosphere of the spectacle would help to relieve the gloom of the winter months.
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