A story inspired by the report, a few years ago, that homesick Brazilian footballers had sand imported to Manchester so they could play their beloved beach football.
I get back from my run and there’s Paulo, sitting around with the boys, looking like they do after a draw. I say, “what’s the matter with you lot? You look like a wet week.”
Paulo says, “si”, like he does, “si. That’s all we got in Manchester England, wet week.”
A few days later I get back from power plates and there’s this dirty great truck in the drive. “Delivery,” the bloke says, “sign here.” I say what is it? He says, “sand”. I say I haven’t ordered any sand. He says, “well your feller did. According to the docket he wants it spread on the lawn to a depth of 20 centimetres.” I say go ahead.
When Paulo and the boys get back they go crazy. Jumping up and down on the sand like little kids. I say, “all your money and you’re buying sand?” He says, “Jessica, this is Brazilian sand, from Copacabana beach”. I say, “if you want sand we can go to Blackpool.” He says, “no, this is real sand, feel it, take your shoes off and walk on it. Feel how soft it is, how blond, how fluffy, how it soothes the soul.”
I’d never heard him talk like that before so I take my shoes off and walk on it. It was very smooth. Then – hey, something bit me. I look down and there’s a crab hanging off my little toe. I say, “Paulo, I just had a pedicure yesterday!”
He says, “suit yourself. Me and the boys are gonna play beach football anyway”. “What’s beach football?” I ask. “Beach football is real football”, he says. “Everything else is just imitation.”
I should have known it wouldn’t stop with the sand. A week later I get back from spinning and I hear a noise. A noise that doesn’t stop. I go through the patio doors and there’s Paulo, gazing out to sea. “Isn’t it beautiful?” he says. I say, “the sea! If you want sea we can…” He says, “but this is the Atlantic. Not the whole Atlantic, that would be silly. Just five or six waves”. And there they were, long, silver, rolling on to the beach, over and over.
I thought he would be happy then. For a while he was more cheerful than I’ve ever known him. His game improved. We made love on the beach in the evening and it was romantic, but a bit chilly.
“When are you going to get the Copacabana sun”? I say. “Then I can give up the spray tan”.
The sun was wonderful. It got a bit much so we had to have palm trees. I wasn’t so bothered about the pina colada stand but the boys liked that. The flying fish were good, and a flock of very pretty blue and orange macaws started roosting in the palms.
Then one day I get back from boxercise and he’s rolling in the sand with some half naked slapper. “Who’s this?” I say. “I dunno,” he says, “she come with the beach.” I kicked her bikini-clad arse out on the street and put my foot down.
“What is it to be Paulo?” I say. “Beach football or Premiership football? ‘Cos I know which one pays a hundred grand a week.”
Most of the sand went to the Manager’s house. He lets the boys play beach football there, under his supervision. His wife has a nice tan these days.
The rest of it the builders used for the foundations of our spa and wet-room extension. Sometimes I lie on my yoga mat and press my ear to the tiles. I can hear rollers breaking on the shore. It soothes the soul.