After much anticipation on the part of everyone involved, the designated hour for our date to build castles with our new friend Richard, his kids Kylie, Daniel, Mitchell, and Robert, and Kylie’s friend Ebony arrived. Tom and McKane met them at the main entrance to King’s Beach. McKane and the girls made the short walk to the apartment to fetch the rest of us. It probably took us 15 minutes to get everybody in their beach gear and collect the appropriate gear–sunscreen, keys, towels, and of course, camera. In that time, Tom and Richard had already accomplished this:
Construction proceeded quickly with Richard applying impressive design principles to his creation. He mused on the pyramids and asked whether we were going to see Macchu Pichu during our travels. A history channel afficianado like our own Dax, he has heard that you cannot slip a piece of paper through the stones that comprise the walls, a feat of mindboggling precision even by modern standards. That the Incas achieved such architectural accuracy so many centuries ago staggers the imagination.
An hour into erecting the castle, we confirmed what we learned on our day in the country, namely that time spent with Richard is not just fun, it’s highly educational. More on that later. With moat and mound in place, Richard carved a ledge around the bottom of the structure and let Kieran smooth the edges with a trowel, great fun and a contribution for which a 6-year-old could be proud.
Tom provided much necessary brawn, but Richard was definitely the brains behind the operation. He did some heavy shoveling in the beginning, but in the final stages his efforts focused on intricate details, like the ornamentation on the drawbridge and trying to succesfully attach a big dead blue jellyfish to the entrance (as it turns out they split in half when mounted on a stick). He lamented that if he had only used wetter sand, he could have tunneled all the way through the mound. His concerns were in vain, however, because even the guy in the Speedo, who is an architect, was impressed with the proportions and execution.
Asher was excited about the finished project as were the rest of the kids. After a brief visit to the park, they returned to the beach to guard their masterpiece. They understood of course that the castle would have to go. Sand castles always do. In the absence of human intervention, the tide would erase any trace of it by morning. So all 9 of them decided, “Why let nature have all the fun?” Within seconds the masterpiece had succumbed to a full-on assault that included punching, jumping, kicking, and stomping. They all agreed the destruction was far more gratifying than the creation, but then again, their dads had done most of the work.
As the sun set on the shapeless mound that only moments before had been the glory of two grown men, we packed up our gear and assorted children and headed back to the apartment. Naz showed up to join us for a hearty meal of Chinese takeout and Richard’s kids were certain they had never seen so much soda in one place at one time. Naz, ever a good sport and apparently a kid at heart, joined the kids in their games of running up and down the multiple staircases of the building while Tom and I visited with Richard. Over the course of our conversation, we learned that Richard has been a stoneworker and for many years was a personal trainer, bodybuilder and choreographer of competitive routines. Is there anything this man hasn’t done? He is an encyclopedia of knowledge about the human anatomy, which he has studied at university. We listened, jaws agape, as he described how his thighs were once 28 inches in circumference. That’s big. His career ended when he snapped, yes snapped in two, a major muscle in his lower back while leg pressing an obscene weight–something in the neighborhood of 4,892 pounds I think. He now holds himself upright by sheer will and the aid of his abdominal muscles, a feat of reverse anatomical engineering. This guy never ceases to amaze us. He told Mac and Dax they are welcome any time for extended summer visits and promised to look us up the next time he takes a Greyhound Bus tour of the US. We’re going to miss you Fawcett clan. You too, Naz. See you in the States!