Wednesday, 23 July 2008

22-23/07/08: Beach Crawls

The past two days have been more of the usual. Driving to different places, taking photographs of views, reading our books and newspapers (my mother, The Daily Mail, which I have a strong hatred for, and I, anything else) and drinking (soft drinks, mind you) and eating (ice cream!) to our hearts content. Yesterday we drove right down to the Spanish border - a little ‘cap’ which had views right across to the Costa Brava. We snaked along the windy roads that follow the coastline and are broken up by small seaside communities, all the while looking out over the Mediterranean sea. The roads were as treacherous as they always are, but Mum took on a new sense of paranoia (dramatic flinching, also seen when we overtake lorries on motorways) after a large group of Gendarmerie were gathered on a point looking over a cliff edge. They had called out a large crane. From a distance, it looked like an opportune chance to bungee jump, when in reality they were most likely retrieving a car that had taken a speeding leap over the edge. This sight filled her with a new sense of morality that was not present the past week and a half when we’ve navigated similar roads almost everyday. The day was filled with numerous infrequent events which are worth noting for nostalgia’s sake.

After stopping off at on point where Mum wanted to walk from a particular church to a vantage point of a Spanish Gulf (a surprising choice as it involved walking a very narrow path along the cliff edge and very precarious flights of steps – a choice she would have no doubt regretted if we did end up doing the walk; we decided to drive to the vantage point instead). We watched a small convoy of local children rush up and down improvised gangways that led to a number of small finishing boats. They were catching a variety of scary-looking sea creatures. One boy had found himself a sea urchin. It looked like a very small completely black “sea hedgehog”. My Dad looked quite unnerved by the sight. “What is it?” I asked. “It’s a spined sea urchin.” He replied. “Oh.” He continued to look nervous. He said, “There are two types that come from around here. One of which is very poisonous.” I then mirrored his expression. “Which type is that?” “No idea. I’m hoping he knows. He’s a local after all.” Albeit a young one; he was no older than ten.

Another memorable encounter with the locals happened later on. We were on a slow drive back and stopped at another vantage point of the same Spanish Gulf, but further away. I stayed in the car. I was completely enthralled in Orwell’s Animal Farm and I gathered I’d seen the view of Spain and though nice to look at, it didn’t make for a very interesting photograph. It was very hot – as it has been every day so far this holiday – and I had my window open. This old Spanish woman poked her head through my window like a curious horse and started talking to me in very friendly and very rapid Spanish. I had no idea what she was saying and I was slightly startled. I could only bring myself to say, “Pardon?” She replied, “Espanola?” I looked at my Mum who was stood just outside. She took the woman away and began to talk to her. I’m not sure how. My Mum doesn’t know a word of Spanish. It turns out the woman had mistaken us for fellow Spaniards when she noticed the ‘E’ on the number plate of our Spanish car. That’s all we figured out. We did not know what she was asking anyway or why she picked on us – probably something to do with me being sat in the car reading as I missed out on the sight of my glorious homeland of Spain in the distance.

As rubbish as it may sound – my being sat in the car reading – seeing Spain like that was quite similar to seeing the Isle of Wight from just off the coast of England: sounds majestic (possibly), but in person it’s not all that thrilling, especially as you’ve already seen it from a number of vantage points over the course of the day. Plus, the heat is so draining that it saps your strength (which includes enthusiasm and willpower). The past dew days I have been very content with being a lazy, boring young sod and just reading a number of good books. Today’s book of choice being The Holy Blood & The Holy Grail – a book published in 1984 that is basically The Da Vinci Code, but without the murderous storyline and just the hard facts. Its premise sounds a bit heavy, but the facts alone are interesting enough to make it very hard to put down, even if it is just a big controversial textbook. It’s also more interesting as so far the start of the book is devoted to the story and mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau and the surrounding area (including Rennes-les-Bains, Carcassone, Narbonne, Couiza, and others which we all visited last week). Next on the book menu is Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth, which Mum is currently reading and rates very highly. It was an international bestseller which her book club all loved, but she never got around to reading it. She bought it in Rennes-le-Chateau last week at the same time I bought my book of choice, and she was disappointed to learn that the author was visiting the mountaintop hamlet at the weekend for a book signing! However, we would have moved on since then; never mind.

We both have a growing shopping list for when we get back home. I have a craving for more of Jose Saramago’s books (the statement that he is “the world’s greatest living writer” is becoming more believable with everyone of his I read. He is brilliant.) and some of Franz Kafka’s books. I’ve read Metamorphosis and loved it. My interest has been sparked again with a Kafka t-shirt I saw and plan to order once back home. It has a black and white picture of the 20th century German writer on the front with the caption: “I Think I’ll Write about Bugs …” underneath. I loved it and couldn’t stop laughing at it. Also, I fancy the book, the Hyena & Other Men, by a certain South African photographer whose name continues to elude me, which I mentioned yesterday.

Today is Sara Dimmock’s birthday! I sent her a text wishing her a Happy Birthday this morning. I was quite guilty that I was away for her birthday - as I was for Maddie’s birthday too – but I think she’s away for it too. She is also currently in France, or she has been for the past two weeks. I’m not sure when she returned to England. Today is a lazy day for us. No driving around the place today. We walked down in Ceret at lunchtime for the morning newspaper run and returned to the house for lunch. We are going to have another run out to Perpignan later I believe and see if we can find a good French DVD (with English subtitles – easier said than done) to watch tonight or tomorrow. As I said before, Ceret is a very lively little town. There have been bands playing in the Place Pablo Picasso every night. Last night’s band went down especially well with Dad which warranted to purchase of their CD. They played many jazz classics from the States, and they played them brilliantly. However, I left before they finished.

They played right ‘til midnight and I was shattered. I walked back home through Ceret alone and took a few photographs on the way – I’ve still got my black&white thing going on.

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