Tossa de Mar, Costa Brava: sitting out on our large, covered, tiled balcony, sipping crisp white wine (actually we finished the wine ages back and are now on San Miguel, but “wine” scans better) washed down with chorizo, soft cheese and Serrano ham.
We arrived late Monday night off the bus from Barca airport, helping the sleepy kids traverse quiet Calle Barcelona like miniature drunks. As we inspected the terrace two Manchester women shouted from the balcony above: “There’s two little wild kittens in your garden, they’ve lost their mum, can you do owt?”
We peered over the railing into the “garden”, an overgrown patch between the block and the hotel-hacked cliff-face; a six foot drop, apparently too high to get back up. The kittens mewled for madre. In the fridge we found garlic sausage and soaked bread in milk and threw it in the general direction of their pathetic cries emanating from a bush.
Tuesday morning called animal rescue, who sit by their phone in a state of constant readiness with thick gloves, nets and mustard gas; no-one spoke English, call back at one. Just before one mother cat returned, sniffed the sausage and gave us a surly glare – less “thank you for feeding my kids,” more “fuck you and your diabolist interference,” which is roughly how I feel about the ladies upstairs – if the rescue people had spoken English the kittens would now be toast.
As we sit on our terrace, from the swimming pool cut into the rock above our heads there is an occasional “splash”. The cliff walls rise steep and smooth, melted by wind and sun and sea so they reflect the light, glass-like. There is a strain of thunder in the mountains; from the living room, “when I see an elephant fly”. A soft rain begins to fall on the canopy and greens the plants. Down in the bushes, the returning mother suckles her kittens.
Having nothing better to read I scan the latest New Statesman. What a bad joke it has become: my one-time god Pilger somehow crow-barring Israel into a piece on Australia, guileless interviews with New Labour irrelevancies, yet another love-in to the Left’s favourite Bête noir, BE Ellis. Grow up, boys, move on: everything has changed. Don’t you get it yet?
Yesterday – Wednesday - we went to the other beach, Platja de la Mar Menbuda, a short walk over a humpbacked road, behind us mountains sprinkled with apartments in local stone as if carved in the side, down below the water and rocks intermingling and covered with naked humans. We were better prepared than the day before, with inflatable rings and a parasol, even a bottle of water, and the water was clean and tranquil (oh) and the rocks tall and well-cut, and the people prettier than I have ever been and the sun just too damn hot. Hate the beach.
How odd, to read in the Sunday Times “why I let my nine-year-old wear a Burqa”, the same day I finished the magnificent Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “Infidel”. Wonder if the author of the former has ever read - or even heard of - the latter? (This is one of those questions to which either response is unforgivable.) What next, 2-for-1 excisions in Upper Street nail-bars, female circumcision for kids at Glasto and Glyndebourne, get their faces painted while-U-wait?
Similarly – well, not quite, but hopefully you’ll catch my drift – the other night I watched dad-lad cartoon “Snatch” (with its terrific insights into working class life, its unrelentingly realistic portrayal of London) a few days after watching “The Last Picture Show”. Has the “author” of the former ever watched the latter? Surely he’d never be able to meet his own gaze in the mirror, let alone call himself without a trace of irony a “film-maker”, if he had.
The rain falls harder, cleansing the terrace of ants, crumbs and leaves. The thunder growls deep in the hills and now no-one splashes in the pool above; when you go swimming the last thing you want is to get wet. The kittens hide in a pipe, little heads stuck out like an Athena poster. Hope the pipe doesn’t suddenly gush, send them shooting out like furry bullets...
The beach at Tossa is hard loose shingle that sand-blasts your soles, a deep cove, the great Villa Vella floating above the ocean (last night we drank reasonably-priced beer at its summit as Sean attempted to tombstone), once in the water you paddle and it drops, deep and sudden, the waves get beneath and suck you back. In the New Statesman someone complained that the last bit of Larkin’s poem was “weak” because coastal shelves don’t deepen.