Tuesday, 23 September 2008
Life on the Ocean Wave – Part 5
N and I got up and wandered over to the Heads together. Together. Yes, really, TOGETHER. There is not much in our busy home lives that we do Together. He does the caveman provider stuff, I do the cavewoman keep-the-home-fires burning stuff. He leaves early and comes home late. We have supper together and watch a bit of telly. We’re usually both too tired to talk much. He sometimes slopes off to his computer to go through another 300 emails before bed or read over accounts an inch thick (yawn) and I seem to spend forever getting stuff ready for the following day – school bags, PE bags, snacks, swimming bags, homework diaries to sign, notes to write, forms to fill in, cheques to write. The tireder I am, the longer it takes. You might ask why I don’t do this during the day when I’m less tired. I do. But there is always more to do and which has to be achieved before dawn breaks and we rush to catch the school bus.
Thus, it was quite a novelty, and really rather nice, in a gentle, unexciting sort of way, to be clutching our wash bags and each other’s hands as we meandered past the clinking yachts, life beginning to stir within, towards our ablutions. We greeted fellow boaties with smiley ‘good mornings’, all of us united by our current salty circumstances. Luckily I entered the Ladies washroom with someone who had been there before and checked I had a key on me – if you didn’t, she warned, the door would slam shut and you’d be resolutely trapped as there was no handle on the other side. Now, I’m normally quite resourceful in these circumstances and would have found a window to crawl out of somewhere, but, in fact, this would have proved impossible. All the windows were small and high and had strong metal bars on them and I would have been reduced to shouting pathetically or, in desperation, crawling down the loo into the sewers or something unthinkable. I was pleased fate had brought me to this place with this kind woman. Being stuck in a loo is always rather demeaning somehow. It feels like you’ve been caught with your pants down, quite literally.
On returning to the boat, we breakfasted and did our checks, and soon it was time to leave Ceuta – this little bit of Spain in Morocco - behind too. The snores on our sister boat mixed with the clink and fizz of soluble aspirin. I was not envious. And it was nice to be ahead of them, for once.
So, back across the Straits we sailed, this time heading for Sotogrande, boaty-golfy paradise for the rich and not so famous. The famous go to Puerto Banus, further up the coast near Marbella. As we drew nearer, we practised Man Overboard exercises. The weather had deteriorated by now into leaden skies, no horizon and persistent heavy drizzle. The water was slate grey. We might as well have been on the Solent. As a bucket was thrown over the rails to represent Man Overboard, I couldn’t help thinking of my little daughters and how completely horrific it would be if it was real and it was one of them. So small, so vulnerable, so terrified in the immense, remorseless ocean. It was a hard thought to put aside.
I was last in Sotogrande nearly 15 years ago and thought it a funny old joint even then. I’m not good with conceptual places. I like things to be old and settled, having grown organically out of and into their environment rather than just plonked down randomly by developers. Places like that lack soul, and Sotogrande is no exception. The weather didn’t help, it’s true. Nevertheless, once berthed, knots secured, ropes tidied, electricity hitched up, we jumped enthusiastically off the boat and headed to the nearest bar. Keith joined us, then his wife and dog who’d come down from the hills where they live to say hello. We’d chatted a lot during this week and learnt that they’d left the horrors of two busy working lives in England (coincidentally, in fact, they lived quite close to us in the Peaks) a few years back, invested in some more boats and used all their prodigious sailing experience to join in business with Trafalgar Sailing. Part of the decision to do this was to spend more time together. The reality was that they still spent much time apart, but it was still a better life, and they were, at least, no longer in the blood-sucking grip of corporate employers. They were in control, not somebody else. Their ultimate aim, in a few more years’ time, is to buy a very large catamaran and sail it all over the world, taking on friends and family wherever and whenever anyone wants. It sounded like a lovely plan. It was a little more ambitious than our own attempts to escape the corporate grip, but then they have a tad more experience than five days in the Straits of Gibraltar. My mind went back to the image of those sun-kissed children on that beach in Rhodes, all those years ago, and I wondered if we were really any closer to realising that long-held dream. Soon we would be back in England again and corporate life would force our hands apart once more.