On the Forever Beach

vamos a la playa
Another quiet moment in early morning.

Forever Mediterranean That Is

Cala Bosca:- Wednesday, 27. August 1997:- I am making this up. I am sitting on a rock, overlooking an absolutely still Mediterranean Sea above some sort of seaside pines with florescent needles. In the little bay there are a few small sailboats suspended in crystal-green water near a wide, near-white, crescent beach of sand.

There is a slight wind coming from the direction of the rising sun to the east but it is so slight it makes no sound and there are no other sounds. The world is asleep while I wait for the bakery to open.

Whenever I sit here - I imagine the passage of thousands of years. The ruins behind me are not that old; they are just ruins; Phoenicians came here, by ship, but this tiny bay is of no importance and none of them were likely to have used this rocky seat.

Carthaginians came this way too, heading north-east and later Romans came the other way and they stayed for a long time. But they probably passed further trees and sea inland and not directly along this sinuous coast with its tiny calas, big bahias, puntas, golfos, islas, and hundreds of playas.

The view from my 'imaginary' rock above the bay.

It is not big, this costa. It starts just above the frontier after Argelès-sur-Mer and leans east to Cabo de Creux, loops inward to the golfo de Rosas, and pops out again at the Cabo de Bergur before settling down to the south-west, and then after Tossa the coast pretty much straightens out for the run to Barcelona.

Weekenders from Barcelona go at least as far as Lloret de Mar. It is only about 70 kms, but once off the autopista the traffic jams are stupendous because there are only a few roads. Sunday noons are insane; todo loco. Some come a bit further up to here and there is more access, even though they have to mix in with the greater local traffic from Gerona.

Now, with nearly everybody sleeping until the bakery opens, there is nothing of this motor-mania. There are a handful of people on the beach already. They are not here this early in order to get a good spot, but for the quiet and the fresh air and for the developing sunrise.

There are a couple of local fishermen, who have their rubber boats on the beach - there is no quai or dock - but I have not studied their movements. Whatever they do, it is small in scale and is hard to notice. The real fishing boats, from the port in the town, are only ever seen near the horizon, passing to the north or going back to port.

Possibly around noon some yachts will pull into the bay and anchor, but they could just as well do it in any of a hundred other little bays; I don't know if there's a reason to chose this one.

The British nautical club, with its van and zodiacs and its yellow canoes, pours its mid-England conscripts in their life-saving flak-jackets, on to the beach early. I have never been able to focus on their activities for an entire day. One of their minders told me their insurance required the life-jackets and they wear them even when sitting on the sand, and also during the few times they are allowed to swim. They are not good for swimming; the kids bob around like corks in them, and the insurance agents don't care a whit about it.

The first bus from town turns into the crater-pitted beach front road across the bay, announced by its diesel motor. The driver is from Malaga. He moved here before Franco died so he must of had some trouble down there. If I remember correctly, Picasso came up here because of the action in Barcelona, but this was not the sort of action to interest a bus driver.

This municipal bus runs to town every half hour, except for a two hour break in the afternoon, and the ride takes 15 minutes. After it leaves the beach to go back, it takes a narrow alley with a surface like moon craters and if you get seasick easily, I can't recommend it.

The sky is sending no weather messages this morning. The Pyrenees are close. If the high isn't solid, then they funnel a lot of weather from the Atlantic in the west over to here - and it can get pretty interesting if you like very loud thunder, exciting lightning and really huge downpours.

If there hasn't been one of these events for a long time, they leave a unholy mess after they're over. A summer's spanish castle worth of accumulated muck seeks sea level any way it can.

I sense that the bakery is open so I leave my rock and these shallow thoughts. The holiday is working right when the brain has gotten as simple as this.

One of the thousands of 'castles' along the coast.

The usual small crowd of people without watches are waiting outside the supermarket. There is another bakery, but it has 'special' bread, and birthday cakes if you happen to need one.

The supermarket gets its fresh bread from a bakery in town and it has French-sorts, which is logical because Catalonia has been French at times. Catalonia is its own place though and you run into it long before you get to the frontier. It is the same with the Basques on the Atlantic side.

The bread ladies are their usual tolerant selves; well-used to dealing with several nationalities at once, all of them being at least trilingual. Another girl picks out a melon for me. Inside they are yellow-green and they are very good; but some years they are better and some years they are only so-so. There are red watermelon too, but they are crude compared to the yellow-green ones.

As I pass the pool on the way back the mozos are giving it its daily brush-up and they do this until 10, so nobody can splash in it and wake anybody up. In Andalucia I used to swim before breakfast, but that was always later in the morning then.

Swimming isn't allowed after 20:00 either - mainly because the lifeguard is off-duty. The kids run around the grass which surrounds the pool until midnight, while their parents sit on the balconies having unheated conversation or small dinner parties.

It is pretty low-key except for the noise the kids make. It only seems loud because there is no background noise, and is normal for kids to make noise in Spain.

It is really fine to have breakfast outside for mucho gente a whole month every year. I think doing this is better than being on the beach; I know it will be there when I get there.

All us Europeans - close - together.

If I could be made to hurry - gotta get the spot closest to the water! - I also know getting this 'magic' spot is futile. In the logical place, someone always comes and parks on your toes. If you try to avoid this by being extra close, then the wave-walkers tromp across your blanket.

My wife doesn't see it this way of course, so we have to have our little frisson of stress every morning. By the time I've eaten the last crumb and had the last dreg of café, the kids have probably been in the pool and are in no hurry for the semi-major expedition to the beach - all 350 metres of it.

I try to lead the way across the sand to the ideal spot. There is one and it is in the second row. I look for a really big family camped on what is - temporarily - the first row and take up residence behind them. In this spot, everybody lodged behind going to and from the water has to walk around either side of the big family; and not over us.

Usually before I've managed to take my sand-shoes off, the war of the ice-cream starts. It continues off and on the whole time we are there, and it is not interesting to anybody but kids.

Beach life is simple. Except for the ice cream, all you have to do is what the kids want to do. The two of them do it in staggered relays and it involves four directions. In this way I get to see what other people are like and what they're doing, but they are generally like me and doing about the same thing so this is not truly absorbing.

This is a very good beach though. The sea is the Mediterranean so there is no tide to be out and the water is comfortable and there are no sharks or jellyfish.

Like the beach, the bottom is fine white sand and the water is clear and sometimes there are little fish around. The slope is gentle, so even babies won't disappear if they get beyond the waves at the edge.

Larger waves can come from some summer storm we never see. They last a few days without getting really big, but they are a welcome change from the placid norm.

Although the various boats are right there, to one side a bit, they have a buoyed lane and they are good at keeping to their side of it, even though swimmers don't keep to their side. There are water-ski and banana-boats but they keep their correct distance. Over by the rocks under the cliffs, people do underwater fishing and sometimes a tiny octopus is captured, which draws a crowd.

There is so little going on here that people, if they happen to be lying on their backs, even read the advertising banners towed by little airplanes. All the parents with kids old enough to read hate the one which advertises the Aquapark. Sometimes a fancy yacht comes in and parks and this is worth five seconds of envy.

I can't remember if all public beaches have this democratic air to them. Materially, everybody is about equal; and personally, everybody's warts are out in the open. There are so many families here that it is really stupid to more sand, more sea complain about the behavior of kids - because they are all more or less the same.

That is what it is about I guess. Being democratic, when you come right down to it, is not stressful. Really being with your kids is good for you and them.

Another view from another rock on another morning.

Of course other people who have other ages and other concerns wouldn't spend more than 30 minutes here. I don't mind. I know they can find what they want elsewhere in Spain - as I did and often, starting a long time ago. This is now and this is here and it will change to something else later on.

My wife is looking at a brochure and is saying something about caves or ruins. Caves are dark and cool, but the drive to them is bright and hot. Ruins are neither dark nor cool.

I tell her the kids want me to go into the sea. I think it is a great idea. I'll try and show them how to talk to the fish, again.

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