Thursday 20 November 2008

Friday evening

When I am working away from home my life is put on hold, suspended somewhere—hopefully near the sea—while the physical me, wearing a paper smile, counts the turns on the treadmill. The job is not taxing but nor is it relaxing, long days preclude outside life and by the end of the week I’m beginning to forget who I am. I look at this blog from a great distance and wonder if I know the fellow who writes it.

And then on a Friday evening standing on the dock in Barcelona, a lateen rigged llaut reeling in motorboat wake tied to the bollard beside me, I scroll through my contacts on the mobile. Press call.


‘Hello, Quico?’

Groggily, ‘Yes.’

My best Catalan, ‘Yeah, err, hello it’s Ben. I don’t know if you remember me. We met at last year’s boat show, I visited your workshop in April…’

No response.

‘Err, I called you when I sailed up to Cadaqués in my homebuilt boat but we couldn’t meet? Ben, you know, weird English guy, always ringing up at odd times...’

Finally, ‘Ah Ben, how are you?’

‘Good. Fine. Look I’m just standing on the quay by the Sant Isidre and wondered if you were on board.’

‘Yes I’m right here! Just having a nap actually, but come aboard.’

I look down at the gunwale rising on a surge below me, then suddenly receding, yawing away from the quay and revealing a black band of dirty water then heaving up again. Just watching the movement is sickening, I feel like a lead-footed fool teetering on the brink of an embarrassing accident but just before Quico appears through the hatch I choose my moment and jump.

And it must be while I’m travelling through the air, just before the deck rises to meet my feet, that I shed the weekday shackles and re-inhabit myself.

Then a warm handshake, quickfire talk of boats, building, design and sailing. A can of cold beer is placed in my hand. The phone rings and Quico answers while I walk forward, treading purposefully on the old boards, up to the bow. The sun slips behind Barcelona and I place my hand on the Sant Isidre’s high, unvarnished stem, the warm wood fitting neatly into my palm.

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