Under An Island Sun – Episode 16

The main characters from the story

Philippe felt a little calmer when the land narrowed to a small peninsula with an asphalt road as they reached the next stage of the tour.

He was relieved that Antonio took over the commentary by the Jandia Lighthouse, unusual for being built from dark volcanic rock.

All Philippe and the rest had to do was translate the information for their own passengers, now standing around in little groups.

“This is the furthest south-west point of the island,” Antonio told them.

“If you were to get in a boat and sail due west from here, the next land you would come to would be South America.

“So if you have plans to do anything like that, you will need to take a very big picnic.”

A murmur of laughter rippled round their party.

The sea was quieter on the south-facing shore that curved back to the east side of this island, and a more peaceful blue, while the land was almost golden in the renewed sunlight.

The overall effect was of the island reaching out an arm, with the water on either side, to this point, and they were on the tip of an outstretched finger.

For all its seeming isolation, Philippe was amused to see there was a bus stop where the road ended – incongruous among the expanse of flat rocks and ocean – and a tiny huddle of white buildings back along the coast, where they would be having lunch.

Antonio gestured to the ocean, just a few metres below, and beyond the island’s edge.

“If you look carefully, you will notice that the water approaches from two directions.

“See the white caps of the waves and how they collide? That is where two currents meet, having travelled a long way to this point.”

As Philippe watched, the waves slapped into each other at a perpendicular angle.

He was suddenly struck by the parallel in his own life.

He, Antonio, Mairi and Hilary had come all the way from France, Italy, and England to meet on an island not far off the coast of Africa.

Like everyone else, he wandered round the exterior of the lighthouse, making sure to keep his distance from the troublemakers.

Mairi stood next to him as he paused at one of the viewing points.

He had been pleasantly surprised when they’d ended up talking on the beach.

She had commented on the way the volcanoes reminded her of the mountains in the Lake District, where her parents had a farm, which led in turn to him describing summers spent with his grandparents in the Pyrenees.

“This reminds me of a place called Lizard Point in Cornwall,” Mairi said now. “Do you know it?”

“I’ve heard of Cornwall, but not Lizard Point. It’s an interesting name.”

“We used to go on holiday there when I was a child. It always felt magical. Something like that sort of puts everything into perspective, doesn’t it?”

Philippe shrugged.

“Are you still rattled about what happened? It’ll be OK.”

“I hope so. I don’t want to face all that again.”

It was only when Mairi looked puzzled that he realised what he’d said.

She opened her mouth, presumably to ask what he meant, when Antonio clapped his hands, signalling it was time to go.

The meal was as delicious as had been promised.

Paella, incorporating that morning’s catch, was cooked in front of them in a huge pan, with the adjacent ocean, lapping gently, audible during lulls in conversation.

Their party sat at two long tables, set with earthenware jugs of wine and water.

Antonio arranged it so that the two Englishmen were at the other one from Philippe.

Despite that, he could still hear them criticising the food and noticed that they managed to hog a lot of the wine.

He was glad when Mairi sat next to him, while Antonio and Hilary, as the team’s senior members, supervised proceedings.

As well as distracting him with her conversation, Mairi’s presence was a comfort in a way he couldn’t describe.

He was glad she was with him, too, when they spent time on a sheltered sandy beach on the return journey, reached by a bumpy gully which tested the Land-Rovers to their limit.

To be continued…

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