Strays

On the south coast of Crete there weren’t many good beaches.  

Most of that spectacular coast consisted of rocks and mountains.

 And so the beach where were staying – an ellipse of sand lapped by clear blue waters – was a rare gem.

And it wasn’t yet overdeveloped.

In the nearby town, about a kilometer away, there were a few hotels and restaurants. Out at the beach, there were some small apartment complexes set back in the hinterland, amongst olive trees.

There was only one hotel on the beach front and that’s where we were staying.

 It was October and we were the only people there…… 

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Aspasiya Part 2

Early on my second morning in Athens, whilst it was still dark, I got up and walked to the Parthenon. I followed silent streets until I reached the acropolis, where I began the ascent to the Parthenon over a wide, zig-zagging ramp. I got there before well opening time (8 am); I was hoping I might get a short period of relative solitude before the main tourist rush began. As it turned out, I got about a half an hour. 

But it was worth it.

Aware of looking at the farcical remains of what was once an architectural miracle, I nevertheless felt elated watching the sunrise illuminating the columns, one by one, wrenching them out of the cold morning shadow. In that short-lived moment, I surrendered to the simple and incredible idea that that those columns were two and a half thousand years old, a time span as hard for me to comprehend as the distances between stars in the universe………

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Aspasiya Part 1

 

As my flight neared Athens airport, I looked out my window and was surprised by what I saw. Beneath me was a barren, dry landscape of rocks, low hills and ocean. There were very few areas of arable land, let alone rich farmland. There were no rivers or lakes. It was a country which at first sight seemed to me more likely to be a place where humans had to struggle just to survive, never mind think great thoughts and ask big questions…… Read more

Fishing in Troubled Waters

(Written in 2006, recently revised)

Thirty years on and he knew the coast of south-west Cambodia like the back of his hand. And what a coast it was. Lush jungle covered islands of different sizes and shapes, some of them no more than big outcrops of rock, others taking minutes for our boat to pass.

On the horizon behind the islands was the mainland, wild jungle covered mountains sweeping down into long stretches of white beach lapped by aqua blue ocean.

He pointed out each island, told me its Cambodian name, and gave a short explanation about it.

See that one over there?

You could stay on that island for as long as you like, there’s plenty of water and fruit.

See that one there?….yeah its big ok, but there’s not much water on it so you know, you could only stay there a night or two.

See that one there, the one that sticks up like a building?

There’s a big reef alongside it, under the water, but you’d never put a net down there, the bottom’s real bad you know, lots of sharp rocks and potholes, tear up your net like knives…’

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The Night Stalker

 

I awoke and heard the rhythm of your breathing

The sound of the waves outside our bamboo window

And with the sudden appearance of the tropic’s dawn

 

Saw the night stalker

Seemingly glued to the thatch ceiling of our hut

Stone age acrobat

So delicately painted on the morning’s blank face.

Black brown body crossed by aquamarine stripes,

Diamond shaped head with eyes like crystal balls of black,

Eyes keened to darkness.

Long toes splayed out like the leaves of a papaya tree,

And the tail!

In the form of an ‘S’, long, tapering into something as

Fine an insect’s antennae.

 

You awoke, a smile lit your face.

The night stalker fled into the thatch roof seeking

Refuge from the light.

 

We made love, discovered each other once again

And I too fled

Inside somewhere deep, my own refuge from the light.