Metropole Diary

Nothing in View on the Horizon

by Ric Erickson

Number 1.26 - Metropole Paris - Monday, 19. August 1996:- From here Sardinia and Corsica are a long way over the horizon, straight east of where I am sitting or lying or standing, if I happen to be looking that way - and I probably am, because it is good for the eyes to see a long way - sort of stretch their legs so to speak - beyond the usual walls or the Monster Blue-Eyed monitor that I look at so much.

It could be raining, it could be windy, it could be cold and miserable - back in Paris - but it is none of those things here. If you are reading this and El Sol is outside wherever you are, I suggest you turn this off and come back after the sun has gone to play elsewhere in the world. If you are below the equator, keep on reading.

The playa - the beach - is less crowded today because a lot of people left over the weekend, now that the 15th of August is history. All the weekend people from Gerona went back last night or straight to work this morning; but the French and the Italians have gone home brown and rested and full of food, especially if they were Italians.

The English kids and their minders are still here, still wearing their life-jackets on the beach - the insurance requirement - and they have been out learning how to sail earlier, or windsurf, and maybe later they will go in the water and try to swim with their life-jackets still on - and that is hard work to do. I wonder if the organization they are with pays big premiums; or they pay little premiums and for this they have to wear the life-jackets as soon as they are on the sand. Where they are not covered by life-jackets and t-shirts, they get some wonderful sunburns with the skin some of them have.

The small boys are making muck up by the showers and they can make all the noise they want up there; down here the sounds of the little wavelets drowns it out. The northern kids have their parents shouting at them; and the Spanish or Catalan kids' parents or minders are reading ¡Hola! - which has the same pictures and stories in it as last summer - Juan Carlos is in Majorca - the Prime Minister visits him there, wearing a Madrid suit - he's the king! - so it's suit-time - I must look and see what Pepe is wearing this summer when he is out of the Prime Minister business and no longer needs to wear a suit on the ¡Hola!-visit to Majorca.

Not far away, a bit to the southwest, the French may be in their 'Club Vacances' having their meals on French time and looking forward to their little weekly 'galas,' when they will drink really cheapo plonk instead of some good Valdepeñas - but I shouldn't say that, because it is hard to get around here, even though is used to be like the standard plonk, that you could get anywhere.

That reminds me of the bar I worked in - the Tahiti - where the owner, another Rick, got the gin and the vodka in five-litre plastic jugs from a bodega in Malaga, for 12 pesetas a litre. With a tall glass you'd throw in about half a pint of the vodka - from out of an old Smiranoff bottle - toss in a handful of smashed ice and add the Coke and if you did it right it came right to the top. Then you put a slice of fresh - real! - lemon on the rim and write out a chit for 25 pesetas.

I saw an blond American girl drink about seven or eight of these in a couple of hours every night for just over a week, and she walked out of the place as if she'd been drinking straight Coke. I guess it was good Coke, because it cost us about a third of the price of the drink - and the full ones were the best ice-block smashers. Yeah, that lovely blond was one of our best customers, running up a pile of chits to 200 pesetas with no trouble at all - except for the night I refused to 'sell' her to the Spanish Foreign Legionnaires.

Now you are lucky if a café costs less than a hundred pesetas, and you have to go to the Bar Central in town to get a good one.

That is just a quibble, because it is the same sun and the same sea and the same people; except it is further north here and a lot of people are Catalans and not Andalusians - except for the bus driver - and everybody has new shiny cars and it is all so rich, that the country can afford garbage - which simply didn't exist in the old days, as everything was either edible or recyclable - like the Smiranoff bottles and the yellow plastic five-litre jugs that probably started out with cooking oil in them.

Back here and now, in this new century, there is still nothing on the horizon. I keep watching it just in case and something will come by sooner or later, if I just watch for long enough.

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