I leave and go directly to the beach. There is no snow. A sinking sun shines on the palm fringed sandy cove and the ambient temperature is easily 30 Celsius. There is a coating of perspiration covering my entire body. I wish I hadn’t been so drunk when I first squinted at what I thought was a window. It was of course the screen of the television set I’d left on when I collapsed into bed earlier. I stride towards a male figure who is standing waving a long pole with a flag attached about a hundred yards away along the beach. I remove my hands from my pockets and arch my back so that I imagine my shoulder blades are almost touching. This is my posture as I approach the man. He is white, about forty-five, short and wide with a weather-beaten face. As I get nearer he doubles up. “Hgggg,” he chortles, obviously finding my dress code highly amusing. He himself is dressed in khaki shorts, the same t-shirt as the receptionist wore, and has deck shoes on his feet. The banner at the end of the pole he is waving from side to side reads: ARMANDO JET-SKIS.
I come to a halt twelve yards in front of him. Between ripples of his flag I see he’s really getting into laughing at me. I catch glimpses of his open mouth, his front top teeth a row of gold shingles, like a zipper in his mouth, as loud guffaws come up from his belly. He indicates a jet ski lying on a tarpaulin behind him. A jet ski is a kind of upright carpet cleaner with handlebars. This one has a metal-enclosed pod, encasing some kind of engine I suppose, jutting out from the base of the upright structure. Now, I like everything about motorized racing – motor cycles, old bangers with souped -up innards, I’ve tried them all at one time or another. The booze I’ve recently scoffed has me flying. I can imagine the scene: I’m racing across the bay on my jet-ski, one hand on the throttle, the other with clenched fist pumping in triumph. Yeah, I’ll probably have to take a bow when I make it back to the beach, and then, Bam! It’s Champagne ‘skooshing’ time.
“Hola,” I say, not smiling. I really have to stop doing this. I’m talking about the deer-in-the-headlights state I go into whenever I’m confronted by a Spanish speaking person or even an actual deer.
“¿De donde eres, caballero, Where are you from, sir?
“Soy de Escocia.”
“¿Hablan Ingles en Escocia?
“You like to water-ski?”
“No es difficil para usted, señor, It’s not difficult for someone like you, sir.
“What do I have to do?
“Joost hold the handlebars and lie on your estómago behind the jet-ski.”
“Geev eet a leetle throttle. Allow eet to draaag you out very slowly from the shallows eento deeper water.”
“What then?” I ask.
“When eet has draaagged you out eento the deeper water, geev eet full throttle. Let eet draaaag you over the waves,” he drawls, flapping his hand, palm downwards, to indicate how a prone body may be dragged through the wave
“What happens then?”
“When eet ees draaaagging you over the waves . . .” He pauses for dramatic effect. “Joost pull you’self oop.”
How much of what follows is attributable to a residual belief within me that, as the man, boy really, who had knocked out Malky Cairns with one punch, I am indestructible, and how much to habitual drunkenness, is probably a question I’ll never resolve.