Off to Cyprus!
11.27am. Aboard our Boeing 757 flight to Paphos, I in the portside middle seat, a gent to my left, Freda to my right, Malcolm, Julia & Clarice across the aisle, all of us in Row 27. We were airborne from a foggy Elmdon at 10.45am and flew over Coventry, Daventry, Amsterdam and Germany. The RAF bombers and fighter escorts had a six-hour flight to bomb Berlin, whilst the Luftwaffe flying from airfields near the cost of France had but a short flight across the channel to bomb the capital and south-coast targets — under an hour probably.
This is our 47th year of flying (though we have not flown every year). The Elmdon Airport from which we flew in May 1960 was a tiny affair compared with today’s gargantuan complex, now much larger than Heathrow was that same year (1960) when we made our first overseas flight. Then we flew in a Britannia turbo-prop airliner to Frankfurt, and eventually on to Rome, Algiers and West Africa; the earlier flight had been to Glasgow in a Viscount. Jet travel was still in its infancy.
If we go back 46 years from 1960 we come to 1914 — only 11years after Orville & Wilbur Wright made the historic first flight [from Kitty Hawk, 17 December 1903]. Then someone got the idea, we could use the aeroplane to drop bombs on people, and soon bombs were falling on London; and little more than 20 years later Coventry was flattened (14 November 1940) and four years later Dresden was incinerated.
This airplane, a Boeing 757–200, seats up to 233 passengers and has a Captain and First Officer to fly it (no bomb-aimer, thank God) and six cabin crew who are kept busy plying their captive audience with offers of food, drink, perfumes and other duty-free goods. For £2 each we could have bought headsets to enable us to watch the film from a phalanx of miniature screens which descend mysteriously in perfect array from the bulkhead. Every fifth row has one on either side and they remind me somehow of something in Dad’s Army. But the one we are supposed to look at — if we had opted to watch the film, which we would never do — is too high, so that we would probably emerge with a stiff neck, and the picture so dim that it is almost impossible to see what is happening. All the other screens — from this seat I can see nine — have a better degree of illumination but are still difficult to see against the cabin lights and the sunshine streaming in through the windows.
To make matters worse, the picture keeps being stopped by the stewardess, who has the responsibility of making the announcements. Unfortunately she has a very strident voice, speaks too fast, and — with the speaker vent almost above my head — I have to clap my hands to my ears every time she comes on. She has, I guess, made the same announcements a hundred times before, and they sound like jargon. Is she a real person, I wonder, or a mere tape-recording? If I were in Row 1 would I actually see her? And if I suggested, in the kindest possible way, that she lower her voice and speak more slowly and carefully, as though she were really concerned for the welfare of the passengers “in the unlikely event” of our managing to land in the Mediterranean, would she take any notice?
Occasionally the noise — [again, the strident voice encouraging (?) us to purchase drinks which will be “ideal” for us to consume in our hotels] — I was going to say, the noise subsides, only to be rent by the ear-splitting crying of small children. Is their mardiness due to the pressurisation of the cabin, I wonder?
The five of us sat at a table in the airport lounge — Freda and I had a pot of tea and Clarice her own orange-juice — earlier this morning, accompanied by pop music played at such a volume that we could hardly hear one another speak. Worse still, it was impossible to hear the Airport announcements. One of us pointed this out to a young man who seemed to be in charge of things. He asserted that the tape was stopped automatically before any announcement was made. When we repeated that this was not the case, he repeated — twice — that the music DID stop before an announcement, and while he was still there two more announcements were made; only I doubt that he heard them because of the din of the music, which continued. To his credit he did at least diminish the sound by a decibel or two.
2.30pm. Three hours have passed since I began this saga. We have passed over the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Turkey, seen sunlit snow-capped mountains on the way. Now we are descending into Paphos, the sunlight almost gone now as we enter fog, the airplane shaking and straining as we plunge through the intensifying gloom. We have done this hundreds of times now, but never before to Cyprus. In a few minutes we shall set foot in the land of Barnabus and Mark, and Paul and Bar-Jesus.whom he smote with blindness. What would Paul have thought of this huge bird alighting from the heavens? Angels? Demons? A nightmare?
7.58pm [9.58 Paphos time].We are in our room, 242 (which is 2 x 11 x 11), at the Imperial Beach Club Hotel, Paphos, I sitting in bed, Freda in pyjamas making us a cup of tea. We arrived here, about half-an-hour’s drive from the Airport, at about 6pm local time, two hours ahead of GMT. We landed at 2.35pm,. 4.35pm here, so 35 minutes ahead of schedule. Three other people were dropped off here with us, a handful of other people going on to other hotels. After checking in and finding our rooms we changed for dinner and enjoyed a very nice buffet meal.
Lights on the ceiling
8.05pm. 10.05pm here in Paphos. I am in bed recovering from painful indigestion, which came on this afternoon. Freda and Clarice, Julia & Malcolm have gone to a quiz night here. We had dinner at 6.30 at the same three tables pushed together as last night. Clarice sat opposite me tonight, Malcolm beside me and facing Julia, and Freda next to Malcolm, facing the empty chair. I suggested we change our positions each evening, so if we always leave the same seat vacant, how many permutations are there for the other five occupants? 3,125.
This is an impressive hotel, ingeniously laid out, I suppose, in a Y-shape so that most rooms have a sea-view, but to me anyway, geometrically distressing. I lay awake last night feeling I was falling out of bed because of the odd placement of the French windows leading to the queerly-shaped balcony. As I lay in bed the giddy feeling was not helped by the pattern of lights reflected on the ceiling, fanning out like a great striated comet. It occurs to me at this moment that all my life I have been an observer of lights on ceilings, the patterns they make, the odd way in which lights from a moving vehicle travel in the reverse direction, the shapes and patterns they make, at times comforting, now threatening, all adding to the sense of vertigiousness.
We had a brief meeting with Kathy, our middle-aged unmarried Liverpuddlian who accompanied us on the coach from the airport last night, and the five of us booked for an all-day tour [Treasures of the Troodos] tomorrow, at a cost of C£21 each (about £28.75 sterling). The fog gradually lifted and the late morning was beautiful; we walked through the grounds of the hotel and then lay on sunbeds, our heads shaded by umbrellas. Later, after lunch in our rooms — the salad rolls made by Freda on Tuesday were still fresh —we walked along the beach into Paphos, along by the harbour and so to the Turkish fort and the remains of a Frankish fortification at the end pf the breakwater. We fed crowds of sparrows and feral cats, and watched a cormorant catch a fish in the harbour. The walk was 2 miles, I think, or perhaps it only seemed that long, but it was now foggy again and we were glad to get back and rest. I was feeling very uncomfortable but joined the others for dinner. Afterwards they came to our room to administer Gaviscon tablets, and they have eased the pain.
9.08pm. We left at 8.50am on a coach trip to the Troodos Hills, joining a new motorway to Limassol, the sea on our right, scrubby limestone devoid of trees to our left. We saw Aphrodite’s sanctuary and her rock (disappointing), then turned inland, rising all the time, orange and lemon trees laden with fruit, carob trees and acres of olive groves. Higher still, deep valleys and tall tree-clad hills squashed together as if compressed by huge tectonic forces.
After a brief stop at a wayside restaurant, very cold, we drove on to see Archbishop Makarios’s tomb; a shifty-looking soldier lolled outside, another in full dress, rifle in both hands, as still as the grave he guarded; memories of Eoka and Colonel Grivas. Then on, through pine-clad hills until we came to Kykkos Monastery, sunlit, smart, heaving with visitors; its most treasured possession an icon painted in gold by St Luke, who was an author and doctor too! An hour or so there, then on to Troodos and stop at a restaurant [Mountain Rose] for mushroom soup and last of our rolls; the town very small, but down the road a vine grown over a whitewashed wall and spreading in all directions like Joseph’s progeny [Genesis 49:22].
Finally the steep zigzag drive to Troodos Square and a walk in the snow, Mount Olympus towering above us 6,401 feet high, its brilliant summit rapidly receding into shadow; and the drive back, a memorable day.
6.02pm here in Paphos, but 4.02 at home. I have just had a bath and washed my hair, and Freda is getting dressed for dinner. We were watching the sun nearly setting an hour ago. At St Andrews Blues are at home to Chelsea, the outstanding leaders of the Premiership — they won or drew all their matches last season and have lost only once this — so I hope Blues, third from bottom, will do well today. Indeed I expect them to.
We have had lovely sunshine nearly all day, warm enough to spend the morning on our plastic wheely-beds in the garden. The girls all went for a paddle in the Mediterranean, while I was in raptures of delight reading D.H.L.’s Sea and Sardinia, which vividly recounts his and Frieda’s week’s holiday 85 years ago almost to the day. But Richard Aldington surely errs in his Introduction in saying it was 4th —10th February, for Bert tells us (page 10) it was January — Wednesday the 5th when they started, by my reckoning. I must work this out.
Malcolm and the girls were late coming down for breakfast. We had already had ours when they finally appeared, but ate some more to keep them company. Consequently, when we went to the Hotel café and ordered a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich at 1pm, we were horrified 40 minutes later to be brought a huge plate of chips and salad too, far too much for us [more than the two of us would eat in two days, Freda said]. I was very upset having to send it back but the waitress took the food away and returned with what we had asked for, a cup of coffee too, free of charge.
I still do not know how to find our room, which way to turn when we get out of the four lifts. They face each other 2 and 2 (but one of them turns out to be only a mirror, as I saw some fool looking at me), and the three corridors 120 degrees apart are identical. It is all very disorientating, open plan, each floor visible from the entrance lobby, and the ceiling above.
7.20pm GMT, 9.20 here. A day of mosaics and icons, getting wet and drying out, feral cats and spring flowers. The rain set in mid-morning, just as we were starting a walk along the beach to Paphos harbour. Being Sunday, there was free admission to the archaeological site behind the harbour, and to the fort, which we saw only a bit of on Thursday. Thus we visited both, and were delighted with all we saw, the House of Dionysus, of Theseus, of Orpheus, each furnished with some of the finest mosaic floors we have ever seen, all part of a much greater area yet to be investigated.
It is a World Heritage Site (as Glastonbury hopes one day to be) and excites the imagination, but there were many visitors beside ourselves; we were wet, weary and hungry, and after climbing to the top of the fortress we were soon ensconced in the nearby Rose Restaurant where Freda enjoyed egg and chips, and Clarice, Julia & Malcolm toasted cheese sandwich and chips, and between the five of us two pots of tea. There was, alas, no escape from the vile cigarette smoke all around us, and for once we submitted to the ordeal, only a few minutes as the food arrived in no time and was soon consumed — it was in fact very good.
The rain had almost stopped by the time we emerged. Close by were Debenham’s and Adams” (which we hardly expected to see in Cyprus, but of course it was once British) — both closed as it was Sunday — and the Basilica, which was open. We went inside. Three locals (as I took them to be) were gazing ahead of them at the dazzling array of golden icons, while we picked our way between a clutter of ecclesiastical furniture, including the narrow, twisting staircase mounting up to two pulpits.
It was all very cluttered, claustrophobic and repellent; we were glad to get out of the place and retrace our steps back home, drying out as we went. On the way back we saw the circle of flattened grass where we had seen a black cat sleeping: she had evidently removed to a dryer place. We were back in our room by about 4.15pm. I was grateful to flop onto the bed, pull the cover over me, and know that I could stay there for two hours. I fell asleep almost instantly.
5.40pm. It is nearly dark here at Paphos, the last vestiges of light showing above grey mountains of cloud, the sea boisterous, waves splashing from outcrops of rock at the water’s edge, a few sad-looking lights delineating the harbour in the distance, a forlorn end to the day (but the beginning of another by Bible reckoning). I find this interregnum disconcerting and unsettling. The evening light depresses me, except in summer. All my life, as an evangelist and teacher, or as stage-performer or lecturer, I have felt depressed, or even elated, waiting for the show to start, but mostly forlorn and lonely until the show has started. I think of dozens of occasions at the end of the afternoon where we have been in some city, the shops closed, the town emptying, nowhere to have a bite to eat, even if I could manage it, which I can’t before a show. Thank God I shall never have to do it again, nor could I.
There is an entertainment here in the hotel every night, of sorts. On Thursday night it was a general knowledge quiz, which Malcolm and the girls all went to while I slept. They were a bit disgruntled to be asked the name of the head waiter. Last night it was a magician and I thought how extraordinary, here in Paphos where Paul confronted Elymas, to meet a magician! I love the absurdities of life, the ridiculousnesses, the incredible “million to one” coincidences that constantly happen to us — an expression of Father’s love, and His delight in amusing us. Thank you Lord.
2.00pm. 12pm exactly by the wristwatch Warwick gave me at Port Austin years ago, 2pm here in Paphos on the last day of our visit, Freda sits a few feet in front of me, on the balcony, engrossed in a biography of William Wordsworth; and below Freda — four floors below — I can see [taken photo] Julia & Malcolm and Clarice, about 100 yards away against the perimeter hedge, with the sea pounding the breakwater behind them. I am sitting in a wheely armchair just inside the French window, which runs diagonally across the half-square tagged onto the square of our room and turned through 45 degrees. The geometry of this room, though clear enough to me, still disturbs me, for when I awake at night, lying on my right side and looking directly ahead, then I am seeing through the French windows and the triangular balcony beyond, and Freda’s head is on a perfect level with mine, say six inches from the bedhead, but I feel to be below her and falling out of bed. Fortunately this has not prevented our making love the night before last — it was joyous, funny, sublime — but we were not in bed.
7.26pm GMT. We have just joined the family at the Fontana Bar, 9.26pm, where there is going to be a karaoke, but I am tired, nearly asleep, and the place is smokey. We return to England tomorrow and there is so much I have not recorded. There has been excitement in the hotel today because work on the restaurant was completed this morning and tonight we had dinner there — this morning was our last breakfast in the Ballroom —Conference Room where we have fed since we arrived. The restaurant was closed on 18th January for a wall to be taken down and the breakfast room incorporated. So everything was a bit strange, and the salads were placed next to the hot plates — not everything was in its proper place.
I have also neglected to record that 20–30 young men arrived on Sunday night and have made an impressive appearance each morning in pale-blue tracksuits bearing the name TYSKIE, which means nothing to me. But I asked the hotel manager and he understood them to be one of the top teams in Poland, and someone else said that two of the men had played for Chelsea. If I had thought about it earlier I might have obtained their autographs in case Poland win the World Cup.
There was a surprise for Freda at dinner tonight when a waiter appeared singing “Happy Birthday” and bearing a chocolate cake sumptuously inscribed and with lighted candle, which he placed before her. Everything about the hotel is excellent — the location, the grounds, the rooms, the food especially, the staff — everyone is so helpful and considerate. Many people are here for 2–3 months and most are elderly — our coming for a week is unusual. As I explained to someone, “We are only here because we thought Paphos was in Mallorca.”
We have had a quiet day. The electrical storm, which was lighting up the sky as we dined last evening, was accompanied by gale-force winds and lashing rain which continued all night — I got out of bed to watch it at one point. Freda & I went down to breakfast at about 7.40am and were not joined by Clarice and Julia & Malcolm for nearly an hour — it was a further hour before we all left. As usual on holiday I ate very much more than at home (but only a roll for lunch). Afterwards we walked down the fire-exit flight of steps to our usual corner of the garden, Malcolm opened up two of the large sunshades and laid them on the ground as a windbreak for the three of them. Freda & I, muffled up to keep us warm, sat in our wheelychairs and read our books.
There was a brief interval of weak sunshine before the sun retreated for the rest of the day. The wind, coming from the south, was yet cool, and after consuming a cheese roll each, we left C, J & M down there while we returned to our room. Later in the afternoon Freda took me for a walk she and the others had done yesterday, turning left (thus south) along the path which leads by the edge of the beach through the grounds of more recent and splendid hotels. A grey — mottled-grey — cat joined us, meowing loudly, but we had no food to give her. But all the cats we have seen, most of them anyway, look very well fed and we have seen people giving them proper cat-food.
After we returned Freda finished the packing while on Sky TV we heard that the Muslim cleric Abu Hamza had been sent to prison for 7 years for “incitement to murder.” The alleged offences were committed years ago, and it seems clear to me that the U.S. intends to have him extradited and executed, the YKW being behind it.
Drama of the storm
9.25am GMT. Freda’s birthday; day of our departure for home. We are sitting in the slightly open doorway onto our balcony, below us mountainous seas crashing onto the beach and rocks and breakwater, the waves rearing up and spitting and spuming and spending their energy, then slipping back, only to be caught up by the next huge wave in a kind of relentless fury. It is as though the water is angry at being contained, determined to go beyond its normal reach and will not give up. The palm trees stand tall and upright, bending somewhat to the wind, their fronds ruffled and lifted and dropped again, like dancers caught up in some exotic routine. All is commotion and noise and clamour, a tumult of sea and wind and rain.
Lightning brilliantly illuminated the new room as we dined last evening, thunder spoke and momentarily silenced all other conversation, hailstones beat against our balcony and awoke us in the middle of the night. I got up to survey the view, enjoyed the little I saw of the performance, but found the actors still performing when I was awakened by the near approach of dawn. I went back to sleep again and when I was finally awake my wife stirred and I leaned over and kissed her and wished her a happy birthday, She was instantly aroused — how does this happen? — pulled the sheets away from me & rolled over into my bed.
4.31pm GMT. On board our Boeing 757, over Turkey and headed towards Istanbul, the Black Sea and Germany. We are flying at 34,000 feet and expect to arrive ten minutes early at Elmdon. We are in Row 14, Julia & Malcolm in B & C, Clarice to my left in D and Freda in 14F.
We had to vacate our rooms at midday, after which we sat in the lobby of the hotel. As the rain had stopped we went for a walk, again along the beach path and the hotels, but a sudden heavy shower caused us to turn back. We ate cheese rolls saved from breakfast. Eventually the coach called for us and a few others and we were soon at Paphos Airport. Full of cigarette smoke and crowded with passengers, it was not very pleasant.
10.05pm, Majorca. We have watched two episodes of Coronation Street tonight, following a short walk up the road and all round the hotel after dinner. We had a cheese omelette, specially prepared for us by the chef, as there was no main course we could have. He offered us an omelette last night but it was unnecessary as there was plenty else.
I went to the Spar shop after breakfast to buy rolls and an apple as usual. Then we waited outside the shopping centre, across the road from the Spar shop, for the 9.35am “train” to Cala Mondrago, where we had a delightful day as always. We sat down at a table in the garden of the Bar Playa Mondrago. We watched, as always, the sparrows flitting around the trickling fountain, and a flycatcher, which flew down from the overhanging branch of a pine tree. We had a cup of coffee and continued reading our books and I finished Castaway.
I do not remember when I have been so moved by a book. It is one of the finest I have ever read, superb, sad, beautiful, compelling, poignant, painful. It is above all the account of an initiation, of two souls discovering each other and themselves. Lucy Irvine was no more than 26 when she wrote the book [she was born on 1 February 1956 in Whitton, Middlesex; Castaway was finished in January 1983], an extraordinary accomplishment, so vivid in its descriptive power. It made my soul ache with the joy of sadness and the sadness of joy — simply beautiful. I wish that Alexandra might read it. I should so much like to meet Lucy Irvine and Gerald W. Kingsland (is he still alive? did he ever write his book?). Did they ever meet again? I can hardly believe that they did.
After leaving the café garden, about 12.30pm, and making our way down to the beach and along the headland where, every year, we have eaten the same simple lunch, I mused on the two outstanding books I have read, six months apart, one in winter, the other in summer, both this year at either end of the Mediterranean, both travel books, each a consummate work of art, Bert Lawrence’s Sea and Sardinia read in Cyprus in February and Lucy Irvine’s Castaway in Mallorca in August, both books written from the heart, full of vivid detail. Neither was “taught” how to write in the way that young people are today. Thus Alexandra writes for the Daily Telegraph Saturday travel supplement, and beautifully. But the style, attractive, attention-getting, stimulating as it is — as demanded by the newspaper — grates on me, in no way satisfies me; in no way am I left wishing I could read more. But I couldn’t put Bert’s book down, or Lucy’s, and that is the difference. I hope that Alexandra, who writes beautifully, may produce something with her soul in it.
We had a lovely time on the headland. We ate a cheese roll and half an apple each, and watched the craft moored at the entrance. From one of these a dinghy was attached, and from the dinghy a mattress floated — an inflated bed — and on it sat a teenage girl and a little dog, white, sitting upright, relaxedly but all attention, obviously enjoying every moment and clearly an Admiral of the Fleet. Later we walked back to the beach and I swam across the narrow bay and back. We returned rather earlier than usual to the café, anxious to get a seat on the train. We had a long wait in the broiling sun and when the little train swept round the corner and jolted to a halt there was a mad rush and we counted ourselves fortunate to get on. Cala Barca was omitted on the way back and we got off at Cala Egos.
Kathy Staff and Elvis
4.57pm. We are sitting on our balcony. Freda finished her third book here, Four Short Stories by Elizabeth Gaskell, and has just started A Cornish Summer by Derek Tangye. It has been a quiet day. I had a stomach upset last night, caused by too much sun yesterday and the too-large omelette at dinner. Freda breakfasted alone while I slept on, and when I joined her at 9am I had only a banana yogurt and two cups of tea.
Afterwards we spent the morning lying on sun-loungers in the garden beyond the stage. I re-read the Introduction to Lucy’s book — I always read every word of a book in the order in which they appear, and prefaces, forewords and acknowledgments twice. Thus, on starting Kathy Staff’s book, I noticed that “The right of Kathy Staff to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by Him ...”, which blunder Roy Strong could have written a story around. But there, I have made two mistakes, attributing deity to the author and who is Roy Strong? I meant Roy Clarke.
By the time we came up to our balcony to eat lunch — I had a Rich Tea biscuit spread with Laughing Cow, an apricot and a Sainsbury’s bar and glass of tonic water — there was thunder in the air and some rain, which I didn’t see as I had come indoors and slept. The sky is still clouded over and the rain dried up, but tonight’s entertainment may have to be brought indoors. The main entertainment is always from 10pm until midnight. On Sunday night it was Elvis Presley. I stirred from deep sleep, not properly awaking, at about 11.55pm, to hear the lookalike, soundalike EP making repeated attempts to get either the right words or the right tune, before I drifted off again. Had I dreamt this? I asked Gary at dinner last night. “No,” he said, “he was awful. People had already stopped listening to him.”
10.03pm (9.03 BST). Freda has just finished packing; earlier this evening we watched Coronation Street but the picture was breaking up. First to be dropped off on our arrival two weeks ago — can it really be that long? — we are last to be collected tomorrow, about 8.20am, Xisca Pou thought (but Graham said 8.05), and we hope to have breakfast first, DV.
We have had a lovely day. After breakfast we went to the Spar shop to buy the rolls and apple for our lunch, then returned briefly to our room before setting off for Cala d’Or. Every inch of it [the walk there] is now familiar to us since our first visit in 1994. The journey seems shorter too, the pavements having been improved, and the woodland walk; Halcon in her usual berth in the Marina, and today Lady Alexandra, Rebecca, Rebel (two with the same name), Gillian and a host of others whose names and appearance and port of registration are perfectly familiar to us; many new craft too. How we would love to cruise with a family or friends, visiting all the islands of the Mediterranean, or around Britain, or even further afield to the Caribbean. But we have no desire to go on a big cruise liner with thousands of other people, and entertainment laid on. Father has privileged us to visit this wonderful island of Mallorca many times and we are well content.
We have had another wonderful holiday, have not stuffed ourselves silly, not stayed up late, not been on coach or boat trips. But we have enjoyed, enormously, the walking and I the swimming, the plumbago and hibiscus, palm trees and pines, flycatchers and sparrows, sand and sea, sun and rain, the view from our balcony, the towering pillar of cloud tinged with orange which greeted us this morning and the wonderful blue of the sky, and a host of other things which have given us enormous pleasure over the last two weeks, not least our books. Thank you, Father.
We had coffee, as always, at Las Palmeras, where we were served by the young man whom I photographed on Sunday. I learned today that his name is Brais Anca Fernandez, who comes from that part of Spain north of Portugal. He lives with his girlfriend in Santanyi, which is where Marcos comes from. We spoke with both of them today. They shook our hands, and Brais and I embraced, and each of us was a little sad. Braise coming from where he does set us talking about our visits to that part of Iberia and the Mountains of Europe, and the seven pilgrimages we have been on, each one memorable and deeply moving. Perhaps I can put some of them on my website.
As usual, we stopped to greet St Coleta at her little shrine just a few steps down from the square as one descends to the beach. She always wears an enigmatic expression, doleful and dutiful, listening to and writing down the words dictated to her by the Holy Spirit in the shape of a dove, and beside the book in which she writes is a skull, perhaps of some earlier saint and martyr. I look forward to meeting her in Heaven, and simply thousands of other lovely people whom we have loved and appreciated over the years.
We ate our lunch seated on our usual stone, then lay down, head to feet, the stone moulding itself perfectly to our contours, and slept. Afterwards I swam. Then the tutti-frutti man came, and then the two girls with their colourful fabrics, which they flew in the breeze as they walked up and down the side of the beach, before stripping off to model the various tops and bottoms. The girls know us from previous years, they always say hello to us and lay their display in front of us, and we are always pleased when girls come up from the beach and make a purchase; and they did very well today when it looked at first as though no one was interested. At one point a sudden gust of wind threatened to scatter the display and I put out a foot to prevent them blowing away. This was not going to work, so I looked round and found a rounded length of concrete, semi-circular in section, beneath the pine tree close to where we sit. This did the job admirably and the girls — mother and daughter — were grateful. “Tomorrow afternoon,” I said, “when you come, we shall be in England, but here is the stone for you to use,” and I placed it under the tree where I found it.
A plot of global dimensions
10.25am. We are sitting at Gate C48 at Palma Airport, awaiting the departure of our Flight TOM 2292 to Bristol at 11.20am [due to arrive at 12.45pm BST]. It is 9.26am BST — I have already corrected my watch. The procedure here has improved since last year. We were allowed to check in at any one of 20-odd gates, irrespective of our destination — a great improvement. Security was less hectic too, as thousands of us were corralled into roped-off lanes, which turned through 180 degrees like some gigantic maze from which we spilled out into a long line of metal-detectors, divesting ourselves of keys, money, wrist-watches, belts (surely no one wears a metal belt), these all making their own journey into their own special machine, in plastic trays specifically designed to contain them. The same drama is being played out at this moment at tens of thousands of airports and other points of departure worldwide. Such is the world we live in. No one, to the best of my knowledge, has ever been discovered to be carrying a bomb.
9.50pm. We arrived home at 3.30pm and it was only when I switched TV on that we realised how blessed we had been to get home at all. Chaos reigned as a “plot was uncovered” to blow up nine British planes over the USA. 24 people, alleged to have been involved in a “plot of global dimensions”, have been arrested, flights from all over the UK and Europe have been cancelled — we were indeed blessed to get home at all, Bristol Airport having effectively been closed. Thank you, Father, and for a wonderful holiday.