When at home I fill my time with interesting and useful things; be it writing or editing, working on my MA, doing the laundry, talking to neighbours, cooking, cleaning, meeting up with friends. I catch trains and buy parking tickets; I go to Waitrose to do the shopping. I am propelled by a different imperative. But here, on holiday, my days go somewhat differently.
I guess it all started when we first came here one summer years ago. Then, the heat was so punishing that a kind of torpor set in and my days followed a gentle pattern of writing before the sun got too hot, then I’d go swimming and read in the shade, indulge in the occasional dash to a sunbed and back, followed by the decision as to which of the town’s marvellous restaurants we should eat in come evening. Yes, we did a boat trip and went into the mountains to a trout farm but I haven’t seen the sunken city or the ruins or had any of the other amazing experiences there are to have here and I try, I really do, not to feel guilty about this.
This is, however, made harder by the fact that, in recent years, instead of summer, we’ve come both in the autumn and late spring when the weather is English high-summer-beautiful and the evenings warm enough to sit out at one of the rooftop restaurants and gaze out as evening settles in around the harbour and yet, still my days follow the same routine.
Everything slows to a crawl, and I can spend hours looking at the bay; the way the sun glistens on the water captivates me and I tell myself I’m recharging. I draw the air in deep into my lungs, study the wise silver-grey leaves on the olive trees in the distance, watch the boats’ progress out to the islands, bask in the sound of the call to prayer from the local mosque and yesterday, when I was swimming, I was joined at the poolside by a sparrow with no tail.
We had a kind of conversation. He told me about his day; I told him about mine, and I let myself wonder how having no tail would affect him when he flew. Does he miss the way the air feels in amongst his tail feathers; does he not twist and turn as sharply on the wing as he once did? And I knew then that it doesn’t matter what I do or don’t do with my time here. Time will pass, experiences and thoughts will seep into my skin and seep out and here I am allowed to think such small, inconsequential things because it means that when I’m back home and filling my time again with interesting and useful things, a little bit of here, like sun-glint on water, will remain.