A House on a Beach

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After the rush and hassle of the sea, and the heat and churn of unloading, I leave my bags and take a tractor up the steep track to the lodge, have lunch, say hello, and return with the key. It’s unusual, and exhilarating, to be so alone. The house stands on a lawn, overlooking the sea, with the forest around and, up a steep hill behind it. To the left as you sit on the steps, the path leads back through palms, along a rocky beach and past a small headland to the ‘port’ where the boats rock in with supplies and guests. In front of me, there’s a hell of a lot of sea that’s chock-a-block full of stuff, a mystical island, Cano, and three small boats moored and bobbing. To the right, (looking beyond my rum and coke) the lawn drops away to palms, another small rocky point full of the kind of sand-carpeted rock pools you can lie in (tides permitting), and beyond that to a semi-circle swoop of empty beach, backed by jungle. Above all this, screeching hawks, flocks of scarlet macaws and pelican units on North-South patrol. The only sounds are rolling waves, squawking birds and cicadas.

Now, instead of windows, the house has screens – huge ones, floor to ceiling, for the air and the views. One of the screens to the porch has been ripped and shredded leaving a hole at ground level that’s about a foot and a half or so square. A dark patch indicates that something has pissed against the outside wall, and chewed pieces of metal mesh are strewn about inside. I know there’s a puma on the property, something that’s going to limit the number of times I nip up to the lodge for a slap up dinner. It’s quite a long walk back down in the dark, particularly when, with every step, you are recalling the interesting snippet of information my friend mentioned (several times) which is that pumas like to creep up and spring from behind. I hadn’t really considered that he might visit me inside the house. I’m not sure it is him, but I can’t think of alternatives, and there have been dogs staying here recently leaving dog smells he might have found attractive. The porch leads nowhere, but my bedroom has the same mesh screens. William and Carmen, the couple that look after the house are not expecting me for another five days, and are away, and at 6pm, as it gets dark, I have to admit I’m a little jumpy.

The boxes I’d sent ahead from England are here. One contains my Tropical Jungle collection of mosquito repellent, sunblock and desert boots and old shirts that do wicking and whatnot. The other contains research papers, notes, and old books in Spanish, as well as  100 cassettes of interviews to transcribe which I’ve been meaning to get around to for years, and which I’ve decided to tackle here. Although, not now, because it seems like a lot of hard work.

I get a torch and rifle through the kitchen cupboards, wondering why potatoes are in a sealed plastic tub. I opt for a dinner of soda crackers and red wine, a 2005 Sichel bordeaux. Distant lightning flashes. It’s like being in the Famous Five.

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