One of a kind
AJust another day at a small tourist spot in the Mediterranean. S I write this, I’m sitting outside a small café with a clear view of the Mediterranean. Two hours ago, an enormously ugly cruise ship dropped anchor and disgorged hordes of hungry tourists onto the nearby dockside. Like a huge tsunami they then spread out over the small French town, taking over the shops and restaurants.
And the locals were ready for them, with their stalls set up a few metres away from the dock. Sun-baked people who have seen it all displaying wares that range from high-end labels to local art, jewellery, leather goods and what looks like the contents of my storage cupboard beneath my stairs.
Even I, hardened though I am after many years of haggling in Penang, have fallen for the charms of these peddlers of wares and compliments. “Oh, that necklace looks so pretty on you,” one of them said.
“A pair of matching earrings is all you need to set it off. And don’t forget, they’re one of a kind. No one else has such jewellery, anywhere.”
The next day, I discovered that the word “unique” has a different meaning to some of these people, because my one-of-a-kind jewellery was on display again.
As I sit beneath the shade of the café’s awning, drinking over-priced sparkling mineral water, a bloated middle-aged couple sit at a nearby table, guzzling large quantities of beer. A bright red sticker strategically placed on both their T-shirts tells everyone the name of their cruise ship; perchance they drink too much and have to be carried back onboard.
Large gold rings adorn eight of the man’s fingers, while his partner has obviously spent her money on her hair, which is bright red and bouffant. The contrast with her pale skin hurts my eyes and I have to avert my gaze. selected wheat flour. They contain at least 80% wheat content and have no artificial sweeteners and preservatives.
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At another table, a couple dressed in matching white jeans, nautical T-shirts and sun tan stare vacantly into the distance as they both sip a glass of red wine. The epitome of French chic, everything about them looks one-of-a-kind – or maybe two-of-a-kind. They probably have a luxury yacht moored in the bay, primed for departure at the first hint of boredom.
A man hunched over a notebook occupies yet another table. Every now and then he stops writing, looks at the people sitting nearby and then begins tapping on his keyboard again. Maybe he’s a travel writer, I think, as I, too, resume my writing.
As the sun drops towards the horizon, the pickled couple make their way back to their ship, their souvenirs tucked under their arms. Later, over their buffet dinner, they will probably share stories of their on-shore escapades with their fellow diners.
The chic couple also get up to go. And that’s when I spot the miniature dog that has been obscured behind the woman’s tote bag beside the table. I watch them as they disappear from sight, and all I can think about is, where do dogs poop when they’re at sea?
Despite the unusually hot October weather that the south of France has been experiencing lately, the nights can be quite chilly. So I get up to make my way back to my apartment as soon as the sun has set.
The man with the notebook looks up and smiles at me. I smile back. If I’d been drinking wine instead of water, I might have asked him what he was writing. But I wasn’t and I didn’t.
Walking along the waterfront, I notice that the enormously ugly cruise ship has raised anchor and is heading out on the next leg of its journey.
As I’m halfway up the 337 steps that lead to my apartment perched on the hillside, I turn and look down towards the sea. The sun has been replaced by a pale silver moon; the same silver moon that anyone in that café who cared to look out of their window that night would have been able to see. All of us so different, yet under the same moon.
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