Sunday, 22 April 2012

Hopeland (Notes from Corsica) 22: Excavations

Rolling up his sleeves, he approached us with the fixed stare and intent of one about to join a pub fight. As he brushed past, kicking sand onto our towels, I noticed that his belt was already undone. A woman in a red coat, with the countenance of a long-suffering wife, followed closely behind. Fingering his flies the man stopped with purpose fifty feet beyond us and completed his dishevelment. Naked but for briefs and a St Christopher, he clawed at the sand and within minutes had created an elaborate maze of sunken tunnels and ditches which fast became irrigated by the sea. So intent on this toil was he that he disregarded a chuckling child, armed with water wings and a bright yellow bucket and spade, joining the game with relish, until he caught the man’s eye. The sad red lady had stationed herself at a dispassionate distance and sat smoking, in mute acceptance of her lot. Maybe she was a sister or even a care worker. Cursing unseen demons her charge shivered and threw his arms to the heavens, perhaps demanding divine guidance, then continued his ecstatic excavation, like an aguish archeologist digging into the past, tunneling himself back towards happier times. He was joined in his work again, this time by a young Alsatian that fuelled the feverish frenzy, the two working in unwitting unison until the pup backed up, covering the sandscape and its architect, who kicked out at the dog in a rabid rage before returning to his work. After a good hour of unbroken endevour the digger suddenly stopped, as if to the sound of a factory siren, his shift complete. Picking up his clothes in a rough bundle he set off at a pace, retracing his steps, again covering us with sand, his wild eyes indifferent to our sympathetic glances. We had however caught his companion’s attention. As she passed us she rolled her eyes and, in perfect broken English muttered, “Lost forever. And it was a fucking Rolex!”

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