Saturday, 18 October 2014

The pleasure of futility

Ah, the pleasure of futility. Yesterday, last full day of our holiday on Majorca, we indulged ourselves in a large portion of it.

I should explain that we’re staying on a little bay, or more of a rocky inlet, of the Mediterranean. Turn right and you get to a larger bay which enjoys a short strip of beach, decorated as usual with deck chairs and umbrellas, and the town of St Elm.

The day before yesterday, Danielle and Nicky swam from our bay to town. Danielle has a broken foot. Swimming
s great, since she can enjoy the exercise without much pain and it even seems to help. Of course, Michael and I assisted, driving into town to meet them with all the things they’d need when they came ashore.

Nicky and Danielle set off
Except, regrettably, that we forgot the bag with the towels and clothes. Fortunately, the round trip from St Elm to the apartment only takes eight minutes, so Danielle didn’t have to wait long shivering on the beach as the sun set in a blaze of glory – and a precipitous drop in temperature.

And, sadly, it was only when I got back that Nicky realised that he’d forgotten to include a tee-shirt in the bag. Fortunately, it was still only an eight-minute round trip to fetch one of those too.

We’d also forgotten Danielle’s crutches, but I’m glad to say we found them not far from the water line, the following morning, neither stolen nor washed away.

St Elm sunset. Glorious to watch if you're dry.
Not so good if you're shivering and waiting for a towel
The exercise had been such a success that yesterday we decided to have another long swim. Well, “long” in our terms. Out to the island in the middle of the bay. 

The island was perfectly placed. Far enough to represent a challenging swim, close enough not to allow us – well, me – to back out and protect my laziness on the grounds of difficulty.

I have to admit that I always like this kind of challenge. Mountain streams when hiking? Just have to cross them. That’s why I tend to come home from mountain walks satisfied but with wet feet.

The challenge of the island
Too far? Within our range? Any point in the first place?
It’s the same with islands. There’s a tremendous satisfaction swimming to a place which can’t be approached except by water. Well, obviously, only if it’s within range. I’m not crazy. And only when it’s in a proper sea, by which I mean a warm sea, like the Med, not the North Sea or even the Channel. I’m not a masochist. 

So Michael, Nicky and I had a go. It was perhaps the experience of the day before that put us off aiming for a goal other than our starting point: we’d learned that we weren’t good at making sure everything we needed was available when we arrived. So it was a round trip for us. Out to the island, and back again.

Initially, our intention was to land and have a bit of a break, but when we got there it was a lot less hospitable than it had looked from afar. No beach. Just viciously rough rocks encrusted with razor-like shells, on which the surf broke with considerable energy, as I discovered to my cost when I became the only one of us to try clambering ashore.

We swam round the island, found nowhere that appealed, and headed back to our inlet. It took us a good hour and gave us the sense of really having had a swim.

The sea has great advantages over a swimming pool. Lowering oneself in remains a painful experience, but actually less so than in the pool: the water in the Med’s at least as warm. It isn’t chlorinated. And it makes you more buoyant.

If there’s a downside, it’s that the stuff won’t stay still. It keeps piling itself up and throwing itself at you. It usually contrives to do so whenever I do something reckless like trying to breathe. I really feel something should be done about its behaviour, though nothing ever is. What do we pay our taxes for?

Still, I mustn’t complain. We had a good time. Expended a lot of energy, which I’m told is a good thing. And got back safely.

Back, of course, to exactly the same place we’d out from. All that energy, all that effort, all that swallowed sea water. It got us precisely nowhere, by way of somewhere we didn’t want to stay. Completely futile. And yet highly enjoyable.

Providing yet more proof that it isn’t the destination that matters, it’s the journey.

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