David Cattanach


When does spring arrive, for us it is a season experienced near the warm waters of the Mediterranean? 

It means travel miles, using up the world’s resources and arriving at a location, promontory which juts out from an island.  We plan to walk.  The scene, wheat waiting for a first cut, swallows swoop low, twisting and turning, they pause here in travels northwards. On the flat plain before the climb Almond trees mark a boundary around the wheat field and the villas, some of which wait for visitors.

  A paved way with no traffic signs leads to a saddleback hill, we walk through night locked gates to a twisting path that is only suitable for walkers, it runs over broken stones and gullies cut by winter streams. Ahead is a secluded bay.  At the summit of the saddle-backed hill the terrain levels out.  The landscape could be called scrubland,  low bushes and the occasional thorn tree and grasses.  Goats stand guardian on rocky outcrops, motionless, watching us.  Young kids bleat, hidden from us, laying low. It is a marginal economy here, the tall marron grasses are left to grow tall and at this time of year they are harvested.  Casual workers pick them.  African faces toil. The grasses, several feet in length are tied into bundles.  Later we see them being worked, the grasses, to form umbrellas, those you see resting on poles above sunbeds with the helpful tables for drinks and small plates of food.

  Temperatures are rising the sounds of grasshoppers intensify.  We pause to listen to the remaining silence, wipe our necks, dry our brows. The bay is still hidden.  Shimmers mark the distant horizons, there are no vehicles.  It is a surprise to walk on and meet a roundabout and redundant roads that radiate from its circumference.  We speculate that a developer had thoughts of planting a fine hotel here but only the roundabout remains.  We hear the shrieks of high flying predators on the lookout for rodents or small birds. The roads quickly fade out and we return to rough trails 

  Historical records could prove that donkey caravans came this way carrying fish and salt from the coast to villages inland now the transport weaves longer routes that followed easier contours.  The modern roads were not interested in the poor houses of the land workers who stayed in the scrublands.  What remained up here, now, were telegraph stations, transmitting signals, broken walls of buildings that had no rooves and the sweet linnet cries.  The path registers our progress, drops of sweat fall on the dry sandstone, small stones scatter and grasshoppers jump. We start to descend and the rocks have been cut, we are reaching the other side, the sea is now visible. Wealthy families who want some seclusion have built their fortresses outside the limits of the village, they cling to the cliffes.  Blasting charges have taken chunks of the cliff away to form narrow ledges, rapid steps tumble down towards the sea, over time they will crumble, damaged by falling rocks, weathered by time.  In places the rock wall is twisted, tectonic plates clashing, upheaval being measured.  These isolated dwellings  have no broad lawns on which children can run and somersault but instead they possess white chimney pots that resemble beacons, like miniature lighthouses. I imagine that on dark nights without moonlight sparks of fire could make a fiercer light, when heavy burning timbers are turned. Protected fires they are a reminder maybe of braziers that once warned of approaching raiders. Down we walk to the beach, it’s curve and presence measured by the rising tide. Now at the sea’s level we look back, parts of the cliffs are blue black the light extinguished by the transient movement of the Sun. This picture would be repeated every day.  The cliffes would provide an ode for the soul and beyond the wide sea would mark the movement of passing ships crossing by this bay.

  Our clothes have soaked up the landscape they will have a future laundry, covered in seeds and windblown dusts. The scent of our shirts includes the pine.  It is early and the energy released from packed coaches has not yet arrived, instead we observe the lazy movements of residents walking out in search of conversation.   Sand burns.  Even at this early hour the exercise of walking needs relief by immersion in a medium. Waves are quiet there is no thundering drag of fishing boats being hauled by singing men and women.  The blue flag tells me it is safe and I swim towards the base of cliffs and listen to the whoosh of developing caves, watching the foam rise high.  The dazzle of the surface disappears as I dive down ; into a world of floating seaweed and silver fishes, who graze in the shallows.  Time moves on the beach is closely occupied we rest and dry against the wall of Ernesto’s beach cafe. We look again to the light of the changing cliffs, jeweled greens and blues sing out from the black shadows creating a chorus of colour along its breadth.  Gulls flash white as they wheel about our heads.  Depending on the time of day the vertical and horizontal bulk of the cliffes running between the bays has a heavy presence and will be recorded on hundreds of cameras and it will remind visitors of this wild place.  A place above the fringe of habitation, untamed, refuge of goats. Stone walls mark the centuries and families who registered their boundaries, providing cover for fragile animals against the storm winds of autumn.

  Behind us the high rise hotel development marks the sad death of the fishing village.  The fishing boats that brought a commercial catch to the bartering house have gone in its place a municipal parking lot.  Here it is difficult to escape the sound of foreign voices. Conversations between the residents are happening in the shadows behind closed doors, in cellars where they store the potatoes and the spirits. Discussion progresses and invites are given for weddings and tributes to the dead are made.  We apologize in our minds for this fault this changed aspect of the place, To accommodate us they have had to destroy the old buildings, the fishing boats, the many terracotta vases and remove the flowers that once perfumed the air. To bring instead hair salons, pinna colladas and dog parlors.  Cyclists in bright lycra took charge in Ernesto’s café and talked with an enthusiastic air about the terrain they had covered.  With all their shapes on display they asking for large glasses of beer and did not remove their dark riding glasses.

 This is Spring, the beginning of summer conversations, a flowering of plants on the verges, the arrival of warm sea currents.  It is a foreign place and we visit leaving an English spring of rain and daffodils.

  It was the walk that counted with the slow reveal of the coastline and its hidden bay.   Maybe, in some later unknown year the rocks would move, fall into the sea and destroy forever the path that leads to this bay.

David attended a number of creative writing facilities in Leeds and district.  The pandemic and Zoom opened new doors and he has chosen to make more public his literary efforts.  The opportunities to reach printed and online platforms are numerous today and this provides opportunities for dialogue with new and established writers.

Flights, Issue Four, April 2022