An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Two walks in fictional landscapes

JOURNEY NUMBER ONE: Head on northward out of Tobruk and travel until you reach the coast where the African continent meets the Mediterranean but before the place where the African tectonic plate rides over the European plate. You are in the Gulf of Bamba. Now travel east hugging the coast until you are near to Jabbanat Abu al Hamam. Stand on the beach as the waves of the Med trickle in and look northward. To your back - some many miles behind you - is the magnificent emptiness of the Sahara; more sand there than on this beach you stand upon. Peer ahead, and on a clear, clear, day you can see this house. Across the sea, past the south coast of Crete and on. Through shadowed gorges in the mountain range your eye will light on a bright lit valley. Five miles before you reach the northern coast stop and stare. There. On the left hand side of the valley - a tall, thin white house: ours.

Your eye may not be capable of this feat. You may never stand on that beach. But there is one visitor that makes that journey regularly. The mad south wind that curls itself off of the dunes of the Sahara lifting a veneer of fine red dust with it comes that way to us. It comes ripping from another continent, shouting and screaming as it tears its way through the gorges gathering speed in that natural funnel and bursts upon us often unannounced.

JOURNEY NUMBER TWO: Walking today through the fictional woods, wandering and wondering, it occurred to me to divert and visit a notional bookshop that I sometimes frequent. This bookshop sells only the "impossible" in books: books no longer in print. Looking for a volume by Fyodor Sologub - The Petty Demon - for a friend of mine up north. Gogol meets Bulgakov but funnier than both and m ore subtle yet than Goncharov. I have a copy but sought another notionally. I opened the door and passed through the front area where the paperbound books are arrayed, down a dark corridor to the back room where the rarest, longest out of print, sit haughtily on their hardwood shelves in their hardcovers. Snuggling down and hoping to be adopted. Aloof and aloft.

No joy. No pleasure of the text for me today. The shelves are groaning but not with my tune. This piper cannot call the tune this day. Turning on my heel I pass Buck Mulligan, the bearded shop assistant somewhere in his mid-fifties, somewhere in the dark corridor and we nod each to the other. "No joy", I mutter. The front door back of me closes shut and the bell inside rings muffled in my ear. Head up, I Cretan gaze to the far side of the asphalt strand and think I see young Finn McEskimo and he thinks he sees me. I cross the road. He crosses the road. And then we realise, in perfect synchrony, that it is neither of us. He was a Swede and I was a Turnip. How did he intrude into this journey of mine? How did both of them?

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