Changing Vet?; Weekends Away; Mantova – but not this year!

Let’s be honest, go to a different doctor and you’ll be sure to get a different opinion. General Practitioners are exactly that – general. Specialists, on the other hand are a different beast altogether.

The same is true of everyone, I’m not just singling out doctors here.

I’ve been thinking, for some time now, that I need a different vet. It’s not that the one (or, rather ones, since there are two of them) are bad, exactly, it’s just that I’m not sure they really do the best or right thing.

Take the lump behind Rufus’ ear. He has lots of lumps now; it’s not unusual; he’s over 14 years of age. However, this particular lump kept on growing, fertilised, no doubt, by Dino’s instance on licking it so often. So, eventually, as Dino’s licking would sometimes result in it bleeding, I took Rufus to the vet.

I wasn’t worried about the lump itself, and explained that I wanted to find some way to stop Dino licking it. He looked at it. He wanted to check to see if it was malignant. Actually that thought hadn’t crossed my mind but, OK. He tested it. Or, rather, he poked and prodded it (which made it worse than before). It was not malignant. But the answer to my question was not given. There was some talk of, if it gets worse, we can always remove it but we don’t want to as he is old.

Hmmmm. Plasters provided little respite. But, then, Dino seemed to leave it alone, most of the time.

When we were on holiday, staying at Johnny’s place, one night, Dino was obviously bored or something and, during the night, licked it so much that, in the morning, it was bleeding again – and quite a lot. So we went to the vet that Johnny and A used for their dogs (who turned out to be an old school mate of F’s). He looked at it and said it would be best to remove it.

He did it there and then (and I learnt also that F is a bit squeamish about blood and stuff). It took less than half an hour, cost less than €100 (although we probably got a ‘special price’) and, apart from re-bandaging it over the next couple of weeks, everything was perfect. Dino has stopped licking it (or, rather, where it was).

Last Saturday night, we found Rufus to be limping. I thought he might have something in the pad of his paw but looking at it I could find nothing. We came back on Sunday and on Monday night, as he was still limping, I took him to my vet.

“Ah”, he said, “it will be one of the ‘hairs’ from a grass seed that has got in”.

He found where it was (it was on the top of his paw, not underneath) and decided to ‘have a look’. He got out something that looked a little like a blunt pair of scissors and tried to find the offending ‘hair’ but couldn’t. He then said we would have 10 days of antibiotics and see after that. If the infection came back, he would need to go in to try and find it, if the infection stayed away, then it was already out.

But he seems to have made the situation worse than before. Or, maybe I’m not giving the antibiotics enough time to work. Or, maybe, I really should go and find another vet ………


F texted me last night. He is in Berlin. He checked into the hotel. They said that they had the room for two nights. He thought that was strange as it should have been three (he was coming back on Saturday night). Once in his room, he checked his itinerary and realised that he had made a mistake. He comes back on Friday night after all! Now he is suggesting that we go down to Carrara on Saturday morning, early. If we leave by 9 a.m., we should be on the beach by 11 – enjoying the last few days of summer.

I am more happy than you can know that he is coming back on Friday – whether we go down or not.

Next week he is working in Spain and is flying back from Spain directly to Pisa. If the weather is going to be good enough, I will drive down and we shall have yet another weekend there.

You may remember how, on the night of ‘Disaster’, the first night of our holiday, he suggested that I made him bring me down there and that he never wanted to come. It seems that may not have been quite the truth ;-)

Still, it does mean that I have, obviously, passed ‘the test’ and that, probably, from his family’s point of view, I am very much ‘the good guy’ as they will be seeing him more this year than any other! :-D


The only drawback to this and the wedding earlier in the UK, etc., is that this year, for the first time for years, I shan’t be going to Mantova – not even for a day – for the Festivaletteratura. I’m really sorry about that because I always loved it and I loved meeting the people I know. However, I do think it was V that they always really wanted to see (him being exotic and so on) and I guess this is one of those things that I should ‘let go’ now.

Still, I should send an email or something, perhaps next week, just to wish them all the best with this year. I shall miss the friends I usually saw and the things like playing chess with Boris Spaskey and playing Subbuteo and those sort of things.

Life moves on and change is inevitable. I would have liked to take F there, in the way that it was but I guess there’ll be other things that come up in years to come that will be similar.

At least Hay will always be there for me, when I can do it.


Various things

It happens every time he goes away. Every time he is away. He lights up my life in ways I cannot describe and when the light isn’t there, the gloominess, darkness returns. Of course, this mood is not helped by the weather. Miserable and grey and raining. Ugh! I hate winter. And so, the post below.

Which describes it all wrong. It gives the wrong impression. The weekend was fabulous. His family are so nice to me. The weather was fantastic and every day we were on the beach – one night staying until after 7 p.m.!

I think I’ve seen most of the close family now. One day, on our way to the beach (probably the weekend before last), as we driving from his house (probably to the beach), we stopped at a block of flats to see his cousin. This is the daughter of his Aunt and Uncle who live about 2 minutes away from their daughter.

The cousin had just (in the last few days) come back from holiday. I was introduced to her and her husband but I have completely forgotten their names (I’ve always struggles with names). I was shown some of the artwork that F had produced at college, proudly displayed on the wall in the hallway, framed and looking good. I was also shown some sculptures which were made by her father.

Later, at the beach, she texted F. He tells me what she says. “I like your new boy’. “She knows?”, I query. He replied in the affirmative. It seems that it’s only his parents that “don’t know” – even if, as it must be obvious to you, my dear reader, they know. I can tell he is pleased by her text. The meeting with the family members during these four weeks or so has gone well. In those few weeks, I have become ‘established’. He is relaxed about it, I can tell. He trusts me with them, I can tell that too.

And, to be honest, there has been a certain amount of ‘showing me off’, which is fine, since I did the same in the UK – and that’s what we do, as human beings, isn’t it?

I have been shown off to friends and relatives alike. I am not S and, even if I cannot communicate with them so well, I am forgiven by them and him by virtue of so obviously being in love with him. It helps that I am straight – well, straight-gay.

Last weekend, we are at a bar (at the bar that R, his best friend, favours at the moment or this season). A rather down-at-heel, beach bar. Food, which is not terrible (but neither anything to write about) is served on plastic plates; beer is from a bottle; music is, well, absent or dire; seating is with cheap patio furniture or else wooden benches against a wooden bar overlooking the sea. And yet is is favoured by a group of people who seem to be there most nights. As is R.

F tells me that it won’t last. Next year or, even, next week, R will move on to somewhere else; somewhere where, inevitably, all his ‘new best friends’ will be and who will be different ‘new best friends’ from the current ‘new best friends’ and the new bar will be much better then the current bar or the last bar or any previous bar. I feel slightly sorry for R. He “escaped” from the provincialism of the town – for a while – but circumstances took him back and circumstances or his own unwillingness to go outside the confines of the comfortableness of what he knows (or even the comfortable uncomfortableness of it) keeps him there. But then, not everyone is like me and I’m not sure that I should be feeling sorry for him. Perhaps that is better than my life. Let’s be honest, he has the advantage of knowing where he is and being close to family and friends and being a bigger fish in a smaller pond – and maybe that’s better?

Although I don’t think so.

So, we are at the bar, again. R comes, dressed up to go out. Top lip botoxed, eyebrows plucked into a perfect arch, a little make-up – looking plastic and nowhere near as handsome as he is, underneath it all. Still, that’s what some people like. I ask F if he ever wore make-up. His reaction was the same as mine would have been, asked the same question. One of shock and definitely ‘no’.

C comes. She is the one that read my hand (see a previous post). She is a slightly over-weight, pleasant enough woman. To me, she dresses like a Goth. Well, a bit. Black hair, straight and long, black clothes, dark make-up. Not truly a Goth, just similar. With her comes her daughter, who is 16. C is separated from her husband. J (her daughter) doesn’t get on with her father so well. R calls her, unkindly, the elephant. She is larger than her mother but you can see they are mother and daughter for she, too, is almost Goth.

>J comes with C all the time. At first, I thought that was lovely. That her daughter can be like a friend and she can be a friend to her daughter. But, every night? At 16, I felt, she needed to go and get a life. She’s not really interested in people of her own age since they are ‘too immature’, apparently. To me she seems a tortured soul or maybe really, a tortured and picked-upon teenager. There is a sadness about her. Her smiles, although pleasant enough betray, to me, a loneliness that comes from not having real friends. But girls can be so bitchy at that age, I do understand that.

F turns to me, at one point, to say that C had said that, if I should ever change my mind (about being gay), she would be first in line and that she thought I was handsome. I laugh and thank her. At the same bar, some weeks ago, a guy who is Roman but lives there now, couldn’t quite understand that I was gay since I didn’t seem gay. Of course, he was comparing me to R (and, maybe, F) and all the other people that he ‘knows’ are gay since, if you can tell they are gay, they most probably are. People really miss the point that how you look is not, necessarily, how you are!

However, F is pleased that C likes me that much. And he knows (I think), that, after over 40 years of ‘being gay’, it’s unlikely I would ‘change’. It makes me smile though. I like to be a bit different!

We both agree that the ‘bar’ is not going to be on our hit list of ‘great places to go’. R would like to take it over and really ‘do something’ with it. But he won’t – even if he had the money. It would be too much like ‘hard work’ and would curtail his going out on Saturday nights to some disco or other where everyone is ‘twenty-five or younger’, says F. Not F’s style nor mine. R didn’t take a job at a shop in Forte di Marmi because it would mean working, some nights until 8 or 10 p.m.!

M was at the bar too. She plays some musical instrument in a band. She is a striking woman with short hair, dyed in streaks (but lateral, not vertical) in shades of red. She is a nurse in ‘real life’. After all, except for R, this isn’t real life at all but the summer, with its visitors from other places and an atmosphere that can only be temporary. Most of the people there, now, are locals, enjoying the last days of a summer that, given that the holidaymakers have mostly returned home, is all but over. Until next year – and a different bar with different friends and different holidaymakers.

Silent in real life; Unreal in silent life.

Another weekend.

Again, staying in the house. The house that’s really the ground floor of quite a big house.

It’s nice but it has that ‘unlived in’ feel as it is, really, not lived in.

It may have been almost 11 months but I am still wary, still not wanting to rock the boat, still not wanting to say all that I feel, all that I want, all that I need. I hold back. I wait, patiently, for him to say things or suggest things or do things. I feel ‘temporary’, as if, any moment, it will all finish. It’s not really good but I don’t want to be imposing nor, to be honest, am I unhappy about just drifting along. After all, we don’t live together. If there’s an escape (and it applies to both of us) then it’s an easy one to be made. Although it is all good, I don’t feel the commitment and, so, don’t feel quite committed, even if I don’t want nor feel that I want anyone else.

But I don’t feel that there isn’t commitment either. I don’t feel that it’s temporary when I’m with him and yet, I do. I guess I don’t really think about it. We’re not young any more. We don’t have our whole life in front of us – only part of our life even if that may be half! Not that I want to be young. I’m comfortable being old although I’m still waiting for the ‘feeling old’ bit to really kick in.

F said, last night, that N would be 50 today. I thought: Oh, that’s old – before I checked myself, having already passed that milestone. But that isn’t the first time that’s happened. I know that, not having children by which to measure the passing of time, the ageing process, means that it doesn’t really catch up with you. Most of my friends are my age, even if they are considerably younger. They’re my friends and so, my age. The only exception to this are the people that are half my age or less who are obviously more like children than real, grown-up human beings.

For the last few weeks, while we’ve been down there, he’s been talking about renovating the house, making it more habitable, more homely. He needed to discuss it with his brother who, as time goes on, I realise is not F in any way and I would not swap what I have for Johnny Depp even if I like the idea – it’s on a very superficial level only.

He discussed it. They discussed it. They aren’t the same person even if they are twins. They are twins in that they came out at the same time (more or less) but they have no special connection as twins sometimes do (or so I’ve read).

Johnny favoured one single house from the two flats. F says he couldn’t live with him (but he didn’t say this to him, only to me, several times). I’m sure that is true. Then again, I’m not sure who F could live with or, even if that person would be me!

When F suggested it be kept as two flats, Johnny suggested that they turn it into three flats. He was just being stupid or pretending to be so. F has ideas for his part of the house. Some changes he would like to make, that he could make now by taking a mortgage (not even a big one) and doing it and paying it off within 10 or 15 years so that, when he retires it will be done. I’m not mentioned in this picture. At first, I wasn’t even sure I was in this picture. That’s OK. Remember, I’m just drifting through; I’m just temporary. Sometimes, I almost feel like I’m not really here anyway, like it’s all made up and the next moment I will be somewhere else – in a different time, a different place, a different world with different people; unreal in my silent life.

But then, later, when he’s talking to someone (I can’t remember who) he says that he wants to get the place ‘fixed up’ so that we can come here more often; so that we have somewhere nice to go. He doesn’t say but he also means somewhere that he can make as he wants, with his furniture and his ‘stuff’ so that it will be more comfortable for us.

I don’t say anything. I never do. I hear but, maybe spoilt by my time with V, I wonder how much is true and how much is ‘just being said’ for someone else’s benefit, of course, not mine. I wonder, idly, on our way back, at what point will I feel ‘real’, permanent, a fixture rather than a cloud. I wouldn’t swap where I am and the problem is me and not us nor him. I should feel really happy with the ‘inclusion’ of myself in this future with the house, with the plans for Christmas and, although I do feel really happy, it still feels like ‘Sure, if we’re still together then’, even if I say ‘That will be lovely’ or ‘Yes, that’s a good idea’.

I said, early on, within the first few days, or, rather I wrote, that I don’t come with any baggage but I do come with two dogs. I recognise, now, that this is not entirely true. I come with the baggage of 20 years. Not bad years but years all the same. I can’t erase that and nor would I want to. I come to care less and less about V and, by his actions, I recognise that I have already been relegated to ‘someone he knows’, soon to be ‘someone he knew’. It doesn’t anger or upset me since it is where I want to be too. But I’m not yet in that state of belonging to somewhere else or, rather to someone else and I want that even if I don’t say that and instead say ‘we each have our lives’ since, really, I don’t want that at all.

But, then, I never wanted that although now, after two relationships, I don’t have the jealousy of ‘excluding’ anyone else from our ‘inclusion’. Our inclusion should not be exclusive to us. But, still, I want our inclusion. It’s not like he does any of this purposefully – at least I think not. He, too, comes with baggage. He, too, is wondering – at what point do we say – next year; the next ten years; a lifetime? I think. And I’m ‘the silent type’ – from his perspective. Not silent here, just silent in ‘real life’.

Elton John is Gay!

Apparently, Elton John is gay!

He has, apparently denied it. In fact he goes further. He gets married and, unfortunately, can’t have children. Or, maybe, his wife can’t. It’s a great shame.

He shared a room with another man and has put himself in a difficult situation since he had put this other man on the staff.

Obviously, someone who is so rich and, anyway, because of his job, should have had separate rooms, chose, instead, to sleep in the same room as another man.

Only someone told on him.

He didn’t do it just the once either.

It’s disgusting, that’s what I think. And to prove everything, here’s a picture :

William Hague or Elton John with obvious gay lover

Whoops! Sorry, I meant William Hague, not Elton John.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, I always thought he was gay. It doesn’t make him a good person, you know? His voice is irritating for one thing. If I get to meet him in a gay bar in Milan, I can assure you that if he tries to chat me up I shall immediately rebuff him. His voice is THAT irritating. Anyway, I have F.

Is it Elton or William? Anyway, in either case all applies. When William ‘comes out’ in a few years, there will be some people who said ‘I told you so’.

The ordeal of the beach

One of the reasons I like this blog is it helps me to analyse things. Well, I mean to say that I actually analysed this whilst talking to F, to explain about ‘why’, but the blog and writing something means that I analyse it in a more structured and clear manner (although you may not think so).

So, in this case, we must go back (ahem) a few years to before I was 14. Every year, my parents would take us on holiday for a couple of weeks. We were a quite large family. 6 in total. These were the days before package holidays and before everyone flew off to become like lobsters on a beach where people resembled a tin of sardines in the south of Spain.

We were well-off but not so rich that my parents could afford a holiday abroad for them and four children. Instead we had a caravan. Originally a four-berth, when the two younger children were old enough, the caravan was ‘extended’ by means of an awning. There would be the ritual of ‘packing’ the caravan, trying to get the weight balanced so that it made towing easier; the packing of everything that would then be unpacked the other end and then repacked at the end of the holiday to be unpacked again at the journey’s end. The packing and unpacking seemed, to me, to take days. Then there was the ‘putting up’ of the awning. I never really worked well with my father. We never ‘connected’ when it came to doing things. If he wanted a screwdriver, you could be certain I was holding a spanner. If he wanted something holding, you could be certain I was holding the thing that wasn’t necessary. Instructions from him were a little like Italian is to me now – to my ears. The middle brother always got it right (when he was old enough) and I always got it wrong.

I hated the holidays. Well, that’s not entirely true. Some things I did like. I liked bacon for breakfast and the smell of it percolating through the caravan and outside; I liked it when we picked mussels from the sea-shore and brought them back and my father would cook them; I liked building, not just sand castles, but whole walled towns on the beach – well, until I was about 10 or so.

And talking about that, let’s talk about the beach. The beach was like a mini-caravan-holiday but in just one day. First there would be the preparation. We would be taking the deck chairs or sun loungers, the changing robe (made by my Mum so you can imagine it looked like an old curtain), swimming costumes and towels, the windbreak, food (in the form of bread, stuff for sandwiches, butter, knives, bread board, plates, etc., etc.), buckets, spades and so on. This would all have to be packed in the car, and then we would all squash into the available space in the car and be driven to the beach.

On arrival, we would enter the beach. For me, once we hit the beach I was thinking that we could stop just there. But no! My parents didn’t like being near all the other people. We would have to go where there were less people – some several miles and hours along the beach from the entrance. OK so I exaggerate a little – but when you are 10, five minutes seems like an hour. Worse still, I was the eldest boy. My siblings were my sister (18 months younger than me) and my two brothers who were several years younger than me. So, you can imagine, with all this stuff, I had to carry a lot – and I loathed it. Worse still, I knew this had to all be carried back at the end of the day!

Then, having picked somewhere out of the way of everyone else (now, of course, I realise this may not only have been for their benefit – maybe, having four kids who fought and squabbled, it was for the sake of the other beach users too!), we would have to put up the windbreak, put up the loungers or deck chairs and then wait as, one by one, we used the changing rode, to get changed – me having an absolute morbid fear of being seen naked by anyone (perhaps that’s worthy of another post sometime) and the idea of my naked body being only a curtain away from being seen by everyone at the beach was almost too much in itself.

And then, of course, this was the UK – so no guarantee that it would be sunny or, for that matter, even warm! No, apart from the sand towns that I built, I remember nothing really good about the beach.

Fast forward then to about 22 years ago.

Our first holiday together. V (only having been to Jamaica once) had never been on a holiday like the one I was taking him on. We had been together a few months. I chose Italy. I chose Sorrento. We had a glorious holiday. But, at that time, I really liked to get a tan. One day we went to ‘the beach’. I knew nothing, of course. Sorrento, being mostly built on high rock, bathing was by means of jetties at the bottom of the cliffs. To get to these one had to be staying at the hotel or to pay for the privilege. Since V couldn’t swim (and I wasn’t that good) it seemed a waste – and I had never paid to sit on a beach in my life! We traipsed to the only free beach that we could find, some half hour out of Sorrento.

We got to the beach and it was fairly quiet. Not too many people. I went for a swim. V didn’t. I sunbathed – V was covered head to toe (using my shirt to cover his head) as, at that time, he used lightening cream to lighten his skin colour and didn’t want the sun to make it darker. Aside from the fact that it made us look a weird couple, it wasn’t really that enjoyable. I don’t think we ever went to a beach again (although we probably did, just not in summer).

Fast forward, now, to the year before last or, maybe last year. Best Mate came over. She wanted beach. We went to the Ligurian coast. I really wasn’t keen. Firstly, it had been a lot of years since I had worn swimming trunks in public, secondly I wasn’t a good swimmer, thirdly I was as white as white can be and fourthly – being on the beach would be boring and I would get too hot. In addition to all that, I was aware, by now, that one had to pay to get on most beaches in Italy! Pay? Are you MAD?? I pay to lie somewhere that’s too hot; that I’m bored with, within about an hour; to lie next to (and I mean about 5 inches from) someone that I don’t even know??? NO WAY!!!!

We found one of the free beaches. Small, pebbly, uncomfortable, I did the bit for as long as I could take it. I didn’t go in the sea. I was ……. uncomfortable and hated it – but I did it for Best Mate – as one does. I was so grateful when we left the beach.

Fast forward again to last October. I met F. F’s idea of the perfect day was a day on the beach. This is a problem, I thought. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that, I have to go with it. If I really hate it I can always say so ……. I suppose …… maybe.

I realised, when we got to Carrara the first time, why his perfect day was a day at the beach, in the same way that my perfect day is a day in the countryside, walking through woods and fields. It’s where we grew up and it’s what we remember or are used to.

I will be honest, I was filled with some fear. He had seen me naked and I have no problem being naked in front of him – but this would be naked in front of loads of other people, some of whom were his family. Well, not EXACTLY naked, but near enough.

In addition, it would be boring. And, as I can’t see without glasses, I wouldn’t be going to the sea; and I would get too hot; and everyone would be too close; and I wasn’t that bothered about being brown; and….. ; and…….

Should I wear my trunks or not? What about a towel? What about money and the mobile phone? What do I do, how should I be, what should I expect? There were many questions – mostly I didn’t ask them. Yes, I should wear my trunks; no, don’t take your wallet, just 50 Euro or so; yes, take your mobile phone, of course.

I wasn’t shaking but I was nervous. It was almost like going to the dentist.

We go to the beach on which his sister has a place. She has it for the season. She pays about 2K for it!! We walk down to the beach, through the car park. I’m sure the Italian coast is really lovely to see but you can’t see it from the land – not like in the UK where you have a promenade, overlooking the beach – to take in the sea air, to look out over the ocean. Here, jostling, side by side are the private beaches. You can’t see them from the road – the beach is behind a building – the building housing changing rooms; a bar/café/restaurant, shower block, bathrooms, etc.

We walk down the gravelled car park, past the toilets, the showers and the changing rooms (although we stop at his sister’s to drop off our shorts and T-shirts). I am naked or, rather, I feel naked. And white. It wouldn’t be so bad if I were see-through – then no one would see me. Now they will look at me, see this old man with this crap body and, probably, point and whisper and laugh and I SO want to run back.

I follow F down the footpath. We aren’t even at the beach yet. I just know that I am going to hate this day but I must do it – for F, for me, for us. We get to the bar. F asks if I want breakfast (it’s about 10 a.m.) and I say yes. Anything to delay the final bit of getting to the beach and it gives me time to observe. We get cappuccinos and a cream-filled doughnuts (our favourite breakfast). We go and sit down in the seated area. F explains that the area just behind us is where everyone goes to play cards later in the afternoon, after lunch. The area behind that is where people who’ve brought their own food, go to eat. This area is where the people who buy food from the café eat.

Everyone (there are not so many people but more than I would like) is brown. I feel more white than white. I do note, though, that not everyone is attractive with a great body. In fact, they are many shapes and sizes. I do feel a little better. My body isn’t THAT bad and, although white, for a 50-year-old man, at least it isn’t too saggy with too much ‘floppy skin’.

Apparently, there are no spare ‘umbrellas’ for hire. We shall have to go and use his sister’s. It’s OK. They won’t be there until the afternoon. I prepare myself to be bored to death. At least we won’t be paying for me to be bored, so that’s something! We walk down to the umbrella. Not just any umbrella but a specific umbrella. F knows where it is. They are not 5 inches apart, as I suspected but a reasonable couple of feet apart. Each umbrella has one lounger, one chair and one deckchair – except his sister’s where there is no deckchair but two loungers.

The umbrella is up. We arrange the loungers and chairs so that we can lie in the sun. I look around (but carefully, so no one sees me). Hmmm. OK, there is no one really near to us. the umbrellas near us are empty of people. I look at the people in the distance. Apart from being brown, as if they’ve been on the beach since May, I muse that people look better with clothes on.

I take some sun. After about half an hour, I am too hot. I have to do something about his, if we are to be here all day. I decide to go to the sea. I tell F. I walk down the wooden board walk thing to the beach. It is busy at the beach but not as bad as I had thought. I go in. the water is cold. I wade further. I note that there aren’t that many people actually ‘swimming’ which is good, since I am not a strong swimmer and, anyway, I can’t bear getting water in my eyes (even in the shower). I swim a little – breast stroke and on my back – before coming back out. I am cool now so can stand a bit in the sun. I get back to ‘our’ umbrella and stand there, being dried by the sun.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the sun. It provides heat and I love the heat, as you know. It’s just this boring bit of lying there like a pig roasting on a spit that I don’t really like – but, I have to admit, this isn’t so bad. We didn’t have to carry the loungers down and the umbrella was there and open for us.

F decides to go into the shade of the umbrella. I stay in the sun for a bit. I read my book. F listens to music on his iPod. We both go to the sea. He wants to stay as long as me – about 15 or 20 minutes. Suits me fine. We go back to the umbrella. He suggests a game of cards. He has taught me to play his favourite games. We play them. I read a bit more. I also go into the shade of the umbrella, being a little bit red.

Some woman comes to say hello to him. She is from two umbrellas down. They played cards together last year. She is about 60 or so. We play cards with her. Another woman comes; she is about 45. She joins us in playing cards. I think – it’s nice that all these old people want to play cards with us – that is, until I realise that I AM one of these old people!  His niece comes and talks to us. She doesn’t play cards. This beach, I learn, at least this area of the beach, not far from the sea, is used, mostly, by locals. These people are friends of his or his sister. It is very pleasant being on the beach, under the umbrella, playing cards and chatting (well, they’re chatting – I’m mostly listening).

B arrives (his sister). She talks. He has jokes to me that it takes her half a day to reach her umbrella as she has to talk with all the people on the way down. She continues to talk. We all go for a ‘swim’ in the sea. For most of them, this means wading out until you are neck high in the water and then chatting. This is quite enjoyable, I think. If this is what it is like, I can do this!

This is what it is like. I can do this. Actually, I like this. I had forgotten that I really like to be brown. It makes me feel good. I had forgotten that I like the sea. When I first met V, my solution to everything, every ailment was sun, sea and good food. Here, I am getting all of that. I feel good.

I now understand the reason for paying for the beach. Here you have all the facilities (including a shower by the water’s edge). There’s no lugging of stuff, no searching for your ‘own’ area, no traipsing miles just to get an ice-cream! People aren’t packed like sardines, they don’t stare at me because I am whiter than white (or not so as I notice).

A few days later I speak to Best Mate. I promise her that, next time, we go to a paid beach and that I’m cool with it now. The ordeal is over. Now beaches are for relaxing, reading, playing cards and talking with friends, interspersed with dips in the sea. It’s OK.