Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Once Upon The Seashore

Once upon the seashore, someone found a shoe. Weekend afternoons were good for wanders into the desert or out to the sea. The nights were for clubbing, the mornings - well, the first half of the mornings were also for clubbing. You took your sunglasses with you the night before, because when you staggered out at 6 a.m. the sun was already up and harsh. You got home, slept a while, bathed, ate, and then you were ready to go out and DO something.

So beachcombing it was, this particular weekend: out to look for souvenirs, in the form of flotsam. Technically, flotsam is wreckage or trash that floats, and jetsam is wreckage or trash that stays underwater. But today's flotsam was, in a way, jetsam.

It was a child's shoe. It might have been a Reebok, or a Nike. It must have been a branded shoe. Brands were big in Bahrain. It was a good find, it had a personal touch. The others hadn't found anything quite as individual. It was a great souvenir.

The girl who found it tipped it over to pour out the sand that weighed it down. But then she tilted it back up, just for a moment, and dropping it where she found it, went back to the car empty-handed, waiting silently for the others to return.

The friend who told me this story found part of a seat. It even had a seat number on it. He kept it for a few days but had unnerving dreams about a man he did not know. He believes the man he dreamt of was the person who was sitting in that seat when the plane crashed into the sea just off the coast of Bahrain.

The girl who found the shoe? It wasn't empty, and it wasn't full of sand. It was a child's shoe. With a child's foot still in it. I don't think she goes beachcombing any more. In the desert you can go horse-riding and have picnics and find truffles and live happily ever after.

(August 2000: a Gulf Air A320 crashed off the coast of Bahrain, killing all 143 people on board)

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