On holiday recently in the Algarve, Portugal, it was warm in the sun. My wife and I ‘sans enfants’ sat by the pool of our hotel. There was a cool breeze and it was very pleasant to sit there for a while, drinking ‘Vodka Sunset’/coke. The breeze became a little chilly and so we moved and went a little way away from the main pool and found a sheltered little spot by the kiddies paddling pool. Being term time there were almost no children around the complex so we sat for some time just the two of us watching the ripples across the empty pool.
A mum and her little girl aged about 4 arrived at the main pool. The girl went paddling. We noticed her because she was naked. I think it would be difficult not to. To our British sensitivities, priggishness, and it being pretty much the anniversary of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance we commented on it between us.
The mum finding the main pool to be too cold brought the girl to the paddling pool, right in front of us.
So we faced a dilemma. Should we move away. It was embarrassing to have this little girl with no clothes on in front of us. But we were there first, we were out of the wind, in the sun. The mum brought the child whilst we were sat there and she didn’t seem at all bothered. The little girl was not bothered in the slightest. At this point I might have put a picture in here to break up the text and make the page seem a little more interesting, if I was talking about something else. But to have taken a picture of Bella would have been illegal and totally wrong, wrong in every respect because it would have been impossible to truly capture the magical moment without contaminating it, so this marvelous picture will have to do instead.
Beauty lasts for ever………
I still feel uneasy as to whether it was right for me to sit there whilst Bella played.
Maybe we should have moved on, or said something, maybe the mum should not have put us in that position, I do not know. No harm was done. We stayed. Had I been by my self I would have moved, maybe the mum would not have brought her. I was uncomfortable because I am a man, no, more than that, I think I am a gentleman. The rules and acceptabilities of England are questioned when in foreign parts, such is the joy of going abroad on holiday.
She was a delight. She was beautiful, perfect, she was herself and free, unencumbered by expectations, or shame, or shyness, or what people might think. She stood in the pool like a nymph. She lifted the water up in her cupped hands and threw it into the air where it fell upon her like golden rain in the sunshine. She stood lifting up her arms to the sun and sky standing there in a perfect pose just delighting in the warmth of the sun. Never has a child been so aptly named.
Occasionally she would dive under her mum’s T-shirt and get dry and warm by the side of the pool, cuddling and taking comfort and warmth. She would then re-emerge like a newborn and go back into her pool, smiling and laughing out loud as she re-experienced the chill of the water. It was not a sexual experience for me in any way, it was natural, delightful, free, and a mind picture that no camera or film could ever capture. A memory I hope to treasure for some time.
Eventually Bella and her mum went. We returned to our room and balcony and read a while in the early evening sun.
In the next room and balcony was a couple. They were loud. They were clearly aged in their sixties. They were from Glasgow, or near by. They had been drinking. A lot. They argued, laughed with that heavy smokers crusty wheezy cough. There was some guttural language exchanged between them, which seemed unintelligible to me apart from a few words with four letters. At this point you wonder, will they kill each other? Doors were slammed.
The next thing seemed to be the sound of some moaning and groaning, and swearing. Now, should you look around the balcony wall or over the wall, just to check whether the person was alright? We didn’t. The moaning became louder and more four letter words were said and it became apparent to us that there was some kind of activity, perhaps normally reserved for the bedroom, happening on the next balcony. Do you say, “can you keep the noise down, we are trying to read”. or cough politely so they know we are there, ignore it, think about it? laugh at it, pour a bucket of water over them?
It felt to me as though we were intruding, It was certainly uncomfortable for us. Not least because they were so clearly enjoying themselves with reckless abandon. But they were being natural, free, unencumbered by expectations, or shame, or shyness, or what people might think.
We went out on our balcony first, surely they must have known we were there? We were doing nothing wrong. If they wanted to do that whist we were there why should we be embarrassed. But we were.
We went in off the balcony and headed for the bar, leaving them to it.
It was something I do not want a photo of. It is a mind image I would love to erase, but thanks to Bella I have a much nicer mind image to try to remember.
What is beautiful and what is ugly, what is treasure and what is repulsive and why? I can’t control what happens, and situations do present themselves where I have no idea as to the ‘right’ thing to do. In the light of day and with hindsight it can still be hard to think what else I might or should have done.
There are some things I have seen and heard in my life that are so hard to forget, good and bad.
Like the images in my mind of what I saw when in the police force 30 years ago that still haunt my sleep, or watching my son die after being shot in the head and turning off the life support, or the man who got run over by a lorry, or the look on my parents face when the doctor told me I had testicular cancer. They are still fresh and horrific, some still make me feel sick to my very core, these bring me down, I wish I could forget them.
The few moments of extreme joy, like the birth of my kids and the look on their faces when they are presented with some token gift or award, or seeing Bella play, lift my spirits, and I need so many more of them to heal my mind.
The next day Bella had a costume on. Innocence was lost. We talked loudly to each other on the balcony. The Scots went inside…….