Hacienda above wine dark sea
I was enjoying getting to know Philip better, and his hacienda standing up on the hillside above the wine-dark sea.
Now he and Hildegard had gone travelling down the hot dusty deserted roads on bicycles hired from a hotel in Puerto di Alcudia.
At a discreet distance behind, there followed a chauffeur in a Citroen. When they’d decided to stop for a picnic, he’d get a hamper out of the boot of the car. When they had decided where they’d like to spend the night, the chauffeur went on ahead to book rooms for them.
Most mornings we went out in the Serenella. There was tar on the shore and as we climbed aboard after swimming out with tar covered feet, Juan the navigator would be waiting to help us aboard and clean our feet with rags soaked in paraffin.
There would be a plastic waterproof bag filled with cocktails surrounded by ice clinking encouragingly at the back of the cabin cruiser.
I’ll never forget the mighty roar of those petrol engines as they started up. At the wheel, skilfully, Philip edged it out over the dark waters. He was not an especially happy man but he seemed happier when arranging some complicated expedition. A large number of different methods of transport might be drawn into his arrangements. An old car to take us down to the yacht, a dinghy to get us out to the motor cruiser, the Serenella to take us across the bay, on the other side an open landrover waiting to take us up a dusty track through trees to a monastery. We’d picnic up there and then, returning in our landrover to the water, climb into the Citroen waiting with its chauffeur to take us back home by the overland route.
Besides the Serenella there were smaller sailing dinghies and catamarans. One day I was sailing with the sculptor Francis Moorland, at that time a guest at Al Canada, later to rise to become an international drug
smuggler. The wind grew fresher, waves were breaking over
the long white keels of the catamaran, until of a sudden one of them washed me overboard into the ocean. And here was a problem. For some reason Philip had ordered that rudders should be removed from the catamarans. You had to steer them by shifting your weight backwards and forwards along the keels. Francis was not experienced at this. He turned the catamaran round and headed back towards me. But he was not able to steer close enough to me and shot past, some distance away. He turned the boat again and came back towards me. This time his course was exactly right but as the foam parted in the ocean as he came hurtling towards me I realised that he wouldn’t be able to stop and I had to dive in order not to be knocked out by the keel. When I reached the surface again, Francis was once more far away. Francis now tried to turn the boat again but in doing so capsized it!
I began to swim towards it but, horror, the catamaran was drifting away faster than I could swim towards it. The boat was resting on the water on its side and the upper of the two floats was acting as a sail, propelling it steadily away from me. I realised that the only possible solution was for Francis to turn it upside down so that the keel, level with the water, would not catch the wind.
I was getting tired. I tried to demonstrate to Francis, in sign language, that he should do this. But when I waved my arms to demonstrate, I sank further down into the sea and I began to realise that I might just be going to drown.
At length Francis understood and turned the boat over. It was drifting far less fast now. With the last bit of my strength I swam towards him and reached the boat. Francis headed the boat towards the shore and a few minutes later we reached it. I staggered out onto the white warm, sublimely warm, sand and lay back thankfully.
‘I nearly drowned just now,’ I said when we got in.
‘Why do you have to go out on such a day at all?’ Nell asked.
The wife of our neighbour Stan had a speed boat of her own, and in the morning used to drive out and anchor in some far off bay and sunbathe for a couple of hours.
Stan meanwhile would climb trees. Inching up the side of a palm tree, clutching the scaly husks with his knees, his ascent would be triumphant, beautiful.
He had had a factory for building boats too, and at the height of his success he was building a big yacht, not to speak of occasional dinghies being completed at the rate of one or two a week.
What had been once the old barn at Al Canada was paved now with shiny black and white marble paving stones. A wall had been built round the fire and a roof over it, so that when it was cold one could sit in this enclosed space and huddle round the fireplace, out of those vast howling draughts that swept the place outside.
And many were the expeditions which we went on to the villas of other folk living on the island, and there would be barbecues and plenty of drinks being plied, and one of
the visits I remember best was to Gorigez, the eccentric
owner of the Hotel Formentor in the next bay to ours.
This man, it was said, tiring of his mistress, had thrown her out of the speed boat into waters which he knew to be shark-infested. When a shark bit off her leg, he gave her a replica of it made from solid silver.
Gorigez was to be seen sinisterly trotting through the trees in a sprung wagon which lurched beneath his vast squat form, and was drawn by four stallions.
Phillip had activated many fantasies over the years. He had bought many dogs, prizing this one for its grace, that one for its cunning and a third for its monstrosity. They were watered and fed and generally looked after by the servants through the summer but were allegedly murdered in the winter so that they didn’t have to feed them before his next visit. A dog seller with a fresh selection of dogs would appear when Phillip arrived for the next summer.
I remember other things from those times, lunches beneath the awning on the terrace, the wine, the dappled shadows, those plates piled with mussels, gambas, shrimps.
I also remember the Serenella and how for the moment, if one was on the shore and it hove fairly close, one could hear the roar of its motors and just audible over them the sumptuous music from the built-in radiogram and get a whiff of the cocktails and a sight of that unusual crowd of men and girls.
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