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The Warp

Phillip in Majorca (1)

It was a nice edition of Horace, though littered with misprints, Pickering’s edition of 1822. As he read it, beneath my future father-in-law Phillip’s feet, in the fishy belly of the Viscount, lay softly his 210 lbs of excess baggage, classical texts, the ‘Anatomy of Melancholy’, his sunhat, a new gun and goggles for underwater fishing, and a specially ordered crateful of anti-mosquito lotion, which the retired colonel who managed his Majorca estate had asked him to bring as it had been forgotten when the main stores were sent out.

Leaving the airport, leaving behind the jabbering officials and pickpockets come up for the season from Andalusia, Phillip tried to loll back on the hard seat of the landrover that had been driven to meet him. After an hour they were circling the ancient walled town of Alcudia, breasting a rise and the dark-rutted sea became visible beyond. Four kilometres beyond this they turned into a smaller road, surfaced with dust which rose up in clouds behind them. With a sigh, Phillip caught sight of his home, Al Canada.

An old whitewashed finca, with a vine trellis in its courtyard, it had an old well on a terrace said to have been built by the Romans, and was backed by poplar trees. Beneath the vine his old friend Robert Heber-Percy was waiting to meet him with a glass of gin and citron.

Phillip shook hands with Robert in greeting, laughing nervously, then went to the edge of the terrace and watched the slow circling lines of wash in the distance where Nell and Serena and their friends were water-skiing.

‘Have a quick change,’ said Robert, ‘then I’ll drive you down to join them. Serena’s been here some while. Nell came yesterday.’

‘Yes, I’m pleased she got here all right,’ said Phillip. ‘That’s good.’

Robert smiled at him, and Phillip spilled some of his drink.

‘How’s the racehorse?’ Robert asked.

‘Alright.’ Phillip smiled.

‘Got a girl coming for you later,’ said Robert.

‘Oh, how alarming,’ said Phillip. He climbed the marble stairs to his bedroom, stood looking out at the bay as he slid off his suit and changed into baggy blue swimming pants, which had been laid out for him on a chair, then settled an orange bathrobe on top of his white body.

Robert was not to be seen when he returned to the terrace, so he walked down by himself through the hot afternoon to the shore.


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