I imagine moonlit nights. I visualise men in tuxedos and ladies in dainty high heels. They step onto speed boats that are waiting in the canal beneath a quaint wooden bridge that leads into the hotel they have just exited. The white surf makes a trail of wings that drift apart as the boats motor towards the open sea. My car rolls across the bridge and onto the island that is the home of the boutique hotel L’Ile de la Lagune in St. Cyprien. I am creating a scene that is a little too James Bond, but, it is really very James Bond-ish around here.
Palm trees appear taller; the air exudes a pleasurable scent; the earth feels more tended. Stepping out of the car, I am no longer walking, but I am gliding towards the front entrance. I float around the spacious reception and admire the decor. I glide past a vintage motorbike that is on display. Men hover around it looking like magpies wanting to collect more shiny objects that will adorn their nests.
I want to sink onto their sofas and play with their giant-sized chess set or browse through their coffee table books. I have a desire to order a cocktail and sit on the bar stool next to a baby grand white piano and think about nothing at all. The place has a jazzy feel to it, and it’s no surprise that jazz singers entertain here on weekend nights. Alas, I have no time to loaf around as I have pressing business to attend to for I must eat, drink and be merry.
The patio area outside fills up almost immediately as post-lockdown has a flurry of people running amok going out. There is an unhurried feel about the place, and yet the service is gracious and friendly. Champagne swirls in my glass and appears as though it is taking the bubbles from the air. In the soft evening light, we chin-chin and take in the garden party atmosphere.
The lingering sun looks at us. I am used to its motion, seeing it rise and go now. I wonder about the journey it took today when it transmuted from grapefruit to orange that is about to peel itself into the darkness. I am in the company of a French couple who remark how unsettled the weather has been in June. I have no idea what they are talking about. I thought that the weather was spectacular! I loved seeing all the clouds drift around as candy pink candyfloss in the evenings. And there was one day I felt a cloud got confused and believed itself to be a great submarine in the sky.
I had no idea that we were under the blanket of misery they spoke of. It’s true, there was often a tropical feel to the place, but I like the threat of a storm. In this heat, the sound of distant thunder brings a sense of adventure. When I mentioned that I went swimming every day in the sea, they stared at me as though they were in the company of a real Viking.
We talked more about our theatrical weather. I thought of all the monsoon climates that I experienced in exotic places. A few nights earlier, I strolled around by the lagoon and looked into the cloudy, murky water. Two siren-red lights were floating on the water. I remembered a moonless night when I took an excursion in a small rowboat on the Amazon. I had been piranha fishing during the day (a routine tourist activity in those parts). The body of the boat lay low down in the water that I had an urge to let my fingers trail along in the water, but I knew that if I let my hand slip down to scud along the muddy water that l would never play the piano again.
Suddenly, the guide held a finger to his lips and hushed us. I do believe that I stopped breathing; after all, we were in the jungle in the dark. The air was still. Two bold red eyes on the tip of the surface of the dark water moved slowly coming towards us. Right behind that pair of eyes appeared another. Blood red eyes made a train and came, one after another, and all eyes filed past us in a line. In the Amazon, there is a species of crocodiles known as black caimans; that was the moment we were introduced.
When I saw the two red lights in the waters of St Cyprien the other night, I assumed that I was having an Amazonian relapse. Quickly regaining my senses, I assured myself that they were plastic eyes that were there for some boating purpose. I didn’t mention to the French couple I was dining with that I imagined that I encountered two crocodiles in the lagoon just beyond. Some fantasies are best kept to oneself.
Dinner at the Almandin restaurant was like music, the rhythm perfect, the senses delighted. To start, I had a purple cauliflower served in a dish-shaped orchid. The dilemma in the evening lay at times in my thinking I didn’t want to disturb the beautiful display on my plate. We had fish for our main course, and I couldn’t see them, but I knew there were fishermen just across the lagoon. I knew that they would be taking up their spots, as they do every night. They leave the car boots opened up, as though the fish might leap from the water and land directly into the rear passenger seats, which would, doubtless, save a lot of bother. Often the family support group come, install themselves and have picnics, music and beer. They make an excellent job of working and enjoying their feast.
My mind drifted back across the water to the dinner table and our conversation which had moved onto my friends’ love of the l’Almandin restaurant’s new chef who had the misfortune of arriving just before lockdown. My friends are regulars. I imagine this restaurant has a lot of devotees. I already wanted to go back, and I hadn’t yet finished my main course. The dessert was the stuff you want in recurrent dreams. The wine was like having dollops of amber land in your mouth.
I crossed back over the bridge and fell back into gliding homeward.
Life has changed a little since we opened up again after lockdown. People still wear masks, but I like to imagine that they are smiles behind those masks.
That evening in L’Almandin restaurant was like having a sweet dream that I didn’t want to wake from.
So, the time has come to enjoy life again.
Indulge. Treat yourself. Savour the moments.
We all benefit from happiness.