Waves crash and a faint thrumming passes through the soles of my shoes. Black basalt rocks split grey-green water, revealing its bright opaque turquoise heart. A second later, and it is frothy white, erupting over the top of the front line of volcanic rock, spilling and foaming through any available space.
People pass. Snippets of conversation: ‘… then you sauté the mussels …’ ‘… ma, tesoro …!’ ‘ … don’t want to live in Milan because …’ A mother and daughter walk past, mother hugging daughter’s shoulders while the girl hunches under the weight. La mamma is all in white with honeyed blonde hair, as glamorous as can be. Her daughter is lumpen and awkward, long dark hair draped around her shoulders, wearing the teenage uniform of too-tight skinny jeans and hoodie, teamed with oversized trainers. Mamma is grilling daughter on her lovelife. ‘…you don’t want to see him any more?’ ‘No, I don’t!’ Mamma sighs.
A Fiat Panda draws up behind, playing a loud, bland remix of an eighties song. ‘It takes a strong man, baby, but I’m showing you the door.’ Heavy bassline obscures the melody and it takes a moment or two to work out why the lyrics are so familiar. A rap cuts in. The boys in the car don’t get out, but sit, windows open and music blaring, until a phone rings. The music is snapped off and replaced by their plan for later. ‘Are you at home, yeah? We’ll be there in 10 minutes.’ The phone is flung onto the dashboard and the stereo returned to its former levels as the boys lean back in their seats and roll cigarettes.
Fishermen congregate on the seawall, rooting through brightly-coloured cold boxes in search of bait. Or maybe lunch. Seagulls float overhead, making the most of the sea breeze and keeping a beady eye on the food situation below.
The Fiat’s door slams, shaking the car. The driver comes round to the seaward side of the car and lights his carefully-rolled cigarette, cupping it in the palm of his hand. The tang of marijuana fills the air as he passes it back through the passenger window to his friend.
An old man wheels his battered bike along the sea wall at a snail’s pace, stopping every few yards. As he passes the various fishermen he peers into their cold boxes, checking out their catch or lack of it. One circuit done, he parks the bike with care and potters over to the nearest fisherman. After a short, animated conversation, Old Man picks up a seat pad and bumbles back to his bike before laboriously settling himself down next to it to regard the waves.
A family of three park up. The daughter, aged about four, totters out of the car. She is already bundled to the max against the weather, but Mum adds a scarf for good measure. Daughter staggers to the railing and gazes, transfixed, at the waves. Her parents have a hard job persuading her to leave the view and follow them. ‘Come on, let’s go down the steps!’ Daughter follows reluctantly, still gazing seawards. They make their way along the beach to a large rock which has been painted to look like a giant ladybird. Dad carries Daughter along the uneven, stony beach, pointing out different sights as they pass. Mum trails behind, splitting her attention between her mobile phone conversation and her camera.
A middle-aged woman settles herself on a bench, her bright yellow scarf wound firmly around her neck. Pulling up her hood, she fishes a book out of her bag and wriggles into a more comfortable position. Her face creases with concentration as she reads. An ill-timed page turn coincides with a large gust of wind, and she wails briefly as she loses not only her page, but almost the entire book. Clutching the book hard and regaining her composure she turns away, curving her body to shelter the book from any further breezy attacks.
Another family comes onto the beach. The children, a girl and a boy, are older than ladybird girl. The girl runs on ahead and clambers onto the biggest rocks. Her little brother follows, but can’t keep up. Her red jacket starts to disappear into the distance and he calls for her to wait. She throws a glance over her shoulder as if considering the wisdom of this, and seems to decide that it will be more fun with than without him. She scrambles back to fetch him.
A black cat slinks out from behind a rock and begins a fastidious grooming procedure. In the distance the little boy calls to his sister, startling the cat and leaving it suspended mid-lick, one foot in the air and tongue hanging out. Realising that it’s been seen, it glares balefully at the nearest human before stalking to a more sheltered position. Never underestimate the ire of an embarrassed cat.
Big sister has abandoned both red jacket and little brother, and sits kicking her heels on top of the ladybird, holding court for her adoring parents. Li’l bro, meanwhile, is still struggling happily over rocks too big for him to climb without resorting to hands and knees. Crawling, and in dirty jeans, he’s in his element.
The smell of fried fish wafts from an open door. There is a passing glimpse of a chef preparing the evening meal, blue and white chequered trousers pulled up high over large paunch. A pudgy hand, belying its appearance, reaches deftly into a large tray of dark fish and flips one out onto the table. Quick as a flash a knife appears in the other hand and slivers into the fish’s flesh.
The door closes.
Images by Haikeu and Kate Bailward