by Penny Moon
Once upon a time but maybe not so long ago and not so far from here (of course this depends where you are dear reader at this moment in time) there lived a man called Jack, I know his name well because he was my father and this is the tale he liked to tell, whether you believe it or not is up to you.
Now he liked to take a walk every day when he finished work, and it was always in the middle of the afternoon because it was very, very hot there and no-one but a mad dog or an Englishman, and a giant one at that, would be out in the midday sun. You may wonder where he worked for this too has a bearing on the story. Well now, you may have guessed, it is in a country more blessed by the sun then his beloved homeland, he worked in the Middle East, Qatar for those who like to be exact and Umm Said for the even more particular.
This was in the times long before architects paradise came true and riches beyond the dreams of avarice spouted from these desert lands, frozen into empty phallic symbols of every shade and hue, unsubtle erections of obscene wealth, not that we in the west have done things much better in a thousand years if we had moved from nomadic tendency or sandy fortresses in the space of 50 years who knows. How would we trumpet our wealth I wonder?
But I digress dear reader and we will go back a while when the rough brown scrub or golden sand defined the landscape and those great rippling dunes rolled down to the blue, and wow what a blue, of the Persian Gulf. Might I take a moment to share with you as a child a memory of the harsh climb up the back of the sand dunes, half an hour at least, which was rewarded with a wild tumble of leaping giant strides as I ran helter skelter, slipping and sliding with each sandy step till hurtling down the last steep concave slope I landed in a laughing heap with my father close behind me.
Back to the tale…when the oil industry was just waking up, men would go out and live in mobile huts together to dig, or in my father’s case to keep those who dug cool with air conditioning. They lived about 30 minutes drive from the sea and battered old land rovers were available to use should you want to venture out into the empty wastes. He must have been about 28 then for I was 7 when he got married quarters and my Mum, and 2 year old brother trekked out on BOAC Brittania propellor plane hopping short flights Beirut, Damascus, Kirkuk, Bahrain, we were getting near then. I am twice his age then, interesting to look back and compare ages with your parents, small gods of our childish lives. You must be getting impatient dear reader as I wander through my memory banks but be patient for this is a tale worth the waiting if the telling is somewhat askew (as is indeed using words like askew!)
Daddy loved nothing more then to drive to the sea and on another hour away from everywhere, no fisherman’s Dhows
or old barasti huts for shade,
simply nothing but the empty desert and sea, with shimmering mirages dancing on the horizon. This day he had been told of a possible sandstorm but what is that to stop him, he liked getting away into the emptiness and thought s of his family and his hopes for possible married quarters. Now a sandstorm is no joke, those of you who have wondered why desert dwellers tend to cover their faces will now understand that, whilst it has become a habit it originally was a very sensible idea..if you live in the desert of course..shopping malls are another story entirely.
Now he walked and walked and forgot about the time. The water was absolutely still like a blue mirror and the tiniest of wavelets chuckled onto the beach.
Dear reader we are back in the story , do focus!
After a little while he began to feel uncomfortable, as if he was being followed, so he looked around and there was nothing to be seen so he carried on, Jack the Giant Englishman, Royal Marine striding with those long legs and now beginning to feel a little nervous. Maybe the storm was coming on, maybe he needed to turn back but still he carried on. The wavelets almost sounded like a child laughing and he thought about his toddler son Erik and when he would see his family again, and he turned around and nothing was to be seen.
He decided it was best to go back, he had walked a long way and even though he was 6feet 4inches in his bare feet, a man without fear this strange laughter was beginning to make the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. He turned and walked back along the shore, sand damp and cool and soft when he saw tiny footsteps in the sand walking into the sea, they had been following him all the way along the beach. Frantic, he called out and searching the horizon, how could he possibly have missed seeing a little child? But the water remained still, becalmed, no ripple, no memory and now very frightened he ran very quickly all the way back to his land rover. With a sigh of relief he climbed into the driver’s seat, and let his heart beat quiet down. He drove quickly back to base and asked had anyone heard of a missing child but no matter who he asked no-one had heard anything. The mystery of the desert held onto its secret and this dear reader is the tale,. If you have got this far I congratulate you wandering around the labyrinths of my mind all those years ago.
Yet the desert draws us back, but empty, I wonder with those with eyes to see and ears to hear just how empty is it!
And I myself and me still love to walk along the edges remembering my brief yet beloved father whose fisherman’s blood runs salty in my veins too or is it just the wind in my hair and the salty taste of the air and wild waves crashing that I love so much?.