Sunday, 2 September 2012

Thoughts at the close of summer

Summer is closing. Not officially, but you can feel the shift of seasons in the air. About five days ago, I reached for a tee-shirt in the grey light of pre-dawn, then pulled a sheet over me. I was cold. Such an unfamiliar sensation.

There's no definitive end to the cruising season, but when we called into Bozuk Buku on our way back to Marmaris, there were fewer big shiny boats tied off to the shore, and no flotilla packing out the restaurant pontoon. We overhear Europeans asking each other how long till they go home. School goes back in France next week.  On our dock at Netsel Marmaris marina, where we are waiting the arrival of Barb and Andy this evening, people are cleaning the barnacles off the bottom of their dinghies, washing and drying their sails, regretting the need to pull out clothes after two months of wearing nothing but a bikini. We wonder how long the beach-side restaurants in isolated bays and coves will stay open. The end of September?

In another life, one with jobs, and children, and mortgages to be tended, the past 10 days of cruising would have been enough. More than enough. We would have gone home tanned and salted, well rested and well read, delighted in our boat and in each other. We were conditioned for hard work in those days, well worn into our harnesses, and a lump or two of sugar every now and again was sufficient to keep us perky. Now we guzzle down boxes of the sweet stuff. We are utterly spoiled, good for nothing except adapting to local conditions, watching the passing parade, and keeping our boat afloat.

In these benign conditions, you find yourself thinking a lot about two things: first, that time passes, and you cannot stop it, and second, that so much stays the same, and you cannot stop that either. I'm reading about Syria, as much as I can (particularly liked what Jon Lee Anderson wrote in the New Yorker), and feel sad and sick about the unstoppability of people murdering and torturing each other for a cause. What cause doesn't really matter in the end. History records the effect, and the cause blurs into every other cause. In this magnificent landscape we're sailing around, with the possibility of a ruin around any headland, I often imagine the steep rocky hills buzzing with hordes of men - Greeks, Persians, Byzantines, Turks - chasing each other with spears in their hands, their crazed brains infected with killing virus. Amongst the bees and the pines, and under the same sun which prompts women to shed their clothes for two months.

At Keci Buku, perched high on the rocky islet (above) in the middle of the stream, are the ruins of a Byzantine panic room, a place for a last stand, built a thousand years ago. As we sailed slowly up the coast toward Marmaris on Friday, we were passed by 21st century Turkish forces patrolling a coastline which as a submarine travels probably doesn't seem that far from Syria's Mediterranean coastline.

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