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Topography of a Journey: Cat Country and Coincidences (#2)

There is certain joy in coincidences. Happenings that seem to coincide without any drama or prearrangement. And of course Mr. Beebe inevitably pops into mind where, in ROOM WITH A VIEW, he explains how it’s not a coincidence that two people meet in a gallery looking at Italian art. Still I think it’s nice to look upon certain things as coincidences. Perhaps the world is trying to tell me something? - Of course it’s always impossible to know what and we rarely really care.

When we were here two years ago we never stopped in the capital Arrecife. I drove through it and happened to take a photograph of a gazebo, while driving. It wasn’t as dangerous as it sounds, there were no cars around so I stopped, pulled up the phone and shot a photograph or two. They weren’t very good, but I really came to love the photograph I managed to pull out of the bad one. It’s the beauty of iPhone photography, sometimes the worst photos are those you can do the most with. The photo of the gazebo later came to be one of the photographs I chose for the THINGS THE DEVIL WOULDN’T DREAM OF collection.

When we set out on our excursion this time around we didn’t have a destination in mind. The beauty about traveling to the Canary Islands in October is that sometimes the weather is so-and-so and it gives you the perfect opportunity to go look at the beauty of the island that you might otherwise overlook in favor of sunbaths and staring into the bottom of a pool for six hours a day while the kids run around on the edge of the pool like headless chickens.

This time our destination became Arrecife.

It was Sunday afternoon. Siesta.

There is a certain satisfaction in walking in a strange city and feeling like you’re alone in the world. There is a beloved children’s story that is often read for children in Iceland about a guy named Palli, it's about how he is suddenly alone in the universe. At first he finds it satisfying, he can do whatever he likes, but he soon learns that it isn’t as much fun as he anticipated. Now I wonder if the prerequisites for the story isn't all wrong.

Going to the harbor and seeing the gazebo felt like a quiet coincidence. Not that it’s strange to find the same gazebo in the same place as it was two years ago but that it would be so tranquil and still while we were there, giving me the opportunity to photograph it (I’m sure I’ll never get the same satisfaction playing with these photos as I did two years ago!). There was no one around and we walked up to a small museum by the ocean to look at two big canons, seemingly alone in the world apart from two kids who were playing in the ocean while their mother lay flat on her back in the sand. The kids looked at us as if they’d never seen people before, only fueling my feeling of lonesomeness.

Then we headed into the city, walked the street that looked to be broad enough to be a center of commerce. There were four elderly gentlemen sitting on a bench, speaking the way gentlemen do - possibly about the state of the world, or the latest football match or whatever it is men like these talk about. I’m sure I’ll never know.

The boutiques were closed, all but one. A cellar store that seemed to sell the usual tourist things you see around here, the devil with the fork statues, the Lanzarote t-shirts, the towels and the voodoo dolls. A woman was standing at the bottom of the stairs leading down to the cellar and her look seemed to plead with us to enter her establishment. It was a look I could only interpret in a dire way, having just started SLADE HOUSE by David Mitchell - a story that completely caught me off guard and creeped me out in the best possible way. The alley in the book could very well be one that we passed in this strange place.

We walked forward, passing the shops that sold thick winter jackets and others that sold clown outfits and devil masks. There was not a single person around and if the shops were closed because it was Sunday or just because it was Siesta I don’t know but it gave a peculiar atmosphere. There was no one around but the cats. There were cats in every corner and they looked at us as if they were guarding the city from trespassers, making sure we walked down the right alleys, or didn’t go down the wrong alleys, I’m not sure which. Some looked up and gave a loud meow, others hardly looked up at all, just lazing in the afternoon heat, keeping track of you without giving you the time of day - it's a cat speciality.

Another fine thing about traveling to such a place in October is the fact that it’s not so warm that I feel like moving into the fridge. I am not a fan of too much heat. In fact 25°C is just about right. Being able to spend the evening on the balcony writing while the moon travels overhead is heaven. When I was here two years ago it was colder in the evenings and I spent it inside, often watching DR WHO, which seemed like a coincidence enough at the time as I had just started watching the series - mostly in anticipation of the trip, it was a way of keeping busy while fearing the flight. The fear kept me up at night. They were showing old Tom Baker episodes at the time and I really loved sitting inside and watching. This time around there is no DR WHO on tv. I was however reading Neil Gaiman’s TRIGGER WARNING when I got here and one of his stories just happens to be a DR WHO story. This place will forever be laced in my mind as a DR WHO place. Whatever that means.

Journeys like this one is meant to be relaxing. You spend time by the ocean, listening to the waves. You spend time by the pool while the kid runs around enjoying the water and the sun. I’m not a fan of either, to be honest and I dread going from cold Scandinavia down here to the heat, having to face my winter body (it's so easy to ignore at home) that never really caught up and became a summer body this time around. I can’t wear the clothes I’m comfortable in (jeans & t-shirt) and so I am forced to confront the extra flabb that’s gathered here and there. “There will be running when I get home,” I say and this time I really, really mean it. I run when at home - but never as much as I want to. I could run here if it weren’t for these allergies that hit me in the mornings, making me look like I’m trying desperately (and failing) to perform some odd Monty Python sketch. The sneezing is relentless.

I do love the time spent with the family, time that’s different from when we’re at home. Waking up in the morning and not having the day already entirely mapped out. I like walking the promenade by the ocean, seeing the other hotels and the small restaurants that have gathered for the tourists. The cats are everywhere and that’s a comfortable feeling, they look at you wondering how long you’ll be on their turf but they don’t mind you being here as long as you play by their rules.

What was a ghost hotel last time I was here is now a bright and jolly hotel filled with people. I was fascinated with it then, not so much now. There is something about empty spaces that are supposed to be filled with people. Schools in the night or empty hotels. Creepy stuff. What fascinates me now is the hotel on the other side of the one I’m at. It’s a palace, and bares the name too and it looks like a crossbreed between modern architecture and an ambitious sandcastle. The pool looks inviting and I envy that I’ve never actually seen anyone swim in it. There is a diving center and a golf course. Neither of which I’m remotely interested in but it still seems very inviting. There are sun beds everywhere and sand colored parasols to match the beds and I can’t for the life of me decide if the beds were once white and have been tainted, tanned with time or if they’re supposed to be that color. Some look worn, others brand new. And then there’s a small artificial waterfall - an icing on the cake so to speak.

Or the icing on the cake is the fact that no one under the age of 18 is welcome there. I long to go there one day, but to be honest with myself - I am perfectly content where I am at the moment.

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