Sunday Short Story – 1200 – Sunshine Break

‘I don’t care where, as long as there is a beach and sunshine…. Make that a decent hotel with a pool and a private beach…  any country that will let us in and let us out again… no I don’t care if we have to isolate when we get back, working from home is no big deal.’

Ben scrolled down the computer screen, Tina was right, they were both desperate for a holiday; two weeks away and they would worry later about getting back.

 It was bliss; by the pool, on the beach, al fresco dining and the staff were fabulous, glad to have guests and so few guests Ben and Tina were given plenty of attention. They were more relaxed than they had felt in years, their worries left at home. Ben had suggested leaving their phones at home as well, but Tina thought that was going a bit far. They would need the internet to sort out the return journey, but a good compromise was to leave phones and iPads in the hotel safe, along with their passports, as they didn’t trust the staff, plus a few bits of Tina’s jewellery in case a local business person invited them for dinner.

 So far the only locals they had met were the staff, but they were enjoying the novelty of spending time together, sauntering through the grove of trees to the beach with its quaint collection of fishing boats and locals mending nets. Or they could look up at the rolling hills that were the backdrop to the gleaming new white hotel. This was a real get away break, no television, no news, no discussions of climate change or Covid. Perhaps tomorrow, their fifth day, they would hike up the hills or venture into the local village, if there was one. They would have to ask that friendly waiter, who had a good smattering of English, what lay outside the high hotel walls and how you actually got out.

The sunset that night was a delight, Ben was almost tempted to request the night manager to open the safe so he could get his phone out and take an Instagram shot, but Tina insisted no digital image could capture the rich reds and dark streaks in the sky.

They woke late the next morning, surprised the sun was not streaming through the window. Out on the balcony the sky looked dull and the sea had lost its sparkle.

‘Perhaps it’s going to rain,’ said Tina ‘does it rain here?’

‘No idea, the air doesn’t feel damp, in fact there is a strange scent in the air, I can’t smell the sea like I usually do.’

‘It’s very quiet this morning Ben.’

Ben felt an unease; it was always quiet here, but now it was silent, unnaturally so. He felt that tingle in his spine that told him he was outside his comfort zone, he had an urge to be reunited with his mobile phone. He chivvied Tina to hurry so they wouldn’t miss breakfast.

Their footsteps echoed on the marble staircase and as they swept round the curve they saw the snooty elderly couple who had not exchanged a single word with them. Now they were poised expectantly at the foot of the stairs.

‘Hey ho, nobody on the desk’ said the husband.

‘And the dining room is empty’ added his wife.

‘It’s late, we slept in’ said Tina, ‘we must have missed breakfast.’

‘No, completely empty, no sign of life, no food, no indication anyone had breakfast.’

‘Ben, there must be something wrong, what shall we do?’

‘Forage in the kitchen’ said the old chap.

‘I don’t think things are that drastic yet,’ said Ben ‘the staff are very attentive, I’ll ask the manager what’s going on.’

Ben strode over to the reception desk as if someone would pop up instantly at his approach, but there was nobody there. He skirted round the desk and rapped loudly on the door of the office, no response. A hefty push sent the door flying open to reveal the empty office and a computer with a dark screen. Ben fiddled with the keyboard and the mouse to no avail, the old chap laughed as he tried the light switch on the wall.

‘Power’s off by the looks of it.’

Ben was staring at the very solid door of the safe. The manager was the only person allowed to open it, but where was the manager? If there was a crisis Ben wanted to get Tina back to the airport and home. Without their passports and phones they were stuck.

‘Right, there must be some explanation. Tina and I will search the grounds you two check the rest of the hotel.’

Leaving the air conditioned building they knew instantly what was wrong, the air had a dry crackle, an acrid scent. The sky over the sea had a thick haze and as they turned to look up at the hills real fear gripped them as they stared at the glowing crest.

‘There must be an evacuation plan’ said Tina.

  ‘I think love the evacuation plan has already been carried out, but it’s okay, that private beach is a godsend.’

Ben was saved from heroically rescuing the old couple from the hotel building, they were already stumbling out on to the terrace.

‘Are you certain nobody is in the hotel?’

‘Certain, bloody staff have deserted us.’

‘Forgotten,’ said Tina ‘or perhaps about to come and fetch us, they’ll be down on the beach organising the evacuation in all those boats.’

 She patted the arm of the elderly lady, proud she was keeping calm in an emergency.

As they trekked through the grove, ash was already floating down. The beach seemed much further away, they could have done without the slow old couple Ben thought to himself.

 ‘Reminds me of that time we were stuck in…’ the old man tried to wheeze out the words while his wife shook her head to silence him.

On the beach, clear of the grove at last, they instinctively turned to look up at the hills. The flames were marching down with a speed that seemed impossible. Relief that they were well clear of the hotel was short lived as they turned back to look at the beach and the sea. There was not a single boat in sight, with the ever darkening sky it was hard to tell if smudges on the horizon were boats, but the churned up sand and foot prints leading from the trail through the grove to where the water lapped the beach, indicated a hurried departure by a good few people.

‘They’ll come back for us,’ said Tina ‘we’ll be safe by the water, have you two got your phones, ours are in the safe.’

‘No, it’s on charge in our room, not much help if the power’s off…  no reception here anyway, we’re on our own… he started to splutter his words as the air thickened.

A loud crack made Tina jump and grab Ben’s arm. No one spoke as they watched the flames take hold of the grove, behind it the hotel gleamed white for a second before being engulfed in flames and smoke.

Friday Flash Fiction – Desert Island

You can read last week’s tale here, or just catch up with this week’s story. Friday Flash Fiction – Island | Times and Tides of a Beachwriter (tidalscribe.com)https://tidalscribe.com/2021/03/05/friday-flash-fiction-island/

Cassie stood on the small jetty apart from the others and tried to think clearly. At Christmas she could never have imagined March would find her on a deserted Scottish island, leaving behind pandemic lockdown England, leaving behind a secure job and home in a busy town. In the two months of careful preparation she had anticipated this moment and the challenges the next year or so held. What she had not expected was to encounter a problem even before they had stepped off the boat. The spiral of domestic smoke drifting against the clear sky signalled that they were not the first to set foot on this island for over a year. They had been told that no one had lived on the island for decades.

She turned questioningly to Sam and was surprised to hear a chuckle rising in his throat that soon turned to laughter. The skipper still had one foot on his boat, a reminder that the break in the weather was not going to last and he was staying only long enough for them to get their kit unloaded. Sam’s dog was already exploring the beach.

‘Why did none of us think of this? How many people with a boat might take the opportunity to escape the pandemic and enjoy the freedom of a desert island. There’s hundreds of uninhabited islands and who’s to stop them?’

 Cassie found herself joining in Sam’s amusement, though her laughter was tinged with hysteria.

‘You mean some millionaire has their luxury yacht moored round the other side of the island?’

‘A millionaire would be happy to stay on his yacht and not need to escape to an island’ butted in Sam’s son.

‘Could be refugees from England who arrived in a rubber dingy’ said Sam.

They all turned to the skipper, who hadn’t uttered a word yet.

‘Well dinae look at me, I hae not set foot on this island fer five years and it were a godforsaken place then. None of yer fancy scientists’ projects ever came to anything. I told you I’ll give you a month afore yo’re wantin to come off. Now are you goin to come back wuth me or will youse get to know your new neighbours?’

As Carrie heard herself saying ‘Of course we’ll stay, we’ve come this far…’ Sam spoke up.

‘I shall be staying, I’ve nothing to lose, but Cassie and Lucas have to decide for themselves.’

His son laughed. ‘I’ll not give Ma and the auld man a chance to crow over our failure, I’m staying Dad.’

Cassie felt doubts creeping in before the skipper had even cast off. How would an office worker, a homeless scientist and a teenager cope if the inhabitants did not want them to stay? But as she tried to look nonchalant carting her one woman tent onto the beach she was confronted by a naked man stepping from behind a rocky outcrop. An arm appeared from behind the rock handing him a towel, but he was in no haste to cover himself up.

‘Can’t a couple come down for their daily swim in peace and who the hell are you lot?’

Behind him a heavily pregnant young woman was having difficulty protecting her modesty as her towel flapped in the wind. Whoever these people were, thought Cassie, island life must have made them tough if they could stroll naked down to the beach and contemplate getting in the cold sea.

Lucas had a broad grin on his face as he dropped his heavy kit bag in the sand; safely on dry land he had recovered from his sea sickness. Mocking their English accents he exaggerated his own Scottish baritone.

‘We’re supposed to be here and youse are not, but it seems you are weell settled. Is it jus the twae of youse or nearly thrae?’

‘Just us, we ate the others.’

‘Only joking, I’m Jack and this is Alice, come on up to the croft. I hope you have tents, there’s not much room, but Alice will be glad to have the company of another woman, especially when her time comes.’

Alice had not offered her opinion yet and Cassie had the horrendous thought she might be expected to deliver a baby, she knew nothing about childbirth and had no desire to find out. As they followed Jack, Sam was unfolding their official map of the island.

‘You won’t be needing that, we know every foot of this place.’

Lucas was full of questions, including what food supplies they might have as his appetite had returned.

 In the tiny croft they were all grateful for a cup of tea and Cassie relished the smoky taste. Jack let them explain their plans before launching in to a colourful tale of how he and Alice came to be there.

‘…so that was the end of our sailing round the world avoiding the pandemic, the boat just about made it to this island and at least we had the charts and the radio so we knew where we were, even if nobody else does. I realised I had been here before when I was at uni., trying to set up a bird watching project.’

‘But could you charge your phones up and all that’ said Cassie vaguely.

‘For a brief while, till all the boat’s batteries were drained, but there’s no internet access here anyway.’

‘But we are supposed to keep in touch with base and do Zoom meetings’ said Cassie.

Alice came to life at this point and laughed. ‘Cassie the city girl, hey are you two together?’

‘Yes, no… we haven’t known each other long and yes I guess I am a city girl, but I don’t like shopping and I’m a bit of a loner, so I knew I could do this. There are more groups coming when they’ve done their isolation, we were worried Lucas would be bored or lonely.’

‘Well he won’t find any Girl Fridays here,’ laughed Jack ‘but he won’t be bored. We three chaps have got a lot of work to do, fix the boat, build some more crofts. And plenty for Cassie, do you know how to butcher a sheep, not that I’m saying the girls have to do all the cooking…’

‘What…  sheep, no, I mean I can cook, but we are getting supplies every few weeks…’

Lucas laughed. ‘I can shoot and butcher venison, so sheep no problem, but is this island supposed to have sheep?’

‘All that’s left from past inhabitants I guess, we’re doing them a favour, keeping the population down, same as you do with your deer on the estate.’

Cassie wanted to get out of the croft, wanted to talk to Sam on his own, it was hard to take everything in.

Sam winked at her then turned to the others. ‘Me and Cassie are just going to check on the dog, you show Lucas where we might set up camp.’

Outside they wandered down a narrow track between rocks and heather, Sheba nosing ahead, looking at home already.

‘We’ll be okay Cassie, we wanted an adventure, we can still carry on with the project same as we would have done and we’ll get our own croft built, there’s certainly enough rocks around. This is real life, no more working for MPJ, no more lockdown.’

‘I keep wondering if we have been set up, are there TV cameras hidden, like one of those awful reality shows that I never watch?’

‘Could be worse, like one of those horror movies where everyone ends up eating each other… hey it won’t be long till the boat comes again and here we are, we’ve really done it.’

Friday Fiendish Flash Fiction – Digital Dialogue – Sunseeker

Characters:

Sebastian A. Tan, Sunseeker boat owner

Christina Da Santa, B.B.C. reporter

Joe Carpenter, B.B.C. cameraman

 

Setting: Poole Marina and Poole Harbour

 

Joe: Which berth is it?

Christina: He just said look for the largest boat; we should recognise him from that photo in Dorset Life.

Joe: Yes, he looks very distinguished.

Christina: Pity more men his age don’t look after themselves so well.

Joe: (chuckling) Maybe you’ll be in with a chance, quite fancy him myself.

Christina: I’m very happy being single now, anyway, I thought you didn’t fancy older men.

Joe: Exception that proves the rule, he’s a gay icon apparently.

Christina: Oh, talk of the devil, there he is; what do you reckon Joe, straight or gay?

Joe: He looks all man to me!

Sebastian: (Calling out) Good afternoon, welcome to the ‘Hidden Depth’. Allow me, it’s tricky if you are not used to boats.

Christina: (flustered) This is Christina Da Santa at Poole Marina, on board Sunseekers’ newest and biggest boat. I’m here to interview Sandbank’s newest resident. Mr Sebastian A. Tan has agreed to an exclusive interview. Good afternoon Mr. Tan.

Sebastian: Please, call me Nick, all my friends do and I’m sure we shall be friends Miss, Ms, Mrs.? Da Santa.

Christina: Call me Christina, please; are you settling in, have you met the neighbours?

Nick: I love the area, but the neighbours are a little ‘standoffish’, that’s what you get with ‘new money’, no class.

Christina: Have you always loved boats?

Nick: Yes, I love the freedom, do you fancy a quick spin?

Christina: If Joe can hold the camera steady, I’m up for it.

Nick: I’m sure a strapping young man like Joe has a steady hand, he can film you in the wheelhouse.

Christina: (breathless) This is fantastic; if viewers fancy skimming over the waves at these speeds, a boat like this will cost you more than a house.

 

We’ve weighed anchor now, with a lovely view of Studland Beach; no other boats nearby, time to have an in depth chat with Seb… Nick.

What is your new house like?

Nick: Magnificent, worth every million.

Christina: So are you officially retired now?

Nick: I hope not, but business has been quiet; or rather business has been so good, my influence is hardly needed, I feel quite redundant; a feeling you will be familiar with soon!

Christina: (tersely) I wouldn’t believe what you read in the papers.

Nick: I sympathise entirely; if you think you feel discarded in your fifties, imagine what I feel like in my millions. Still, mustn’t grumble, it’s even worse for HIM. People these days just don’t believe in what he has to offer, don’t believe in HIM at all. Now my package, they have taken up whole heartedly, I should be pleased, but somehow I’m bored, no challenge.

Christina: Does this mean you are able to spend more time with your family?

Nick: (snorts) I’m no family man, over rated business; marriage wouldn’t suit my busy social life.

Christina: Would you describe yourself as a ‘Ladies’Man’?

Nick: (winks) Not just ladies, had a bit of an eye for the ‘Greek Gods’ in my time, still got an eye for young cameramen.

Christina: (taken aback) Well, we’re all open minded these days, would you describe yourself as bi-sexual?

Nick: (proudly) Omnisexual. My dear, I haven’t offered you a glass of wine; it should be nicely chilled by now, you’re looking a bit hot and flustered. I’ll go down below and fetch the glasses.

5

Joe: Wow, what do you think.

Christina: He has the most amazing piercing blue eyes!

Joe: He sends shivers down my spine.

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Nick: Cheers, here’s to a successful documentary.

Christina: (embarrassed) It’s only a little slot in News South.

Nick: Surely I’m worth an hour, you are coming to film at my home as well, I assumed you were both coming to dinner.

Christina: Oh… er …this wine is divine.

Nick: Very good vintage.

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Christina: We went so fast just now, we couldn’t film; Nick is just tying up at his private mooring. There’s a bit of drama going on, the lifeboat is just going out to rescue some teenagers in their kayaks, they weren’t prepared for the wake from our boat, Nick said they shouldn’t have been in that part of the harbour.

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Here we are inside Nick’s beautiful home.

Nick: (chuckles) Yes, one would never guess that only a few months ago, all that was here was an old bungalow belonging to a couple of pensioners.

Christina: Do you like to cook?

Nick: I love hot food.

Christina: Viewers, I have to say, this is the most delicious food I have ever tasted; if only we had ‘teletaste’. No more wine for me or Joe, we are working.

Nick: (suavely) Perhaps it’s time you both went off duty.

Christina: Well… first tell the viewers what this fantastic recipe is, the meat is rather like pork.

Nick: Secret recipe my dear.

More fiendish and fun tales here…

sunshine-blogger

 

 

Silly Saturday – How to Cheat at Travel

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Visitors from all over the world come to visit this place, Windsor, Royal Berkshire. What to some is the holiday of a lifetime is a train trip of six minutes – if you happen to live near Slough railway station. You cannot get lost because there is only one stop, the train travels all day long between Slough and Windsor and Eaton Central, curving round to cross the River Thames. The elegant station was built so Queen Victoria could come by train to Windsor Castle.

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The station is busy with tourists and has plenty of restaurants and designer shops, so you will feel as if you are on holiday. Windsor Castle lies before you as you step outside, but perhaps you will be having so much fun on holiday in the station you won’t bother.

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But if you consider it is not a proper holiday unless you cross the sea, why not sail to Southampton.

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Take the ferry from the little town of Hythe in Hampshire. Check first on line to see if there are any ocean liners in dock, you will get a great view from the little ferry and it is much cheaper than going on a cruise.

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Hythe Pier, 1881 A strong, light iron pier, 2,100 feet in length…

The railway is the oldest continuously operating public pier train in the world. You can walk, cycle or take the train to the end of the pier and the ferry takes only ten minutes. Stroll out of the ferry terminal and you can explore parts of the old city wall or walk up the road into the centre of Southampton. If you want to shop or go to the cinema there is the Westquay centre with Ikea close by. There are large parks, museums, a university, the lovely Mayflower theatre and a concert hall.

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But if you want to feel as if you are abroad ( and you are not lucky enough to already be Swedish ) just stay all day in Ikea and stroll amongst the wonderful ‘rooms’ pretending you are visiting your Scandinavian friends. Buy all sorts of things you didn’t know you needed and have no idea what they are, but just like reading the interesting Swedish labels. When you tire, visit the restaurant which also has views over Southampon Water and the ocean liners. Soon it will be time to embark for the return trip across the waves.

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Enjoy more travels at my website.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-five-beach-writer-s-blog/