'Look at that blue, Peter. The sky and the sea are the exact same calm, blue …Heaven!’ The car turned the bend into the ferry-port and Peter joined the lane for the ticket checks. Laura-Ann had her window down, taking a video for Instagram. It was a marvellous day.
They had breakfasted at the cabin after packing their holiday stuff back into the boot. Jamie and Pamela, exhausted by an early morning run with Peter to the beach for ‘one last swim’ had fallen asleep in the rear even before the chalet manager had waved them off down the holiday park drive. It was not long to go from there to here at the ferry port. It was not long to go till the ferry arrived and swallowed them up in its mechanical belly, only to spit them out once more into the reality of the ‘mainland’.
‘Ferry’s not arrived yet, chum,’ the hi-vis’d man in the booth called, stating the obvious. ‘Just pullover to lane one and join the queue, cheers!’ Peter parked the blue estate where directed and turned off the engine. The wait would not be long. He looked at Laura-Ann and smiled. Taking off their seatbelts in synchronicity, as if they had practised a routine, they alighted the car and stood together at the rail above the rocky beach. Ten or twelve other vehicles were parked-up in front of them, and more joined from the road they had entered on behind them as they stood there. An ordered yet peaceful scene.
‘This could be our happy place, Peter. The kids have never had the opportunities to run around back home as they have here.’ She took her feet out of her Birkenstocks and leapt to the first bar of the railing, holding her arms out like she was in Titanic, without the breeze.
Despite the calm day, despite their seeming oblivion mere moments ago, the kids were awake within five minutes of their stationing the car. Laura-Ann was down on the foreshore, looking for anemones and periwinkles, crabs and spoots; Peter sent her a text and took the sleepy adventurers across to the small row of shops by the ticket office in search of ice cream. It was mid-morning and holiday rules still applied whilst on the island.
The sun beat down from a cloudless sky. The family sat together on the grass on a car blanket halfway down the village seafront. The staff at the pier had said there was no problem leaving the car in the queue, in fact it made things easier if people didn’t try and bring anything out of the stack. Just to ‘make your way back down here as soon as you see the ship on the horizon, folks.’ Pamela had cut her heel on a piece of broken beer bottle whilst playing in the long grass, so Peter was cleaning the wound with some swabs from the family first aid kit before making sure it was well bandaged. It wasn’t a deep cut, but ‘what the hell was a broken beer bottle doing there anyway?’ It seemed that one family’s idyl could also be a stag party’s booze-up, or a golf group’s weekend away from the wives, or whatever. The deep red blood oozed from his daughter’s foot and he felt queasy.
Laura-Ann was pointing out different shellfish on her phone to Jamie. She had photographed everything of interest she could see. The whole of nature laid before the pair of them on the crisp digital screen, flicking from one mollusc to the next. Scrolling through the ‘driftwood’ folder to find the one that ‘totally looks like a dragon… Raar!’ Jamie, the younger of the two, occasionally had an urge to just run around, and he would just struggle-up mid-sentence, run around the perimeter of the large tartan blanket once or twice, then back once in the opposite direction, making a strange noise somewhere between gurgle of joy and gurgle of confusion, then plonk himself back down, ready to resume the photo parade. The sun beat down from the cloudless sky. The blue of Space lighter at lower angles, deepening towards the black beyond the atmosphere as you gazed higher, away from the here and now.
The staff at the pier had heard nothing. They had heard less than nothing. For some reason there was no communication with the mainland. The internet was down for everyone – which apparently was not so unusual when you are over 30 miles from the next nearest place. The telephone, too apparently, was down and again this had not caused alarm in the locals who were used to being somewhat cut-off from the everyday. But they had heard nothing.
A haze hung in the blue. Whereas before, when they had arrived at the pier this morning, they could see the mainland, could make out the individual fields and the flow of the hills and woods over there, see the white dots that marked-out the towns along the coast, now the haze obscured the view. The blue of the sea and the blue of the sky, and between them the indeterminate powdery blue of a heat disturbance in the air. Jamie was crying in the back seat because Peter had told him ‘no more ice-cream, not now,’ and Pamela had joined him, because she didn’t like it when Jamie cried. And her foot had begun to ache really badly where it had been cut, though she hadn’t yet told her parents this. Laura-Ann had suggested they get back in the car and make a plan with the air-con on.