Back near Tarragona with a lumpen pack and feet wrapped in sturdy boots, I realised I had been looking for La Pobla and had taken a wrong turn at the junction with the twenty-four hour garage. Left, along the bend, ’round the ringroad and when I sat down I realised I was still in Spain, where the scenery, strangely bare to a body used to the lush hills of merry England, becomes more beautiful by the day.
Funnily enough, as Tarragona loomed into view it didn’t matter I’d taken the wrong route, and my city of dreams felt a shade more like home in the white cold of a Mediterranean dawn. The Mediterranean Sea is known in Latin as Mare Nostrum, and translated and coddled just right it becomes not just Our Sea, but Our Mother, the Ocean.
Closer to Tarragona I felt wistful and sat me down in the shade of a mad inspiration to heat up some lentils I had found near a skip — all good, in jars and fresh — and sat there in the layby by the bins sipping a hot coffee while tucked up warm in my sleeping bag.
There was a moment I recall, somewhere in Germany, in a field frozen solid with snow and ice, under a low platform that could have been a leftover something or other but was made out of wood and good for crawling under, I was toasting some bread in tinfoil to eat hot rolls with butter and cheese. The pots were simmering, the coffee was brewing and in the tireless cold with my fingers half blue at the ends and the rest of me warm and safe I thought, Life doesn’t get any better than this. I’d been in town for the food and now I could eat.
Life glows with peculiar anomalies, and warmth juxtaposed with cold makes for a fuzzy-feeling factor that’s off the scale. You don’t need much at all to be happy in life, and it’s simplest pleasures become its greatest when we’ve marched along and been somewhat battle-toughened.
The search for the perfect experiment goes on, and if I ever make it back to Alicante I might be able to pick up a new passport. Documents and boundaries serve, but freedom is free for the taking.