The beach was a mile long and had twelve people on it. They were all surprised to see me.
I walked up it, ate a sandwich, looked at the sea, looked at the industrial happenings, walked back down.
On the road back out I saw flamingos. I'm sure they were flamingos. If they weren't flamingos they were at least very flamingoid. They were pink and wading, doing that stalking kind of walk, almost in unison.
A well-to-do couple gave me a lift to a roundabout and murmured to each other.
Sylvain was next. I don't know much about cars but I do know a creamy walnut interior when I'm in one. He didn't talk because jazz-funk was blasting hard from the stereo.
At the next roundabout I waited an hour. The minibuses with no passengers are the ones that hurt the most. Someone stopped.
-Where are you going?
-Somewhere small, much better-looking than here, with somewhere to camp and preferably close to a beach.
I couldn't pronounce or remember his name. He immediately began to plan my holiday, saying all the things I'd said out loud, one by one, and hmming inbetween. Then:
-Yes! Carry-Le-Rouet! This is the place! Only twenty minutes from Marseille.
He picked up a pen and looked for something to write on. I gave him some paper. He started to write, with the paper resting on the steering wheel. We were doing 130.
I took the wheel.
He said thanks. The pen wouldn't work. He kept scribbling, the scribbling jiggled the wheel, we were going round bends, it was a good time.
He handed me the paper with Carry-Le-Rouet written on it and dropped me just outside Marseille.
People talk about Marseille like it'll eat you alive. They'll mug your hair.
I got in a small van full of cardboard with Mathieu and we went to Marseille. I could get the train from there to Carry. The sun was getting low.
Camille-ish music was playing. His ex-girlfriend used to work in boots in Bristol. He pointed at the tallest building in Marseille.
-They say Marseille has no very tall buildings, so it must have them, so they are building three. It is shit.
The train was sixty feet above the water. I began to see the beaches Pascale told me about, where the rocks meet the sea.
I walked through Carry-Le-Rouet to the next village, the sea was below to the left, the sun was gone, mopeds were about.
I went down a stone staircase to the water, tiptoed across the rocks, found a sandy section, lay down.
The fishermen came out, hollering, with their headtorches pointing out to sea. You couldn't see their faces, they were lights on legs. Shooting stars happened.
It was an orange morning. My back hurt. I went across the rocks, back up the steps, onto the coast road.
The water was clear blue, it showed everything it contained. The sun came up from behind Marseille.
I went through tiny bays with tiny boats, then long stretches of gnarled rock, no flat surfaces, pencil-sized holes in with many-legged thin things scuttling out. Snorkelers close to the shore, no clouds in the sky.
I reached Sainte Croix. Two beaches, a cliff in the middle, cliffs on either side, small, a red and white lighthouse away to the right, a church to the left. I settled, watched the sandy fun, lots of people were out.
I wished I had a book. As good as the Collins Gem French Dictionary is. Something story-like.
Or some headphones. Or two books.
The church had a bell the size of a football and a no-legged Jesus. It was shut.
The cliff-tops had carpets of pine needles and steep springy paths between the bushes. After dark I slept there. The what ifs came.
What if the sea comes in while I sleep and I wake up in Algeria or next to a massive ship or angry tentacled bastard.
What if two people pick me up and throw me off the edge.
What if a hog starts eating my face.
What if it rains and rains and rains.
What if the wind weaves my hair together with the bush.
What if ants find my nostrils delicious.
What if I get pissed on.
The pine needles were very comfortable.