It’s mid-week and warm. We’re in a fishing village, between a sea-blue sky and its beach below, with hardly a tourist in sight.
The name of the small town is Cetara, on the Amalfi Coast.
We sit under the shade of a cafe umbrella and gaze out to sea. There are no crowds, and no urge to do anything other than let the warmth weigh down on us beneath the sun’s dazzle.
Families, mainly Italian and aged from bambini to nonni, sprawl and splash on the shore beyond our table. Sails skip over wind ripples.
To our left there is an excitement of voices. Our eyes follow the sound. A team of camera bearers cluster around a young man in charge.
“Jump!” he commands. Behind us, gentler voices echo his order.
We turn to look. In the shade of an old arch a girl balances precariously on a bollard.
She is around ten years old, and wears dark glasses and a summer dress. Her hand is on her hip, and her chin tilts defiantly towards the cameras.
The order to leap comes again, but still she hesitates. We watch her frown beneath the elegant flop of her sunhat … Sophia Loren? Or child?
She bites her lip, considers her glory, her place on the pedestal … then suddenly she leaps.
She flies upwards, arms wide to the sky. Cameras click in a frenzy, snapping happiness. The girl lands. Her sandalled feet skid to a crumple, she giggles, and stands up to dust herself off.
Now it’s her brother’s turn.
He is a few self-conscious years older. He leans against the inner wall of the arch in a suit of shimmering blue, his bow tie hot beneath his scowl. The camera team try a few tentative instructions. The would-be-man turns slightly, eyes dark in his broad face.
It might be his first communion but he knows how he wants to be remembered.
We turn away … let the sea take back our attention.
Beyond the harbour walls a white yacht smudges against the light. Boys dive and swim.
On the grey-stone piers another small crowd flounces through its communion photo shoot.
The pace is local … and the day is hot. Why move?
The sun blazes off the coloured tiles on the dome of the church of St Peter – a reminder of the bounty and peril of the sea.
We have our share of the bounty – our day of idleness and our ‘colatura di alici‘ – the anchovy sauce for which Cetara is famous. It sits on the table between us, bought from a small shop in the shadow of the grey stone tower.
It’s a tough tower, a bad-tempered, aged fist, built centuries ago to keep out the pirates and Saracen raiders of the Amalfi Coast. It’s easy to see why they wanted Cetara.
There may be scars here, but it feels easy, relaxed … relaxed enough for a stranger to invite me up to their balcony to get a better angle for a photograph of the church.
Thoughts amble through my heat-hazed mind. I move my chair to catch the sun. This is a place to ‘be’.
We do leave … eventually.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2017