Off The Grid
Arms of the Saint
“15 August 1115 the log for the 37th commercial voyage of the Saint Augustine is hereby set down on an incoming tide, moored and readied” Matthew types on the verandah of Theo’s house. He looks up from the carved metal table over the collection of classical statues which have been randomly set down by removalists and are scattered across the vast lawn, looking toward the vessel which is moored at the far end of the garden. Behind her a blue stretch of water winds away and is a deep channel between mangroves, and in the distance the flickering white horses where the channel meets the sea.
Mick and Toby emerge from the house carrying a large wooden table between them. Matthew smiles politely as they struggle past wearing their new red t-shirts and black flared trousers. The big table has scrolls and boxes, and the men carry it across the lawn and set it down in the distance next to the Saint Augustine. The walkway is hidden by the swell of the lawn, and the vessel and the table look as though they are part of the eccentric and random lawn sculptures.
“1132” he types, “preparation to receive passengers”. And then Matthew rises, folds the computer into it’s case and walks across the lawn, through the statues, without noticing them, to the walkway, along the walkway past the table, and without a glance for Toby and Mick, up the gangway onto the deck of the Saint Augustine. He allows himself a flicker of smile as the giant wooden Cutter tries to yaw slightly under his feet as the incoming tide rises to it’s task. He feels the eagerness to be underway and the vessel strains against the ropes and rubs the fenders impatiently at the mooring pylons.
Mick and Toby go and bring chairs and are followed on their final trip by old Theo who is dressed in a pale pink suit with grey shirt and white shoes. Then behind Theo comes the floating grace of Theo’s wife Kyriaki. Kiryaki is dressed in a drawer-full of colourful silks with a white shalwar kameez beneath, and the breeze ripples against her as she glides along behind the men, the breeze making the silks float out from her like so many flags of nations, and her skin radiates the colour of first press Kalamata olives. Her long grey hair is gathered tight across her forehead in a black mourning band.
They all sit at the table and Matthew unclips his binoculars from his belt and holds them aloft. He waits until Kiryaki looks up and when she does he waves them high and calls to her “Thank you Pizza they are the best” She smiles her white teeth at him and with her hand motions ‘it is nothing’ and ‘you are most welcome’
The party at the table look toward the sound of a motor car arriving. Matthew turns and goes down the companionway with his laptop and plugs it into the docking station. Then he climbs back onto deck and flips open the mini-station “1148 passengers arrive preparing to embark”
He watches as Maria leads the group of passengers from the vehicle onto and along the walkway and Kopu walks behind.
Two women walk together behind Maria. They are both dressed in expensive camping shop gear and the older of the two women has a broad straw hat. The younger of the women has a baseball cap turned back to front. Between them, walking stiffly and formally is a young boy. Matthew notices his awkwardness and determination to walk properly and guesses 10 to 12 years old. The older of the two women reaches to touch his hand and he holds her hand briefly then returns to his ordered march between them.
Behind the two women and the boy, is another woman, very tall and elegant in her walk, very European. She has both a rucksack on her back, and a woven cane bag on her arm. Matthew notices the shock of curly hair bursting out from her overly large tennis visor cap. She is very tall. At the back of the group is a man with a shaven head and dressed in long trousers and colourful shirt of the style Matthew likes. The man seems relaxed in his walk and looks around a lot seeming to ask questions of Kopu who smiles back at him but says little. Behind the whole party are two men with trolleys of luggage.
As the passengers arrive at the table and chairs Maria introduces Toby and Mick who in turn introduce Theo and Kyriaki, and then refreshments are offered. The passengers sit to listen to Kopu deliver the safety on board address. Matthew hears the voice of the young boy interrupting Kopu “what size is the motor? What size is the motor?”
The older woman leans forward and touches the boy’s shoulder to hush him, and then sternly tells him to be quiet and listen. The boy stands and shrugs his shoulders away from her and steps closer to Kopu “I want to know what size the motor is” he says more angrily. The women are apologetic and both rise from their chairs but the boy now turns and backs away then turns to run across the lawn. Toby steps from beside one of the statues and strongly picks the boy up in his arms. The boy stiffens himself and tries to push away and Toby says “I will show you the motor – on board – when we get on board” The boy remains as stiff as a board in Toby’s arms, his sailor jacket rumpled up to his armpits and his face reddened, and he looks hard at Toby and says straight at his face “what size is the motor?”