Monday, June 19, 2006

Laughter lines

At the risk of receiving‘Judith Chalmers’ accusations, I am just back from another holiday abroad. Since my return I have tried, but failed abysmally, to describe it to my friends. I fear my written attempt will do it as little justice as my spoken account, but I’m going to try.

I went away to endeavour to improve my basic kite surfing on the turquoise Red Sea in Egypt. My first visit was 2 weeks after the bombs last year. Much as I thrive off exploration and adventure I also love the reassurance of returning to familiar pastures. We were greeted by old faces as if we had never left, another home from home in a foreign land.

The heat in Egypt is intense and relentless, but bearable due to the complete absence of sweat inducing moisture in the air. It is a burning, dry heat. The wind was howling and the masters of this extreme sport were a joy to watch. They leapt and span and flew through the air with a grace belied by their tanned six packs!

For a mere novice such as myself, it was too much to handle. I was beach bound for more than half of my trip so threw myself wholeheartedly into the equally dangerous pastime of extreme sunbathing. I might not have improved my kitesurfing skills, but I sure as hell have a tan.

All of this was incidental. We enthused that it was one of the best holidays we have ever had. The hotel, the scenery, the food, the surfing and the nightlife were nothing to write home about. The highlight of the past seven days was something you can find on your doorstep, if you look, it was the people we met.

As we waited for the gusts to fall out of the wind, we bantered and bullied in a manner reminiscent of my schooldays. Late 30’s, early 40’s we were foolhardy and free of inhibition. But there was a difference from those playground days. A subtle and sophisticated humour was whipped up and blended with a crass baseness only reached by boys with beer in their bellies. By day the heat kept the alcohol from our veins, but the company intoxicated us into a frenzy of hearty laughter and happiness. I relaxed into someone I haven’t known for years and I laughed until my heart was empty of pain.

As the sun fell quickly into the milky sea so did our daytime veils. We opened our souls to share the perils and pains of previously unknown lives. We sat up late into the musky darkness drinking rum and finding more common threads than we would ever have imagined. The fireman who knew, first hand, what trauma was. We had both travelled the same black journeys, discovered unexpected terror in our minds and were here to tell the tale and share these magical nights. The journalist who had lost friends in Baghdad. She quenched my thirst for knowledge about the middle eastern turmoils with first hand experiences I could never have found through my obsessive research.

It was a week of unparalleled laughter and joy, coupled with intelligence and depth. As someone said ‘it’s the best holiday I’ve ever had, I can’t believe I’ve met a bunch of people who are as fucked up as me’!

Maybe the humour was fuelled by the ‘fucked upness’ of us all, but for once I am not going to analyse, just sit back and bathe myself in happy holiday warmth.