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Mark Smith

The Cartographer

I’m sat beneath a tree above a sweeping white crescent littered with people and parasols, one of many loiterers surrounding the beach. The colours of the postcard landscape in front of me turn the scene into a French impressionist painting. The street behind me bustles with locals and backpackers. Pastel coloured Art Deco buildings house cafes where people sit outside at tables wearing sunglasses and drinking coffee. The place is a melting pot of culture where many tongues are spoken. My anonymity is bliss. 

    I admire the buildings behind me in my mind as I face the sea. I enjoy taking in the sight of old buildings as a sort of unofficial hobby. Not Art Deco in particular, but buildings that are much older like churches and cathedrals. Modern buildings just seem cold and sterile to me, completely devoid of character. Don’t get me wrong, some new buildings are impressive feats of engineering, but they lack something. Besides, the old buildings here give the parade on the beachfront behind me a quaint European feel despite being 10,000 miles away. 

    To my right skate-boarders glide around the interior of a blue bowl, occasionally appearing above the parapet and grabbing the noses of their boards before disappearing back down again. Behind them lies an iconic outdoor swimming pool and beyond that is the walk which guides sightseers along the cliff-edged coastline. The rocky shoreline weaves frantically in and out in a precise detail, as intricate as a snowflake. The coastline could be a mirage, conjured from a Mediterranean island and along it are rock pools, each accommodating their own totality, perpetuate. Hidden gems, in the form of white-sand coves litter the walk before it reaches the mausoleums and grandiose headstones of Waverley Cemetery. Wherein, lie the remains of Scots, some who came here, lived, and died more than a century ago. The epitaphs read names like Robertson, Campbell, and MacDonald. The cemetery would give the Père Lachaise a run for its money.

    Easing up and out from under the tree, I go for a walk to stretch my legs before settling on a bench on the promenade. It’s funny how I used to look across the sea and ponder what the world that lay beyond it was. I’m suddenly made aware of the realisation that I’m in a place which was once inconceivable. I imagine that I can see right around the curvature of the Earth to where a younger me stands looking back, as twilight begins to drape the celestial sphere and the tide froths and foams. I remember back to what a Canadian man had written in the local newspaper years ago. He was only a few years old when he was plucked from his croft and shipped across the pond with his family to new beginnings. The guy was so thrilled that he managed to get back and see once again the sunset over the horizon, which he hadn’t seen with his own eyes since early boyhood, that he wrote an accolade in the paper. I was told when I was young that nothing rivalled the sunsets of home. Well, this place does.

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