ONE GLORIOUS morning on the spectacular island of Mahe the photographer, John Garrett, was dressing. Ridiculously early, I strolled along the silver sand before starting work and had the idea of paddling a little. Nothing brave, mind you, like letting the water come above my ankles. I took off my socks and let a small bubbling wavelet sweep over my toes, and back again. I went a little further out. I was up to my ankles, now, and confident. I walked, and swished the water a little. It was pleasantly warm – seductive, really. I pondered on the subject of mermaids.
This spell was broken when I trod on an upturned, broken beer bottle. The water swilling round my foot was red. Without howling (mermaids love that sort of thing) I walked, rigidly casual, up the beach to my hut. John was pulling on his socks. He spotted me and asked if I was OK – I seemed to be limping. I reassured him that I had only trodden on a broken bottle and would just put a handkerchief round it. But he became assertive and I ended up in hospital with needles being thrust into me and smiling tanned faces explaining that tetanus was a nasty thing to have.
The following morning I got up at the normal time and dressed and wondered why John hadn’t appeared. He was usually up before me, cleaning his lenses and fiddling with light metres and things. I stopped outside his hut and called. A groan came from within. I investigated. He was flat on his back.
‘Paul, I’ve done my back in,’ he growled. ‘Sprain. Nothing much. Be up in a minute. How’s the foot?’
After a few days of hobbling along, he wincing at back pains and I with foot pains, we both improved. Both foot and back grew more reasonable and work continued. But we developed a morning greeting. ‘How’s the foot?’ he would say. ‘How’s the back?’ I would reply. We made a happy couple.
I was moved to write this because, three days ago, I sprained my back. Standing and lying down are the only really comfortable positions. Sitting is OK for half an hour, but no longer. And getting up from the chair is sheer hell, with hot darts being thrown exactly at the spot where it hurts most. The days seem much longer.
And now I need the loo and I have to get out of this chair.