Clement weather ahead, I bound out of my bedroom and lunge across the continent. In poor, broken Greek I ask for directions to the nearest beach and all arms point south. I drop in to a restaurant named after a cat known as Marguerite and nibble cured meats as the sun struggles to set. A familiar man, in socks and sandals, named Gerald boasts of his sexual prowess as he stands with a drink in one hand and a cigar in the other; Marguerite – the cat – finds this distasteful and we scowl in synchronised magnificence. A group of bohemians offer us a lift to Vienna, I take it but Marguerite needs to stay and cook the books; the group tell me their names but I forget before I hear them. We, somehow, have fresh mussels at every meal, but only half a can of cider for the entire trip.
After arriving, I fish for smelt in a pond and catch nothing but gold-plated watches. Grooving in a moonlit grove, they all speak with their impish tongues, twisted. My convictions are weak and I steal their car so I can reach the Atlantic before autumn arrives; I leave a note to say sorry, but to enjoy the whirls – and I’m gone.
Somewhere near Strasbourg I am confused as to whether I am in Germany or France, nobody takes my Marks, nobody takes my francs. I motor on, there are almost always clouds in the skies. A chap names Marius wants a fresh start, out east, so I give him the car and tell him where to drive, it isn’t quite as east as he wants to go but I assure him that the most wonderful times are to be had there. I hope Marius makes it.
I follow one road until I can follow it no more and ask a pale, olive-skinned boy if the sea is near but he shakes his head. I ask the pale, olive-skinned boy if he knows which way the sea is, then, but he shakes his head again. I am shooed like a crow by a mob of villagers, they tell me the sea is nowhere near here, that I shouldn’t even be asking about it.
I cry a little, sitting in a tree with my new crow friends, trading stories of the Atlantic over a warm bottle of, already substandard, fizz.
The next morning, I find myself stripped naked and fizzless, with a cast iron boat hovering above my head. I climb aboard, my exposed flesh sagging, staining the landscape. The crows are aboard with a suit made of gold to match my watch, I dress and we sail – merriment, once again, ensues. We reach the silver Atlantic one day before the sneaky autumn and we spend the day painting it as a messenger of the gods, or a hearty stew, or a ruminating page from a long-lost tome. We breathe it deep in to the most minute fibrous crevasses of our lungs, then I say that’s that. I pass my golden suit and watch on to the crow with the least appalling plans and flutter back to England in time for elevenses, a spot of tea, and the soothing sound of the tick-tock-ticking clocks.