There is an elongated seat made of stone, set in front of the Lagoon Beach Hotel, facing the Atlantic Ocean; where I often sit and observe the confluence of fresh water and salt water and marvel at the resulting maelstrom. I have enjoyed watching seals dive through the waves and forage on shoals of sardines, no more than fifty metres from the shore; whilst in the lagoon itself, men stand knee-deep in the frigid water and cast their nets, in a scene that could have come straight from the Bible. I once observed a whale there too; basking just behind the breaking waves.

It is the place where I fell in love with the sea.

A man in a red wind-surfer politely asks if I don’t mind if he sits down beside me on this same seat?  “Please do,” I reply and he does so with difficulty and a deep sigh of relief. He looks sixty-something, and is well-built; with an orange and blue-striped shirt underneath the red jacket, and a grey baseball cap pulled tightly over his head.

I had encountered him an hour or so earlier on my way around the Lagoon. We passed each other on a narrow, concrete path, where the lagoon mouth opens wide, and leads the eye to where the Diep River enters the sea through a time-worn channel of sand. I had acknowledged him with a curt nod of the head – and was met with a vacant stare.

We sit for a while in silence, getting used to each others’ presence. The continuous, cinematic, wave-after-wave, surging towards the beach holds my attention.

His phone rings, and he enters into a conversation in a language unknown to me. To give him privacy I look away to my left and follow the path of a container ship making its way slowly towards Table Bay harbour with the assistance of two tug-boats. The massif of Table Mountain, dominates the skyline – so near and yet still so far away – whilst the sphinx-like monolith of Lions Head and Signal Hill sits contentedly, and the sprawling city nestled below dips a toe into the water.

The animated phone-call continues and I wonder if it isn’t time to move on, as I have a long way to walk, but decide against it as it would be construed as rude.

Besides – I am warming to his personality.

I always feel a deep sense of ‘oneness’ when conversing with my fellow man, whether it is with a checkout lady at the local supermarket or – like now – with a perfect stranger. It is one of life’s pleasures and one never-knows where it might lead?

My companion volunteers that he is from the Middle East, and has recently settled here with his wife, although the rest of his family remains in the Lebanon. He is in fact seventy-four years old, and a recipient of open-heart surgery – which compels him to take daily walks – come rain or shine.

He takes great pride in telling me that his father is “precisely” one hundred years old, and in glowing terms, narrates some of his father’s earlier exploits – which could easily form the plot for a best-selling thriller to rival that of ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’ It is a tale of intrigue, betrayal, and a daring escape from almost-certain execution; of King Ataturk, the (crumbling) Ottoman Empire, a British spy, and the King of Libya; and I realise that this is no ordinary family, but the continuation of a royal lineage.

It conjures up images of a civilization of immeasurable depth and timelessness, and inspires me to want to learn even-more of its history.

My companion pauses, and apologises for getting “carried away” with his father’s story, but I reassure him of my interest. He nevertheless returns to the present and we exchange further pleasantries, until a cool breeze puts a stop to it and we part ways with a warm handshake sealed with respect.

Perhaps my initial greeting did have an effect on him after all.

I certainly like to think so.

About The Author

Stephen Bennett

Stephen emigrated to South Africa with his wife, Belinda in 1981, on the strength of a photograph of the Johannesburg skyline,silhouetted against a magnificent sunset.In that defining moment, Africa and he became one. He has viewed the world from the top of the Empire State Building and the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. A lifelong commedian with the fastest wit on earth, and whose secret to longevity is House music, he has enjoyed more than 25 years in various sales environments and is now an artist, freelance writer and public speaker.

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