Saturday, 28 November 2009


By late morning the following day, or perhaps it was the same day, we had arrived on an empty beach somewhere east of Tangier. The weather was rather overcast, but at least the sea looked reasonably calm. Omar’s eyes betrayed his utter exhaustion, and we didn’t feel much better after very little sleep.

‘My brother will come later, we must wait again till dark.’

‘Thank you, Omar’ Jess said warmly.

‘You are extremely kind’ I added.

‘Not kind. I am always seeing my first born’s face drained of all colour, and that fat pig laughing.’

He left us alone again to fetch some food and water for the crossing to Spain.

‘I hope this brother knows what he’s doing.’

‘We don’t have much choice’ I replied.

‘It’s not too late to get a ferry from Tangier.’

‘We can’t risk it, they could be on to us by now.’

‘We’ve done nothing wrong !’

‘I don’t fancy trying to explain what’s happened.’

Jess lapsed into silence, and I could see that all confidence in our ‘escape’, which sounded like an overly dramatic description, had been lost due to overwhelming tiredness and anxiety. I gazed into the murky distance, attempting to gain some solace from the gentle movement and sound of the waves.

After about an hour Omar returned with some fresh bread, cheese and olives, along with some fruit juice and water. He looked remarkably cheerful and calm, as if we were just a couple of tourists on a day trip from Tangier.

‘Please, don’t worry, my brother knows a quiet place near Algeciras; no patrol there, you can land with no trouble.’

We were both cheered by Omar’s positive attitude, and the food that tasted so wonderful after a long and uncomfortable night. It was not far across to Spain, and I didn’t know whether you could see the other side on a clear day, but it felt as though the gap was wider than the Atlantic.

‘Put your faith in God and the Prophet’ Omar said, with a big smile that showed his crooked and stained teeth.

It was still just about light when Jess woke me hours later from a deep sleep, and I immediately saw the blue fishing boat, which was quite large and not unlike the open fishing cobles at Filey.

‘We’re off soon’ she said, with a faint smile.

I watched Omar talking to his brother, and they were even laughing and joking, which seemed extraordinary in the circumstances. I realised just how large the gulf was between their simple faith and the complicated neurosis of my own troubled mind; despite the murder of his son, Omar had somehow retained so much joy.

‘Come now’ he said.

We walked forward down the gently sloping, warm sand, and his brother just smiled and nodded as we clambered aboard.

‘Thank you so much’ said Jess, but we were already leaving Morocco behind as the powerful engine gained speed.

‘Put your faith in God and the Prophet’ Omar shouted after us.


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