End of story

We're lying beside Little-Eyed's pool: Dave, Sid, Veronica, Maureen and me. It's hot for March, even for the Costa del Sol. We're all in our cozzies, on sun loungers, just like it's summer already. I've got an iced drink in my hand. There are mauve flowers out in the tubs. I can see reflections from the pool dancing on the whitewashed wall opposite. And the sun is burning my cheeks already.

It's a perfect, peaceful afternoon. We're catching a few rays. Having a few drinks. And forgetting about Third World debt for a moment. Dave had the pool cleaned early this year and Veronica and Maureen say they are going to chance a swim. They jump in holding hands and splash about a bit and laugh.

Veronica gets out first. "Look at that, Sid," Dave says, loud enough for Maureen to hear.

"The last time I saw anything walk like that, the whole herd had to be destroyed."

"Hark at Adonis," says Maureen, drying her hair.

We continue to lie in the sun. Conversation is desultory. We've all got our eyes closed and our faces turned towards the sun.

"I've been reading the Bible lately," says Maureen to no one in particular. There are no takers at first. Boring subject. But Sid gallantly picks up the loose ball.

"Oh yes, babe?" he says. "What's it all about then?"

"It's hard to say, really," says Maureen. "In the bit I read last night, this woman nailed the bloke's head to the floor with a tent peg."

"On holiday, were they?" says Sid.

"Don't think so, sugar. I think they lived in tents in those days."

Sid must have been giving this some thought, because after a while he goes, "I suppose it's easier to believe in God if you live in a tent." Then after another pause he goes, "What did she kill him for, anyway?"

"Gawd knows," says Maureen. "It's just one killing after another, the Bible. It's like a log book for an abattoir. And to be honest, God doesn't come out of it very well. He seems sort of petulant."

I thought that was all we were going to get on the Bible. But Maureen says to no one in particular, "Did you know that in the whole of the Old Testament nobody coughs and only one person sneezes?" "Must have been the healthy outdoor life they were leading," says Sid.

Little-Eyed stands up to refresh our glasses. "Drink, anyone?" he says. We all reach for our glasses and hold them out smartly. Then Little-Eyed goes indoors for more ice, and while he is there he changes the CD, Rock Your Baby by George Macrae. Nice touch. I sip my drink and listen to the music and watch the reflections from the pool dancing on the whitewashed wall opposite. It really is a perfect afternoon.

When Dave comes out he asks Sid and me whether we'd like to see the new sundial he's just had put in. So we take our glasses and go up on the patio in our swimming trunks and Little-Eyed shows us his new sundial. It's made of moulded yellow cement, about 3ft square, and stands on a fluted pillar. The hours are marked in Roman numerals.

Sundials must have been an uncommon sight in Walthamstow market where Sid used to work, because he looks at it and says, "What's it for, then, Dave?"

"It's for telling the time," says Dave. "Look" he explains, "You see the old currant bun up there in the sky Sid, don't you?"


"Well as it moves across the sky, this prong thing here makes a shadow which moves across these here numbers. According to this the time now is ...half past three."

Sid checks his watch. Three-thirty. Spot on.

"Whatever will they think of next?" he says, lost in admiration. "Expensive, I suppose."

"Arm and a leg. Arm and a leg," says Little-Eyed, shaking his head sadly. Then brightening again he says "Fancy another one?" and we rejoin the ladies while Little-Eyed fixes us all another drink. It really is a perfect afternoon.

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