colossal decision I had made to settle permanently in Ibiza brought with
it, understandably, a flood of feelings. I remember particularly
the powerful, self-congratulatory feeling. It was as if I
was shaking hands with myself to celebrate an achievement of the utmost
significance. I also remember the simultaneous feeling of extreme
exhaustion. To make that choice had taken so much of my emotional
energy that I found I could not immediately bring myself to drive on
towards Santa Inés. Because I just sat there, caved in behind the
steering wheel, while the glorious panorama of the Corona burned itself
into my consciousness, and while, at the same time, the immense
implications of my impetuous resolve began to flood in on me; Flipper
began showing unmistakable signs of impatience. So, summoning up a
focused effort, I obliged myself to open the passenger door of the
little Renault. He instantly jumped out, exuberantly, and began to
frolic in the trackside greenery of the lonely trail we were following.
I fell back into my seat and into torpid introspection, and half
slumbered off. Then, as the minutes became multiplied, and while I
was in a state of what I can only describe as suspended animation, I
found I was able to slowly generate a wonderfully welcome renewal of
energy. While I nodded on, I could actually feel myself being refreshed;
it was like heavy dew on dry leaves. Time began to live again. And
it was the animated example of Flipper’s charming normality, his
insouciance in the flora, which finally brought me fully back to
wellbeing. I found I could start the motor. Then I blew the
horn twice, which was code for “Let’s go!” in our inter-species
communications system, and Flipper immediately jumped back into the
Renault as I put her into first gear. We rolled slowly on, down
and down and down in the magic Ibiza sunlight, beauty all around us,
onto the vast open stretch of the plain of the Corona; and then on into
Santa Inés itself.
could not really be called a village. Perhaps ‘hamlet’ would be more
like. It had a few small, very white houses, very much asleep, and
a rambling, very white, bell-towered fortress church. There was
also, just near the church, a pleasant looking restaurant and bar
establishment, now deserted. Some invisible chickens were sounding off
in the mid afternoon heat and a pair of easy-loping hound dogs moved off
gracefully as we arrived. They never even looked at Flipper, which
must have depressed him. I found out later that they were the real
thing, native island hounds, descended from Egyptian ancestors. It
was all so unselfconscious of its own biblical serenity that one dared
not even photograph it, lest the poetry be violated. Its half
dozen ancient, gnarled olive, and huge algarroba trees, invited you so
agreeably into their shade that it was impossible to refuse. I
gingerly moved the Renault into the shadow of one of these patriarchs
with a strong sense of trespass. The tree must have been a
thousand years old. From the look of it, the Renault could have
been the very first car ever to enjoy its hospitality.
the garrulous chickens were invisible, so were the people. I
thought at first that it was still the siesta hour, which would tend to
explain the deserted scene, but glancing at my wristwatch I found that
it was near five, an hour at which activity should already have begun.
Failing to find society, I decided to walk in a direction which I knew,
from having studied a small map which Hungry Hannibal had given me,
would take me at last to the coast. With Flipper tripping along
beside, behind and in front of me, we set off.
first we followed the track, and walking at a good clip, soon left the
church and its cluster of white houses well behind. In a few
minutes there was a fork. The right hand track led toward the
coast and the sea while the left continued in what I knew from my map,
would be its circumvolution of the great almond plain. As soon as
we had made about a hundred meters our track fizzled out and a pristine
pine forest closed in on us. These island pines were sturdy, first
growth trees, standing well together and creating a refreshingly cool
ambiance. Their aroma was heady, penetrating. What breeze there
was sighed softly through them and enough sunlight filtered down through
their latticework of branches to make free walking possible on the thick
bed of pine needles which covered the forest floor. It would have
been easy to become lost in such an untouched setting had it not been
for the hint of a path which began to manifest, and which I followed
carefully. As we went on I noticed that Flipper had begun to sidle
closer and closer to me. To the little dog the great pines must
have been as intimidating as an elephant would be to an ant. So I
picked him up, held him close in my arms, and walked on. After a
moment I could feel his little body relax. I looked down at him.
His eyes were closed.
at last we came to the coast, it was a sudden, even a frightening,
arrival. We had been steadily mounting an incline so it was only as we
abruptly reached the top of it that we discovered we were on the shallow
lip of a great cliff. To the left and right of us, in imperial
postures, ranged jagged monuments of native rock. Ahead of us and
high above, a few sea gulls glided noiselessly and effortlessly in the
pellucid air. The sea which lay far below in vast swathes of
purple, blue and green, dazzled the eyes. We were looking straight
down at the water from such an enormous height that it was impossible to
estimate how far below the water really was. It was a height that
brought on dizziness if one looked down too long. In the far
distance a fishing boat with two tiny human figures on it could be
discerned in the glare; surrounded by distant silence, the image was
miniaturized, was only half there. The boat was sleepwalking on
the waters and we were seeing it in a dream. But the trance was
sharply shattered when Flipper suddenly barked and scrambled out of my
the next moment, I knew why. For if I listened intently, if I
strained to hear, I could make out the distant sound of music! The
melody escaped me, though it was carried harshly by what sounded like a
crude flute or whistle, but the rhythm, even the explicit beat of a drum
and the sound of castanets, became clearer as I concentrated.
Little by little I heard more. Now I was able to make out even the
sound of tambourines. It was intoxicating to hear such music while
standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea!
And it was music which beckoned, which beguiled and which begged to be
heard close up. But how to get close up? How to find the
musicians? I left it to Flipper to do that. He ran on ahead,
barking excitedly and quite securely leading us in the right direction.
As we floundered through underbrush leading back into the pine forest, I
followed him as closely as I could…and the music became louder, and
louder, and louder….the flute became more shrill and more shrill….and
then Flipper had outstripped me and was gone and I could only advance in
the same direction he had set and then, and then….there they were!
Flipper had found them!
were gathered in a large circle, seated on the pine needle bed.
Opposite to me I could see cook fires over which great chunks of what
later turned out to be lamb, were roasting. Wine was generously
evident in the shape of large sheep bladders of it which hung on
convenient branches here and there. That they were country people was
immediately evident by their rough dress and their innocent manner.
They were clapping their hands in unison with the beat of the drum and
the clatter of the half dozen enormous castanets. High above the
percussion soared the sweet shriek of the flute, its independent wail
repeated over and over again. All eyes were focused on the centre
of the circle in which a dozen or so young couples were solemnly dancing
on a well beaten swath of plain earth. I had time to register that
the couples were dressed in dramatic island finery; for the girls,
beautifully fashioned long sleeve, many colour blouses, overlaid by
flashing webs of golden-necklace, resplendently pillowed on their
bosoms. They wore ample head scarves, pleated skirts that were very
full, ankle-long, and beneath which, only the peeking tips of their
shoes could be seen. As for the boys, they were in full dance
regalia, as well. They wore blousy white shirts and trousers, wide
black sashes and red caps with elongated crowns that folded over to
front or back. But it was the castanets which held me. These
were giant wooden clappers, managed mostly by the girls. They made
a tremendous racket out there in the pine wood, but at the same time
they seemed absolutely in harmony with the huge trees, the wood from
which they had long ago been fashioned.
pleasant forest prospect was irreverently exploded by Flipper who
scampered into the middle of the circle, barked once or twice for
attention, and then sat down. He cocked his head, and waited for me.
There was absolute silence for a moment. Then there was near
pandemonium. Everyone was on their feet shouting and applauding.
Everyone it seemed knew who Flipper was, and, when they saw me
hesitatingly joining them, their welcome to me was as generous as it was
astonishing. The mystery of the missing people of Santa Inés was solved.
These were the people of Santa Inés! They were the same people who
had been missing from the white houses, from the restaurant and bar,
from the white church fortress with a bell-tower. It all came
together as I saw them in this setting which clearly said they were
enjoying a communal fiesta. They came to me to greet me and to
welcome me, and to astonish me by letting me know that they all knew me,
too. For some of them had been on the quay in the morning when I
had photographed Flipper during the unloading of my Renault. Some
of them had been there and seen that wonderful shot I had got of Flipper
looking down at me as I shot up from underneath the little car in its
loading net, high above me. And those who had seen it had lost
little time in describing it to all of those who had not. And all
of them thought that it was a wonderful thing that a little dog should
so dramatically pose for his master who was a photographer. Not
too many special events happened in Ibiza in 1964, and so it didn’t take
much to make an event special. So when one did happen, it appeared
that it was celebrated with huge enthusiasm. Needless to say, we
were wined and dined until we could wine and dine no more and at last
the time came to return to Ibiza town and the Delfín Verde.
that’s what happened to me in Santa Inés.