He’s not really M. Sarkozy, but he could be his body double. Of mixed North African/Norwegian descent, he’s been drinking Guinness for breakfast. He’s on his second. Every now and then he jumps up from his seat and puts his mobile phone on a rock in the sun.
I’m sitting under a thatched shelter facing the sea. The harmattan winds, carrying sand from the Sahara, are keeping the heat and humidity down, but also rendering the view a silvery opaque.
Sarkozy-man’s wearing black cropped trousers and nothing else. Wiry, he’s just the tinted side of northern-climate-pale. He’s been working on a deal. Oil. It’s disintegrating as he speaks – and he’s a stress bucket.
In this continent that stretches the minds – and the credulity – of all who venture here, you start to recognise types after a while. He’s a type.
I hear his story second-hand, I’m not his style. He chats instead to archaeo-man, enticing him into his shady lair as he strolls by.
‘Tell me about yourself,’ he smiles, ‘that is, if you have a minute or two’.
Everyone has a minute or two in Africa.
We’ve been advised against swimming – riptides, strong currents – but of course Sarkozy-man is in there. Again. And again. And again.
Eventually he heads back to his room and we colonise his shady space. No sun loungers here, just hefty Ghanaian wood chairs with cushions bleeding colour in the sand-salt air.
Sarkozy is, inevitably, drawn back to his ocean.
He pads back from his latest bout of tempting fate to join us under the thatch. Laying a handful of lumpy wet sand on the table he spreads it out with nervy fingers, each movement fast but strenuously constrained. Like a croupier, or a magician.
Are those little pebbles? No, they’re tiny shellfish.
‘These are too small or I could have them for breakfast, I could do a ceviche.’
‘Here, have some lime,’ I offer.
We’ve just had our own little adventure – tea made of shredded ginger and mint, great clumps of it like pondweed floating in the pot. A little jug of honey, the colour of molasses – and half a lime each.
We’re all different. Some find danger in tea, some in – well, nothing at all, it seems.
One more dangerous dip and he’s back with more sand. Bigger shells this time and an almost stone-age-tool, ‘to open them with’.
He hands archaeo-man a sea-worn artefact, masquerading as an ammonite. Is it a bottle cap? An ancient battery end?
‘There, a find for the archaeologist. Ha!’
He toddles off, chuckling, to the other thatched shelter. Archaeo-man’s eyes can’t help but follow.
‘He’s eating them.’
Not for me, thank you.
[technology failed me yesterday – more to come, just been bitten by a mosquito damn it]