Sunset Beach Hotel
On the fourth evening of my holiday, I thought it would make a nice change to go 1½ km down the road to the Sunset Beach Hotel for dinner. I set off on foot, but it was so dark that I couldn't see where I was going, and I could easily have stepped off the road and fallen with a crash into the forest. I decided that maybe it was a lesser risk to take the jeep. Fortunately the headlights worked well.
The Sunset Beach Hotel was having its weekly barbecue, attended by a rather quiet assortment of guests of different nationalities and ages. We sat on the terrace, overhung by a very large tree; below us, the sea, unseen but faintly audible. Inside the hotel, a band played easy-listening music.
The food was varied but unremarkable: the usual Seychelles buffet. A Chinese-looking Seychellois waiter serving from the buffet was feeling chatty, and we had a little conversation of approximately the following shape.
“Are you German?” he asked me.
“No, I'm English.”
“Are you alone?”
He was shocked. “No wife?”
“Why not?” He gaped at me with blank incomprehension.
“Well, as I see it, life is a game of snooker, in which you roll about the table, being struck from time to time by the Cue of Fate, and bumping into other people. If you bump into the right person at the right time, you may be lucky and fall into the same pocket together. It's just never happened to me.”
That's what I might have answered, but didn't. Faced with an unexpected inquisition over a table of food, I was struck speechless, and moved on without giving him an answer.
As I ate, in the centre of my field of view was a youngish couple (perhaps in their late twenties) at the next table. The tables were well spaced out, so I couldn't hear what they said to each other, or even identify their nationality; they might have come from any country in northern Europe. They were both quite smartly turned out, but the man was conventionally handsome, while the woman looked like one of the less photogenic members of some royal family: dignified but rather plain.
The two of them rarely spoke at all, and rarely even looked at each other; they just sat there on the terrace eating, and drank a bottle of white wine between them. He gazed into the night as though waiting for someone to come and take her away. She looked sometimes sad or anxious, sometimes just bored; at times she yawned. Occasionally they exchanged a few words about something obviously trivial (“Not a bad little wine, this”, perhaps).
Eventually she took his hand and stroked it. He permitted this, but continued to stare into the distance.
The band played “Strangers in the night”. I didn't know exactly what situation the young lady was in, but I felt sorry for her anyway. It didn't occur to me to feel sorry for the man; somehow, he didn't look as though he needed it.
Afterwards, I read in Essential Seychelles that the Sunset Beach Hotel is one of the world's most romantic hotels. I also discovered that some bird in the tree above us had made its own comment over the back of my shirt.