CROATIA SKETCHES 2 // Dubrovnik

29 Aug, 1pm.
I swim in the sea. This is something my mediterranean friends have told me to do. Nebulous medical benefits aside I had intended on it, if the opportunity presented itself, from the beginning. Swimming in the Adriatic has had a kind of unattainable lustre in my mind for the last ten or so years. I’d been on a trip, a cruise, around Italy with my mother. We stopped – possibly for tax or customs reasons, in Croatia for a day or two. I have a memory – I had thought this was in Dubrovnik when I booked my holiday but I realise now it may have been Split – the clearest memory of the whole trip, of dangling my feet in clear, impossibly blue water. Some extrermely tanned German kids were swimming in a cordoned section of the sea on the other side of the jetty I was sitting on. Oh how I wanted to join them. But our time was nearly up and I had no swimsuit.
Since then I’ve had a lasting fixation with clear blue water lapping against stone, unmediated by sand. This image has followed me even out of waking, I’ve had dreams of pristine travertine edifices facing onto a churning turquoise sea.
I ease myself into the water at this beach fronted by a luxury hotel. No one stopped me accessing the beach, and clearly not everyone swimming is a guest there, but my cough and the general strange paleness of my body marks me out as an interloper. The water is the perfect temperature, but there are currents and I cannot draw enough breath to keep myself afloat. I tread water and paddle around like the invalid I am, my breath coming in gasps. I manage five or ten minutes before I must get out, and then coughing takes me. But I can feel myself healing as I take the waters.

30 Aug, 4.30pm.
Went kayaking in the sea today. Not much to say about it but that it was exactly what I wanted. By some miracle I avoided a coughing fit for the whole three hours. It is only now that I have sat down to dinner that I begin.  Perhaps I am like a shark, I’m at my most robust while moving. Perhaps that is why nights are so difficult.
As I write I’m having prawns in garlic and risotto with cuttlefish ink, and a glass of local white. I had a coughing fit at my table between two other couples, and asked the waiter if, because I felt I was disturbing them, I could move to a different table. When I said this none of them disputed it, so it must have been true. This cough is making me obtrusive. I’m used to being able to go unnoticed if I want. This is not possible now.