They were rapidly gaining on me. Handicapped by Christmas pudding and innumerable brandy eggnogs, I was sucking hard for air. Behind me, a flurry of feet pounded the beach, creating a rooster tail of spraying sand. A brief backward glance vindicated my decision to cut and run because a hideous jumble of naked bodies was ten metres away, baying for blood… mine. They gesticulated wildly and shouted at me in their Catalan language. Fear of tripping and being set upon by a snarling scrum of Spanish nudists had given me increased impetus. The cacophony only receded after another 100 metres when the glistening wall of swinging willies and bronzed, bouncing boobs dropped away and came to a standstill. I trotted a further distance along the sands of Sa Riera Platja then stopped. With the security of enough space between us, I turned and faced the milling throng. Fists were being shaken at me.
Earlier, I’d enjoyed a boozy Christmas luncheon at my stone holiday cottage in the village. As penance, I began walking it off along a stretch of the rugged Costa Brava coastline. Rounding a headland, I’d descended nonchalantly onto a short, secluded beach near Sa Riera. Groups of Spaniards were splashing in the shallows, others tanning, some enjoying beach volleyball. I quickly realized there wasn’t a stitch of clothing in sight. Either I’d missed a sign indicating a Platja Nudista, or there wasn’t one, and I’d stumbled unwittingly onto a free-range beach. There’s an elevated level of discomfort when you’re the only clad body and everyone else is jiggling like tea bags. Head down to avoid eye contact, I briskly walked the 300 metres of beach towards the next headland. Eyes had begun to swivel suspiciously towards me….. and my Canon camera with long-range lens which was hanging around my neck!
Coincidentally, at that precise moment, I’d spied a long streaking object, low on the horizon, shooting towards the next headland. It was approaching the Earth rapidly. Was it an asteroid? Reflexively I swung my telescopic lens towards the unexplained phenomenon and fired off a series of snapshots as it swept behind the oblivious heads of the naked volleyballers who’d been laughing and wobbling like Christmas jellies until now. That’s when Christmas Day went belly-up. The game stopped abruptly. Laughter ceased. The volleyballers began to approach, shouting in agitated Catalan and pointed towards my camera. Ohh! Crap! They moved en masse towards me, menace writ large across scowling faces so I turned tail and scarpered. Mad as hornets, they pursued me. I’m not even sure they were in my view-finder when I photographed that overhead phenomenon.
After eluding the free-range frolickers, I skulked along the next beach, smarting with humiliation yet troubled by the unexplained flying object. My pulse eventually settled enough to appreciate the stunning coastline embracing the Mediterranean Sea. This beach was deserted. Or so it seemed. Perhaps 400 metres ahead of me, I discerned an object on the sand, not far from the water. Could this have been the recent unexplained descent across the Platja Nudista? From a distance it resembled a brace of animals harnessed to a sleigh! What? No way! Is this even possible? I approached cautiously because Christmas afternoon had already thrown me one curveball. Nobody was in sight, but a team of tethered reindeer was snorting, nickering, shuffling hoofs in the white sands! The jingle of small bells telegraphed animal nervousness at my presence. I checked the contents of the ornately decorated sleigh. It was empty barring a pile of crumpled red clothing.
I suffer borderline impulsivity and I’m a perennial wonderer. If I climbed aboard, would these reindeer drag me along the sands? Maybe even lift off briefly? Take me for a short flight down the Costa Brava coastline? What a ripping story for my grandkids! Roughly sweeping red garments across the seat, I clambered in. Nothing happened. Shaking leather reins, I yelled “Giddy up,” towards the startled deer but still none moved although one defecated noisily. Perhaps they only respond to the clothing. Impulsively I donned the ample red suit and shook the reins more forcefully. Nothing again. Bugger!
There was a guttural shout. An agitated and very portly man exploded from the water, reminiscent of those orcas that snatch seals from beaches. He was totally naked and wasn’t particularly jolly. In fact, he was furious. I leapt from the sleigh and bolted along the beach, figuring I could easily outrun this rotund individual. He was bellowing that I was wearing his suit and he wanted it back. But I wasn’t stopping. My anxiety levels had arced up again.
I was 500 metres further along the beach when there was an eerie windrush from behind. The jetstream was frightening. Rake-thin reindeer legs thrashed frantically in the air close to my head as they swept by, and a florid, bearded face leant over the edge of the sleigh barking abuse. Santa was obese and butt-naked, and even today, despite therapy, I can’t shake that image from my head. The reindeer-drawn sleigh executed a perfect barrel-roll as it descended quickly onto the deserted beach just ahead of me. Cornered and quaking, I tore off the red suit and scrambled frantically from the sands to hide amongst a nearby grove of olive trees. I watched transfixed as he retrieved his discarded red suit from the sand, redressed, raised a middle finger towards my general direction then clambered aboard the sleigh. With a command to his team, he was soon airborne. He banked to the starboard side, departed the Mediterranean coastline airspace and tracked due north. And from the security of my foxhole beneath a gnarled olive tree, I slumped into the foetal position. My Christmas on the Costa Brava had tanked spectacularly. I vowed to never drink brandy eggnogs again.