We set out to go to one of the beach restaurants for a meal and had no sooner stepped off the gangplank than we were hailed by a couple of older gentlemen preparing to open a bottle of wine, sat in the cockpit of the boat opposite. They were German, but asked us in English if we had a card to open the gate to the pontoon. Apparently their card had not worked when they had tried earlier. John said we had two cards, one each, and the one he had tried had worked. At this point the more sprightly looking of the two asked if he could come with us and try his card again. Of course he could. He disappeared below and came out clutching the card. Not to delay us he came along in his bedroom slippers, a pair of furry mules that clopped slightly as we walked along.
At the gate John showed him the button to press to open the sliding panel doors and we all stepped through. The doors slid to. Our new friend tried his card to no effect. John tried our card. It did not work either. John tried our other card and the gate shuddered open. There was a pause as we tried to decide what to do next. We did not feel we could really abandon him in his slippers, even if we let him go back onto the pontoon he and his shipmate would have been trapped inside there. John suggested we all go together to the office and sort out our dud card as well as his. Off we went, us trying not to walk too quickly, him clearly pushing himself to set a brisk shuffle. His English was better than our German and he managed to tell us he was on a fortnights holiday, but the other chap, the skipper, was sailing down from France and had started at the beginning of June. We reached the office and all was in darkness. John knocked on the door to no avail. He then phoned the marina on his mobile and after repeating our problem and our current location a couple of times a marinera emerged from the back of the offices. He was very cheerful and obliging and issued us with replacement cards and the days door code for good measure. Back to the gate we set and all three cards opened the gate. Triumph. We bade each other goodnight and went our separate ways.
We walked along the boardwalk where Katie and I had made shadow monsters and along the promenade with memories crystallising as we passed the bars and restaurants. The giant sandcastle looked as though it had been formed from the same vast mould and the two minders were beginning to light the tea lights on it. We had not meant to eat in the same place as last year, but as soon as the waiter in his suit and square glasses came across with the menus we realised we had. I often think of the places we pass through, going about their same daily routines as we move on.