It was the classic last resort. I wanted to run away to sea.

It started as a nervous itch, like an attack of eczema. All spring and summer I scratched at it, and the more I scratched the more the affliction spread. There was no getting rid of the thing. Lodged in my head was an image, in suspiciously heightened colour, of a very small ship at sea.

It was more ark than boat. It contained the entire life of one man, and it floated serenely offshore: half in, half out of the world. The face of its solitary navigator was as dark as demerara. He wasn’t flying a flag. His boat was a private empire, a sovereign state in miniature, a tight little, right little liberal regime. He was a world away from where I stood. Lucky man. He’d slung his hook, and upped and gone. Afloat, abroad, following his compass-needle as it trembled in its dish of paraffin, he was a figure of pure liberty. He had the world just where he wanted it. When he looked back at the land from which he’d sailed, it was arranged for him in brilliant perspective, its outlines clean, like the cut-out scenery of a toy theatre.


One Less Octopus at Paxos
Road to Cambodia