San Salvador de la Marina



The narrow pedestrian streets around the Church of San Salvador de la Marina were coming to life. Most of them already crammed with stalls selling anything a tourist might need, and many things that they didn’t. Classic linen clothing from the ‘White Isle’ and cotton t-shirts with lizards, a Volkswagen camper van or a Vespa scooter. Gaudiesque ashtrays, fake branded sunglasses, plates with a map of the island or a portrait of the cathedral, necklaces with trinkets, hats with I heart Ibiza, balsawood fans in all colours with Sevillana dancers in polka dot dresses and unfathomably, wooden Buddhas of every size. The overflowing stalls squeezed into the constrained side streets forcing passers-by into single file and the inevitable impasse. A deliberate strategy by the vendors to slow the procession so their wares could be noticed. Maria Dolores and Baby negotiated these same streets, she, occasionally raising her head to acknowledge familiar faces who, in turn, nodded as she passed, the same routine, the same daily exchange. A little after 11am she reached her destination and tied Baby to a bike rack by the wall of the San Salvador de la Marina, just a block back from the Ibizan harbour. She scratched Baby behind the ears and told her to watch out for any rabbits. The Carrer de San Telmo opened up behind the church to more maritime bustle. Maria Dolores stood for a moment looking at two colossal, ostentatious yachts, both black yet brilliant in the morning sun. Two men hung from one in harnesses polishing the ink-like lucent exterior, the sunlight sparkled onto it from the water below. On the other, an EC 145 helicopter sat atop five storeys of gratuitous luxury, from Maria Dolores’ perspective it looked taller than the buildings in front of it. She didn’t dwell on the affluence of the owners, instead turned and climbed the five stone stairs to the great wooden doors with less effort than most other 84-year-old bodies might have required.

The outside the church had no particularly remarkable architectural features: small, gothic arched windows contained opaque glass but lacked colour or any artistic detail as might be expected in a church, particularly one as large as San Salvador de la Marina. The inside was equally insipid except for an enormous metre wide, white concha used for baptisms, that was mounted to the wall by the entrance and a three-metre tall wooden Christ nailed to a cross behind the chancel. Maria Dolores was always fascinated with this Christ because it had no facial features, no clothing or genitalia and no crown of thorns. In fact, there was nothing to indicate that it was actually a representation of Jesus except for the crucifixion and its lofty position above the believers who convened below in worship. She entered further into the church with her head bowed and was greeted with cool stale air, a stark contrast to the humid streets outside. She made her way down the nave to the second row of wooden chairs in the transept. Her arrhythmic footsteps and the faint whir of the electric fans fastened to each of the naves columns, the only break in the silence. She sat there a while thankful for the rest, a respite for her throbbing gout-ridden feet, without looking around her already familiar surroundings.
“Good morning Dolores, how are you today?” Maria Dolores didn’t even acknowledge that Father Antonio Ferrer had spoken to her. It was a daily ritual that she had little interest in. Most mornings Father Antonio greeted her but he had long ago given up any notion that she might open up to him, he smiled and moved on, continuing his inspection of that morning’s cleaning.

“What day is it today?” These were the first words she had said to anyone other than Baby all day. The croaky voice forced from her parched mouth. Father Antonio, paused a second then returned and sat on a chair in the row in front of Maria Dolores, who still hadn’t looked up.

“It’s the 23rd of June. Tomorrow is Saint John the Baptist.”

“Then it’s his birthday. He said it wasn’t but I’d know.” she paused, “I’m his mother.” Now Maria Dolores raised her head, but looked past Father Antonio to the Christ without a face, searching for something in him, a recognition of her pain. “I’d know I’m his mother.” She repeated.


Maria Dolores is part of something bigger


8 Comments Add yours

  1. levishedated says:

    Ah! You said that we would know more of Maria Dolores and so this is very welcome.
    Must I say again how much I enjoy the smooth, sonorous style of your writing? Must I say how accurately you elicit emotion with you your words? Must I tell you once more that you are an interesting and talented writer?
    If I must, then: you are all these things.
    According to the standard rules of grammar, there are one or two spaces where commas should be. I use a MacBook, which has Chrome installed. There is a free plug-in called Grammarly, which works for my set-up (and others), that checks as I type, for these and other minor irritants. It’s like having a free editor sitting on my shoulder. 🙂
    Something here, which is probably more about me than you: I do not understand what ‘unfathomably wooden Buddhas’ means?
    Some part of this has become mangled perhaps: ‘familiar faces who, I turn nodded as’.
    This is a marvellous slice of life that I thorough enjoyed reading. With writing of this quality it becomes almost rude to even look for flaws, far less to point them out. And that ending? Exquisite!
    You should write and post something regularly – you really have something here. I would love to know how reliable Maria Dolores is as a narrator!
    Until next time – Robert.


    1. alsabini says:

      Thanks for that, getting feedback as you know is so valuable, especially good feedback. Cheers.

      I’ve amended the points you mentioned, the ‘I turn’ should be ‘in turn’ my very helpful autocorrect getting it wrong.

      I will check out Chrome, I use Microsoft word (for Macs) but I know I do tend to have a laissez-faire attitude towards grammar & punctuation.

      One of my main bugbears about Ibiza is that everywhere you go there are statues of Buddha. These can be beautiful but should be in context. Ibiza and this part of the Med has its own history and culture including ancient gods, why steal from others? Honestly it does my head in. 🙂

      As far as Maria Dolores is concerned, you’ll soon be sharing her journey from the start.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. levishedated says:

        Best feedback on feedback I’ve had all day – and finally you tell me which island you live on! Remember when that was a big, BIG secret? 😀
        Looking forward to Maria Dolores – The Beginning. 🙂


      2. alsabini says:

        Well at least we know Maria Dolores lives in Ibiza. Ha ha, OK you got me. Al-Sabini was an Arab poet who lived here centuries ago, hence the blog name.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. levishedated says:

        Hahaha – thanks for trusting me – I don’t mean any harm by my naturally curious nature. Have a great day – until we speak again – Robert. 🙂


  2. Odd thought just occurred to me: where do people who live in famous holiday destinations go on holiday to? If I lived in paradise …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. alsabini says:

      ‘If I lived in paradise’……… he says. Ironically (or perhaps not) my paradise is paradisiacal when there’s no one here.

      When the summer starts and the sea warms I go to a few secret places, the uninitiated aren’t aware of but even those havens become saturated in July and August. I hide in my house when the hedonism starts. I head to the hills at dawn to mountain bike or walk to the beach in only my shorts, swim and go straight back home again before I’m overwhelmed by their presence.

      Tourism is a plague ………….. but also a lifeblood.

      I wrote a monologue about this a few years ago, I should look it out and translate it, see if it has the same feel in English.

      To answer your question, the Scottish Highlands would be destination number 1.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. alsabini says:

    I’ve no idea how but I just trashed your last comment, sorry. It was through stupidity and fat fingers rather than intention.

    I’m envious, I love the Highlands, I love the dramatic Isle of Skye and the Great Glen, no matter what the weather, which is just as well because I’ve experienced 4 seasons in a day there.

    ps Grammarly seems to be working a treat. 😉


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