I had barely touched the neck of the bottle when the cork popped of its own accord, launching itself out to the sky and then into the ocean. My instincts passed the bottle to Julia, who happily staved off the cascading champagne with a healthy glug, and I dived off the jetty hoping to save it, the cork bobbing further and further away with every beating wave. We each had our own priorities, but as a first response team in this very specific scenario, our immediate actions could not be faulted.
I rarely need an excuse to celebrate, and I never need an excuse to swim, but for the first time in my life these two things overlapped with urgency. Whenever I share a bottle of wine or champagne with friends, I always try to pocket the cork as a keepsake. On it I write who I celebrated with. When. Why. Where. A little collection of these memories now line my mantle piece every Christmas, reminding me of happy moments shared with those I love. There’s one for my sister’s engagement. There’s one for the snow day I spent holed up in a friend’s apartment, singing songs. There’s one for the impromptu picnic of a sunny, summer afternoon in Dublin’s Merrion Square, the weather occasion enough. And I was determined there would be one for hitting a milestone moment as a bookseller in the Maldives. If I could catch it in time.
I have no practical concept of numbers and admittedly, at times, even less of reality. But I plucked an implausible figure from the air at the beginning of April and decided it would be my bookselling target for the month. Because that’s how business works, right? This decision coincided with two fortuitous things: an early delivery of some of my all-time favourite books, and the unexpected gift of a bottle of champagne. With it now set as my prize, I stowed the bottle away in my fridge and let it sweat until I had sold enough books to enjoy it, my own little bookseller’s bribe to imbibe. Luckily for me, I had an island full of readers.
A smug week ahead of schedule, I brought the champagne down to the jetty at the sunset side of the island, to sip and celebrate as the evening slipped away. Of course I brought a book. Just as that jetty has been a fixture of my time here in Soneva, the Everyman’s Pocket Classics series has been a backbone to the Barefoot Bookshop. This month I’ve been savouring Shaken and Stirred - Intoxicating Stories, their lively collection of short fiction from famous writers on the theme of drinking. From wine snobs in Roald Dahl’s Taste, to regretful young men in Dorothy Parker’s You Were Perfectly Fine, they cover the full spectrum of drink-induced scenarios. Though no one jumped off a jetty to catch a cork.