The last seven days started on Sunday 2nd June 2013 at nearly five in the morning when the fire alarms in a hotel we were staying in were activated by a guest smoking in their room.
The human contents of the rooms shuffled out into the morning light in various states of nocturnal dishevelment and attire. There was a good range of pajamas, nightgowns, day clothes or sometimes a blend of day and night wear. And of course there was the obligatory women wrapped in a towel with wet hair telling everyone she was just getting up and ready to go for a walk when the alarm went off. One male guest did actually draw attention to himself without realizing it. He had come out wearing a vivid pink shirt and black underwear. OK, it is an emergency so this lack of sartorial grace could be forgiven but he had managed to bring his camera with him rather than slipping on a pair of trousers before leaving his room. When the fire brigade arrived he was the first to receive a silver foil blanket. After these had been handed out we looked like a bunch of marathon runners after running a race. No, we probably looked more like turkeys waiting for the invite to Christmas lunch.
At breakfast later in the morning all the seated guests were carefully eyeing the new arrivals into the dining room. “Now, I’m sure I’ve seen you before somewhere quite recently” or “They look like smokers who would do that sort of thing”. Breakfasts in British hotels are normally very reserved with greetings only used as a way to break the embarrassment of accidental eye contact. This one was laden with suspicion. We did not see pink shirt camera man or if we did we failed to recognize him.
In the hotel grounds is a sculpture of a huge pair of nutcrackers. I hope the hotel put the offending smokers in them for a few minutes before they were allowed to leave for home.
We had a leisurely drive home via Littlehampton. It was not as I remembered it as a child. Perhaps I have it mixed up with some other seaside resort from summer memories.
When we went away we left our key to the house with one of the neighbours so she could look after our cat. When we got home I went up to her house to collect the key. There was no answer when I knocked on the door. Behind me I could hear a little boy’s voice “If you want Debbie she won’t be back until late this afternoon…….gone to a model farm………..staying out all day”. “Thanks” I said. I walked back to our next door neighbours and knocked on the door. Behind me was the same little boy’s voice “They’re out all day as well……..gone for lunch somewhere”. “Thanks” I said.
I wondered how this little boy knew so much about our neighbours’ movements.
I explained to my wife that we were kind of stuck until one or other of the neighbours got home. Luckily the sun was shining, it was warm, we had a couple of outdoor chairs in the car, books to read and a small picnic.
We settled down in the shade of our front garden. Other neighbours went by who did not have a spare key for our house and we had to explain to every one of them why we were sitting out on our own front lawn. Eventually cat sitting neighbour came home.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize you would be home so early” cat sitter lady said.
Not wanting her to feel embarrassed about keeping us waiting I told her we had only been home about fifteen minutes and were just getting comfortable
“You’ve been home for at least an hour” from little boy’s voice.
It is good that he is so honest but this has to be balanced with discretion which he has not mastered yet,
“Thanks” I replied to him.
Monday through to Wednesday went by going through their normal pattern. Thursday was very different as I received my first magazine from Medecins Sans Frontiers with harrowing stories of what is going on in the 60 theatres of human crisis they are working in at the moment. All of the stories included in this issue were of heart rending proportions of family separations, families losing everything as a result of conflict and having to live with graphic images in their memories of bombings and brutality. This is especially so for the children who really are the innocent victims in these situations.
Friday was horrendous. During the morning driving my wife to work the heavens opened dumping rain all along the south coast. We were on a motorway most of the way. Every time we were overtaken by a large truck visibility was reduced to as far as the front of the car for a few seconds. Until visibility was restored driving was a blind act of faith. On one part of the journey one small car had driven into the crash barrier in the centre of the motorway causing one lane to be closed which slowed traffic down.
On the way home I did the monthly shop. Parking was a bit of an issue as there was hardly any space available. I saw a sign at the end of the car park directing customers to some more spaces beside the shop in a dead end lane that had spaces for about ten cars. Every space in this area was designated for cars carrying parents and children. One couple, GOWASE’s, returned to their car, dropped off their shopping and then went back to the shop without a kid in sight of them. Sure enough they had they kiddie seats in the people carrier but I reckon that was just a front so they could use the extra wide spaces available.
On this particular Friday there seemed to be three generic types of humanity out hunter gathering with trolleys. There was the blue rinse brigade of lone elderly women working their way around the isles. One member of this group was looking at all the salad dressings trying to choose one. She said it was so difficult to choose one these days as in her day you either bought salad cream or mayonnaise.
The second group was made up of blue rinse women who were accompanied by men with faces like bulldogs chewing wasps. These people are usually retired but give out distinct signs of impatience if a shopper like me stops in front of them or slows down to peruse a shelf. They have a way of letting you be aware of their silent ‘tut tut’ as they have their progress impeded.
The third group, were what I call the ‘GOWASE’s’. Grossly Over Weight and Still Eating. One section from this group were sitting outside the supermarket tucking in to bits from their only just purchased shopping. A handful of doughnuts washed down with a high energy drink.
All members of these groups were pushing their trolleys around the supermarket crossing lines of other shoppers, going against the general flow of trolleys in aisles and even making the most amazing full 360 turns on a pin head. Not once did I hear the clash of trolleys during my shopping yet throw some rain on a motorway and at least one driver has to run into a crash barrier.
I went to pick my wife up from a business centre. I rang the doorbell for the office she was working in and was aware of a twitching blind to my left. No one came to let me in but I did see someone come to the lobby, take a look and then disappear. A couple of minutes later my wife emerged from the other end of the building.
‘I rang the bell but no one let me in’ I said.
‘They heard you, had a look and thought because you looked so old you might have rung the wrong bell and wanted to drug and alcohol rehab office……they get a lot of mistaken callers like that’.
‘Thanks, you’ve just made me feel really old…………..let’s get home shall we?’
We finished the working week looking from the MayflowerPark in Southampton across the water to Marchwood and Hythe eating ice cream. I really know how to spoil my wife. A few small sailing boats went by, a couple small barges and the Isle of Wight ferry chugged on its way.
The book I have on the go this week is ‘The Clintons – The White House’ by Sally Beddell Smith. Politics is a dirty business. It does not matter how it is dressed up it is still as Machiavellian as it was a few centuries ago. I am sure most people who enter politics are very nice people away from that theatre of humanity but once they are in the fray principles and promises go out the window in the pursuit of and retention of power. The Clintons were no exception. Their private attorney described WashingtonDC as the place where ‘ruining people is considered sport’. Clinton’s Chief of Staff described his own role as that of a ‘javelin catcher’. More quotes next week.