Loading...
Menu
Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  General

Recognisable Strangers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recognisable Strangers

 

 

Bhupen May 15, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

It was a Sunday morning in an apartment in the city centre. It was closer to lunch than it was breakfast but who knows any more. The apartment belongs to a fairly young couple. Some have said they are a little mismatched but this was of no concern to them. There is a divisive argument as to whether Sunday is the start or end of a week but neither side is very interesting. Even those indifferent to this key debate were tedious themselves. Another two couples were on their way to brunch so the final total of attendees would be six or two crowds. The first of the couples arrived and there was a round of greetings where no one was forgotten. Once the polite formali- ties were over the sitting and chatting could begin. The possibilities were endless: weather, yourself, other people and the journey in. “Would you like something to drink?” asked Alice.

“I would like a glass of water please,’ replied Mira. “I would like the same please,” added Peter.

Alice and Kevin went to the kitchen and returned with the drinks 1

 

 

and two bowls of assorted nuts. They were thanked and proceeded to continue with their lives. It started to rain outside and this dom- inated the conversation immediately. It was a loud and continuous rain.

“I hope that this does not disturb or interrupt the journey of Ekate- rina and Dionisio,” chimed Alice with a hint of concern in her voice. “I always get both their names wrong - I will write them down before they arrive. I always find it rude when I get their names wrong!” Peter blurted out.

He noted the names on his smart phone and saved them for later re- ferral. Ekaterina and Dionisio rang the door bell and were promptly let in. They remained dry as they had their trusted umbrella with them. They were also offered drinks and assorted nuts which they duly and politely accepted. Kevin brought ingredients from his work for everyone to cook together. Everyone got up from their seats and made their way to the kitchen. Kevin started washing the vegetables while Alice got bowls, plates and pans for preparation and cooking. Peter was on chopping vegetables and Mira on making sauces and dressings. Ekaterina was making desert, Dionisio making salads, Kevin was cutting the meats and Alice was lending a helping hand at each unofficial cooking station. Some music was put on in the background. It was well received and added to the feeling of the room.

“There seems to be the right number of cooks for the broth,” joked

 

 

Ekaterina.

“It sounds like someone is baking a tray of laughter,” replied Peter while chuckling to himself.

The group laughed and continued with their respective cooking tasks. The salads were now ready; the meat and vegetables were slow cook- ing and the desert was baking in the oven. The group returned to the living room and took their seats. With the timers set there was little worry of the apartment burning alight. Conservation ranged from how hungry people were to what people did earlier in the week. Kevin joked about not having a day off from work as he was doing chef duties on a Sunday. Alice spoke about how she had a stressful week with suppliers in her role of purchasing manager for a medium sized firm. Mira was excited to get back to rehearsals for her up- coming play. Peter was happy to unwind in good company as a break from property development work. Ekaterina was relieved to be back home after a modelling job. Dionisio was preparing for a music concert which is part of an arts festival. The atmosphere was relaxed and generally jovial. Conversation was light and everyone looked like they were enjoying themselves. It was an eclectic mix of people but it worked well as a social dynamic. The aroma of the food being cooked was making its way towards the sitting area and it was noted as being appetising. Alice got up to check on the progress while Kevin brought more drinks and put away the nuts in the kitchen. The other guests had an opportunity to gossip about

 

 

the hosts but they did not take it. When the hosts returned they came to realise this.

“It won’t be much longer,” said Alice.

A little while later Kevin got some plates and cutlery and started to set the table. The other guests helped as well and the salads were placed on opposing sides of the table. Alice went into the kitchen and turned off the oven and the hobs. The food was left to cool for a few minutes before being served to everyone. The group tucked in to their food and enjoyed the fruits of their labour. Conversation ceased and there was an old fashioned eating in silence moment. After a long period of comfortable silence; people began to speak again. It was mostly about the food and how well it turned out. Self congratulation was a dominant force at this point in time. Once this was over the meal was too and the clearing away could begin. All members helped and the leftovers were put in containers. The group returned to the sitting room and conversation turned to back- grounds. Kevin spoke about his Nigerian parents, Alice her Welsh family, Mira her Indian upbringing, Peter his English mother and Scottish father, Ekaterina her Russian mother and Estonian father and Dionisio his Cuban parents. Despite such a diverse ancestry they all lived in the same town and considered it home.

“When I tell my parents about our social group they find it quite strange as they grew up with a very limited range of people. They are not opposed to other types of people; they are unaccustomed

 

 

to it. I explain to them that in some ways it is so normal for me that I find the idea of being with only the same type of people a tad unfamiliar and off putting,” explained Alice.

“That’s very progressive of you, Alice, I wonder if this will change for you in the future,” added Ekaterina.

“It’s funny that - there were so many things about myself that I thought would never change about me and they did. So many opin- ions and lifestyle choices that I thought defined me simply fell away with time,” Peter said profoundly.

There were many nods of agreement and even a murmur from Dion- isio.

“There must be a way of making this conversation less serious,” ironically said by Kevin.

He followed this by changing the song on the computer. “Unintentionally he made his feelings clear on the issues being dis- cussed. He had a way of doing this that was so natural to him that if you explained it he would think of you as crazy,” Alice thought to herself.

“I like this song – good choice Kevin!” exclaimed Mira.

Whatever attempt at a mature discussion there was it fell away. “We have started renting a holiday home in the countryside and we should all go one weekend,” said Mira.

“That sounds lovely,” replied Dionisio, “What inspired that?” “We figured it would be nice to have somewhere to unwind and host

 

 

away from the busyness of a built up area,” answered Mira.

“The timing felt perfect for us as well to take our life in a new di- rection,” added Peter.

“When should we come?” asked Ekaterina.

After a brief discussion it was agreed that three weekends from now was when all were available. There were talks of excitement as there was curiosity as to what the place would be like and how it may be a nice break from the usual weekend plans. Conversation was light and general so there was no song changing from Kevin. everyone looked content and relaxed (if we’re being honest – a little privileged too!) It was not very late in the day but the combination of eating and sitting brought about an air of lethargy into the ambience. Alice brought out a board game to enliven the group. Kevin made some tea to accompany her efforts. Their revival was successful and there was a noticeable decrease in how much slumping was present in the room. Dice were being rolled and cards handed out. At first it was done with a little resistance but it became more usual and expected in time.

“Peter is fairly competitive but the others felt more relaxed and ap- peared more indifferent. Anyway he is losing so there is a little frown but no gloating or particularly excessive behaviour from him,” Mira thought to herself.

The board game was drawing to a climax and there was already a clear winner. The finishing was more of a formality than a nail biter.

 

 

Ekaterina won pretty gracefully and there were symbolic and slightly formal handshakes all around. Peter’s was slightly more begrudging but it was polite nonetheless. Conversation returned to the weekend away and what to do during it.

“We must invite them all over at some point,” Ekaterina whispered to Dionisio.

He nodded and turned to face the rest of the guests. The tea had taken effect and perked up its consumers. There was some im- promptu dancing on the way to the kitchen. It was more of a solo act rather than a trend about to become popular. It went unno- ticed by most of the group and it didn’t seem worth mentioning. It was reaching a time when people looked like they were in the first stages of preparing to leave. It starts with thinking about leaving and continues with checking the time and plotting. The first yawn of the day was let out and was definitely a trend setter. It had been a pleasant day but everyone had a week ahead to face and that started to dominate their thinking.

“Thank you for a lovely day. We will be in contact soon,” said Eka- terina.

“Thanks for coming,” replied Alice.

Exchanges of goodbye took place and then there were four people left. A few comments were made about them leaving and then the evening continued. The dynamic was a little different but it was by no means tense or uncomfortable. Conversation was a little more

 

 

personal as the four have known each other for longer. Stories of past memories and experiences between the pairs were reminisced about.

“I remember the first time we met each other,” said Alice to the group, “It was a party not far from here. At the time I didn’t realise we would become such good friends!”

“It’s funny that,” said Mira “You can meet someone once and spend so much time with them afterwards.”

The group thought about how you were always a few moments away from someone or something having a significant impact on your life whether it is positive or negative.

“But usually this does not happen which means that there is always much uncertainty about the future,” commented Kevin in an un- characteristic manner.

“This does not usually happen for me though - my life is often banal and plagued by routine,” joked Peter. The group laughed and com- mented on how there was always so many interesting things affecting people’s lives but it all seemed to pass over them.

“It’s like we’re always three streets away and six minutes early for excitement,’ retorted Alice.

They all laughed as there was a strong resonance of truth in what she said. There seemed to be a sense of contentedness in their per- sonal situations as it brought about little risk or sense of loss. “Wanting to leave on a high we will have to say goodbye,” said Mira

 

 

almost breaking into song.

The final farewells were said and the door was locked shortly after the final guests left. Kevin rinsed the dishes and started the dish- washer while Alice took a shower. He was done first and turned on the TV to unwind before going to sleep. Shortly afterwards Alice joined him with positive comments on the evening and anticipation of the weekend away in the countryside. Kevin nodded and said it would probably mean they would be more relaxed during the work week. She also nodded, they kissed, said goodnight and went to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

 

 

Mira and Peter made their way to the country house first to make sure the heating and electrics were functioning. They arrived and everything was fine. There was enough time to prepare the guest rooms and welcome everyone so the couple took this as an oppor- tunity to unwind and settle themselves in. The view was fantastic; sometimes the presence of nature was enough to feel a sense of peace and belonging. This would soon be broken by idle conversation. “Look at the multi coloured leaves out there - it’s almost as though each colour represents where they are in their life cycle,” Mira ex- claimed poetically.

“It really puts things in perspective as to how significant we really are,” followed Peter.

They sat in silence for a while just happy to be where they are and in a state of constant unwinding. These serene moments passed and it was time to prepare the guest rooms. They started by making the beds and arranging the living room. This did not take that long and

11

 

 

they returned to sitting and waiting for the first guests to arrive. About an hour later the door bell was rang and it was Alice and Kevin at the door. They were stood outside the house in quiet ad- miration of their surroundings. As the olden door swung open they greeted their hosts and were quick to offer praise and gratitude to the counterparts.

“Welcome! I am afraid the food won’t be as good as when we were at your apartment for brunch,” Mira said loudly.

“Thank you – I am sure it will be fine,” replied Alice, “the journey in was a little long and tiring but it is worth it to be here.”

Mira smiled and gave her a friendly pat on the shoulder to say it was no problem at all. The four moved to the living room and con- tinued to talk whilst intermittently looking out the window at the natural surroundings. They drank tea and caught up on what had happened in their lives since the last time they met. Soon after finishing their teas there was another ring of the door bell. Peter got out of his seat to let in the final guests. Ekaterina and Dionisio entered the home and greeted Peter and then the rest of the group. They were also flattering about the place and did not experience many traffic problems on the journey to the house. The unintim- idating and unofficially recognised gang were back together. This was to be another seemingly eventful weekend with more witnesses than necessary. The welcome teas were politely accepted by Ekate- rina and Dionisio. The sun was blazing through the window and left

 

 

mini rainbow shows where it reflected.

Alice pointed at them and exclaimed, “Wow. The sun is putting on a light show for us!” The others turned and faced in awe.

“A universe waiting to be uncovered but shiny things are what get the attention of humans,” thought Dionisio to himself. “If people saw me thinking this they would probably want me around less.” Ekaterina nudged him as she could sense his general train of thought. He straightened up and was jogged back into social convention. His dissonance disappeared and he exchanged a thankful glance and slight nod with his girlfriend. Mira turned on the television and the group turned to watch it. Peter asked if anyone would like some- thing and they all politely declined. A show about home videos was on and it was generally quite amusing. Some clips seemed staged but many felt genuine. Discussion turned to what to do for the day and a hike in the forest area was agreed upon. Mira got some snacks ready for everyone and handed out bottles of water. With the group prepared the door was locked and they started on their trek. Left foot followed by right but not in unison for they are not an army. Kevin started on the snacks because he thought if there’s an emer- gency he will just go hungry.

“The weather is nice out and it feels good to be outside away from the crowds and the incessant use of technology,” thought Mira to herself, “It would be ironic if I texted that to someone but I shall refrain.”

 

 

It was quite silent and there was no strong conversation but this did not seem to make anyone feel the need to speak. This comfort was broken by inevitable speech.

“Where are we going exactly?” asked Ekaterina.

“There is a hill on the other side of this forest which has some pretty impressive views,” replied Peter.

The group continued walking with the rustles of leaves and the sun- light peeking through the gaps in the treetops being the predominant sensory stimuli. The surroundings did not appear to change much despite a reasonably considerable amount of distance being covered. It is easy to get lost in this environment but two members of the group had made the journey a dozen times and felt confident about getting back safely and in decent light as well. Kevin stuffed the last of the wrappers into his pockets and seemed a little proud of himself. To be fair he did win the informal challenge of snack eating. His victory was short lived as he had to switch his focus to looking at the ground as it was covered in fallen leaves. Conversation had completely stopped as no one wanted to fall down despite the land- ing looking soft. This continued for about fifteen minutes and then the terrain was more visible and familiar.

“That is the hardest part of the walk – I promise!” said a slightly out of breath Mira.

“The first time I did this walk I thought the hill would be more difficult – how naive I was!” joked Peter.

 

 

The group laughed - although some more sarcastically than others. This was more from fatigue than it was some sort of deep resentment towards Peter. The path they were following was no longer in the woods and the clear blue sky was very visible. Most of the group were wearing sunglasses and although having partially covered faces they still looked a little smug to onlookers. The walk continued along the quiet path and the hill was now visible in the horizon. They made their way to the bottom of the hill and looked at the summit which was not very high up and they made their way up. Ten minutes later they reached the top and shared an exaggerated and unnecessary celebration. A light breeze passed them and this was invitation enough to head back to the house. The walk back always felt quicker and easier for some reason. Partly due to sec- tions of downhill walking but orientation of location and distance helped pace the return easier. Also snack and water reserves were running low so it made sense to rush to where there is more fuel. In a short time they were back inside the forest but the novelty of a challenge had worn off. There was even light conversation whilst walking on the leaf covered ground. Alice commented on how much better she felt walking in the outdoors and how she remembers tak- ing walks with family and friends when a child. This lead to an unhealthy amount of reminiscing with slow and overly sentimental stories being exchanged. The walk was coming to a close and the general mood was that it was a pleasant way to spend time and good

 

 

weather today. The front door was unlocked and everyone piled in to the living room. Here they had yet more snacks and beverages. People were tired but they would be okay after a moderate sit down and refreshment. It was too late to nap and too early to go to bed so it would be necessary to persevere through the day without the aid of a brief or lengthy sleep but this was reality. With the acceptance of this realisation people perked up a little. Peter and Mira started on dinner and the others joined to help in a fashion similar to that at the apartment. The ingredients were not as impressive as Kevin’s but something tasty could still be made. The kitchen was a little bigger than last time so there was ample room to stretch out and make a mess while preparing and cooking. About two hours later everything was ready and the plates were served but no grace was said before the eating commenced.

“May I have the salad? ” asked Alice.

“No!” said Peter while passing the bowl over to her.

Alice laughed and thanked him before asking if she could pass it to anyone else. Dionisio took some and placed the bowl next to him- self. The plates were cleared and a bowl of fruit was positioned in the middle of the table. Coffees were dispersed around the table to create quite a mature ambience. It felt like an environment where politics and social issues could be discussed but this did not take place. Sports and fashion were chosen instead as they are more in- teresting and less divisive topics. Trends and sports results changed

 

 

often enough to maintain enthusiasm without being mentally chal- lenging. No one dared speak of distraction on a weekend away. The coffees were finished and the cups and small plates put in the sink. The group headed once more to the living room for the final unwind before going to sleep.

“It’s been a tiring day but a rewarding one too,” said Ekaterina. “I was about to say the same,” said Alice. “I think I will head to bed soon,” said Dionisio whilst letting out a little yawn.

“I think it is clear that we are are getting older by our approach to an evening on the weekend,” joked Mira.

Dionisio said goodnight to everyone and Ekaterina did not follow immediately. She sat and conversed with the rest of the people in the room. Alice went to bed next and Kevin stayed behind to continue chatting and enjoying the others company. Eventually con- versation wound down little by little until the two remaining guests went to their respective rooms. Peter and Mira cleared up a little and made slight arrangements in the kitchen and dining area to fa- cilitate breakfast tomorrow morning. They said to each other how they were happy how the day went and how they felt fortunate to be able to rent such a place. They uttered how they thought they had made a good decision. Mira and Peter got out of bed first and set the table fully in case anyone was hungry. They whispered so as to not wake anyone about what they could do for the day. They thought driving to a natural bath in the late morning might be nice

 

 

and have lunch at a pub somewhere nearby. Alice and Kevin were up next and they came to the kitchen informally dressed and greeted the hosts. Alice asked how everyone slept and they responded that it was well. The noise in the kitchen woke up Ekaterina and Dion- isio who finally joined the rest. Now everyone was at the table; toast and cereals were eaten and juices and teas drank. The food seemed to perk everyone up and conversation turned to what to do today. Mira and Peter made their suggestions for the day and the rest agreed as they figured they knew the local area the best and the ideas sounded fun. With breakfast finished the dishes were done and the guests prepared themselves for the day out. Kevin was finished first so sat in the living room and turned on the television. He was joined not long later by Dionisio. They conversed about music and sports a little but the main focus was watching the screen. A while later Ekaterina came to the living room with a day bag and was shortly followed by Alice who was carrying a bag too. Kevin had a carrier bag and Dionisio a sports bag. Mira came out with a wheely bag and Peter a multi coloured sports bag. The group was all ready and the television was turned off from the source rather than by the remote control. Mira led the way outside and the guests followed her there. Once everyone was outside Peter locked up and joined the others at the head of the driveway. The six all went in one car to the natural baths. It was a large family car and fitted in the wide range of bags as well. The journey to the baths did not have much

 

 

traffic and the views were quite lovely. The weather had continued

 

whilst sat inside. Some photos were taken of the views for recalling at a later date. They weren’t of a professional standard but they didn’t need to be.

“Amateur photography is much better when honest anyways,” thought Ekaterina to herself.

She did not show the photos to anyone and put her phone back in her bag. Crime was not a serious problem in this area so it was fine to be slightly more careless with valuables. Most of the others were looking out of the window and it was pretty quiet inside the car with focus elsewhere. The journey was over and the natural baths reached. It was clean and not very busy which made the group feel better about being here. There was a gift shop by the car park which made for a touristic feel more than a local feel to the place. Nothing was purchased here other than entry which surprisingly and luckily qualified for group discount. It brightened the mood a little and the men and women separated to go to the changing rooms. They rejoined on the other side and were dressed in swimming outfits and gowns that were provided by the place. Mira dipped her toe in to one of the six baths (which are pool sized ). The others followed suit being the sheep that they are. Eventually they were fully in and split between two baths that are next to each other so that they could converse without being disruptive to the relaxing nature of the

 

 

place.

“This is so lovely – I would never have come here if it wasn’t for you Mira and Peter. Thank you so much!” said Alice while blushing a little.

“That is so nice to hear Alice – we are glad we invited you!” said Mira in a matching tone.

”You’ve been a delight so far maybe we can come here again some- time,” added Peter.

Ekaterina and Dionisio smiled and allowed the pairs to have their moment of friendship. Not long later the only sound was the gentle movement of water as all were laying on their backs and being totally relaxed. It was too much effort to talk whilst in this state. After twenty minutes it was time to rinse off and try a different bath. The baths felt mostly the same and the place was unusual enough that it felt worthwhile to try all six baths. There was nothing in a six mile radius so there was nowhere to hurry to anyway. After two hours it was about time to shower, change and leave. The relaxation was starting to turn into boredom so it was better to leave rather than make a chore out of staying. They all reconvened at the gift area a half hour later. Not everyone arrived at the same time but it was close enough. Those that arrived first said how hungry they are. “I don’t know what it is but when I am on land I don’t get that hun- gry but when I am in water for the shortest time I feel ravenous,” said Dionisio to Kevin.

 

 

The reply came back “I can always eat; whether I am on land, water or in the air.”

Peter and Dionisio shrugged their shoulders and that was the end of the conversation. Peter unlocked the car and put everyone’s belong- ings into the boot. Once everything was in the door was closed and it was time to have lunch. The journey was a little under twenty minutes and there was excited chatter; especially from the back of the car!

“It’s a little distracting guys – do you mind keeping it down a little?” Peter said slightly irately.

The people at the back became more silent and there were no further incidences or conflicts. The group exited the car and walked into the pub. They were not exactly in unison or single file but somewhere that lay in between the two. The group was feeling greedy so sat at a table for eight and spread out in an oddly shameless manner. They were greeted by a server and handed menus. Kevin skimmed through the menu and closed it soon after having made all his de- cisions for the next ninety minutes of his life. Alice read aloud a little but not to much responsiveness from the others at the table. Eventually all was decided and both food and drinks were ordered. The drinks came first as is customary and the food came in reason- able time. Once the starters were eaten Ekaterina invited everyone to come to a jazz festival in Europe for eight days. Alice and Kevin said yes and Mira and Peter said they would think it over and let

 

 

them know before they left the house in the country. The mains arrived and they were eaten in a fairly quick manner. Soon after the plates were cleared which left extra room for stretching which was more of a necessity now than it was before the eating commenced. Desert was not taken by anyone but it felt as though if one person took it then everyone would in a domino kind of way. The bill was ordered and split with extra given for the acceptable level of service that was delivered. The group got up, said thank you and moved seats to a more vehicular one. The journey back was a quiet one and a short one as well. When they arrived at the house there was a two hour break for everyone to do what they liked - nap, shower, watch TV. The options were chosen and each individual had the opportu- nity of a break away from a mini break. A new level of relaxation - if the lazy had aspirations this would be it. With everyone having a little space they were able to vocalise slight complaints and grumbles without upsetting anyone directly. The two hours passed and the living room was the place to be - sofas, cushions and curtains. If you could imagine it; there is a possibility it was there. The television was on and although there was not anything particularly fascinating to watch it was a nice, neutral background addition.

“What does everyone fancy doing for the final dinner?” asked Mira to the group.

“I don’t mind – whatever is easiest for you,” replied Dionisio.

“I am not that hungry after that big lunch and none of us had desert

 

 

so I don’t mind walking half an hour to a local Mediterranean style cafe that has coffee and ice cream,” said Mira.

This idea was greeted with very positive response and there would be another two hours of free time before leaving; this one was un- scheduled too! Having already had a break, the second one was duly accepted and spent in the living room talking about the past two days and times before that. It was similar to at the apartment but it felt more like a team building course between friends. Feelings and opinions were shared freely and individuals grew closer as a collec- tive. It probably wouldn’t be that significant in a life flashing before your eyes montage but it was not an unpleasant way of passing time. About fifteen minutes before it was time to leave was when clothes and shoes were chosen for the walk out. The collective left fairly punctually and started their walk while there was still some light in the sky. It looked as if it would be a clear night sky as there were very few clouds visible above or in the horizon. Mira walked next to Ekaterina and Dionisio and informed them that herself and Peter would come to the festival and after discussing it were excited and appreciative about the opportunity.

“Sorry we didn’t say yes right away,” said Mira apologetically. “It’s quite alright – you don’t need to apologise Mira and if I don’t get the chance to say it before we leave thank you for welcoming us into your home,” replied Ekaterina in a friendly manner.

They shared a hug and continued walking towards their destination.

 

 

It was a little chilly but it was by no means cold weather. The speed of walking was between brisk and medium pace. The out- fits were not matching but complemented each other to a sufficient level. The walk was an enjoyable one; it was a little scenic but well pathed which is more important when walking at night or during the evening. They arrived at a place that had old and traditional exterior but a nicely modern and sleek interior. There was a ca- sual atmosphere but they were greeted at the door by someone to direct them to some seats. The menus looked quite unique and had a homemade feel to them more than a professional one. Time was taken to order and the menus read carefully as it was a place with much fresh produce and an extensive menu. The choices were made and the menus removed from the table. Alice let out a sigh of relief as the weight and pressure of decision making had been temporarily relieved. It went unnoticed and there was excited chatter of expec- tations of the place’s coffee and snacks. They took a little while to come to the table but it was expected with fresh produce. “Another mildly interesting weekend for us with no major events that change the course of our lives,” joked Ekaterina.

“There’s still time! ” exclaimed Peter hopefully.

This seemed to be more optimistic than realistic as soon after saying this the coffees arrived. They were left to cool and while this was happening they were stirred. The spoons were kept on a suitably placed saucer as they were not currently needed but the opportunity

 

 

to use them later still remained a viable possibility. The coffees were well above room temperature and ready to drink. They were lightly sipped and found to be delicious. The snacks arrived almost as soon as the coffees and the more uncouth members of public were dunking them into their drinks. Once they were finished the bill was quickly paid and the walk back to the house commenced. It was about three degrees cooler than the walk in. This figure was not converted into Fahrenheit or Kelvin for this would be a little obsessive. The walk would hopefully tire everyone out enough to get a good night’s sleep. “The walk is a little slower on the way back after eating but it feels good to stretch the legs, have some fresh air and let the food settle instead of going to sleep straight away,” thought Mira to herself.

There was a contented feel on the way back to the group - relaxation will do that to a person. The motley crew arrived at the house and the general mood was that it was time to go to sleep. There was packing to be done so the good night’s were said early and the cou- ples retreated to their temporary habitations.

“Packing does not take too long but there is something very draining about it,” thought Dionisio to himself.

Double checks would be done in the morning but are not as impor- tant at a friend’s house than they are at a hotel. Everyone went to sleep ready to leave the next morning except for the hosts who would leave in the afternoon. After a night of uninterrupted rest; Peter was the first to rise. He organised a simple breakfast - some-

 

 

thing to get people through the day but not as elaborate as the previous morning. Mira was up next and helped him to prepare ev- erything for when the others got up which felt like soon. Ekaterina was the first to the breakfast table and walked in with a smile. The remaining three joined shortly afterwards bearing two smiles and a grimace. Good mornings were swapped and beverages and foods put away. Gratitude was shown for the effort made on a morning when nothing was expected. Once finished the guests helped clear up a little before checking they had all their belongings packed. There were no time pressures to leave but it was easier to get home a little earlier to settle in and prepare for the week ahead. The guests left after saying their goodbyes and thanks to the hosts as well as some excitement about the upcoming music festival. Peter closed the door behind and let out a huge sigh of relief for although an enjoyable weekend hosting is always tiring. Mira sprawled herself on the sofa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3

 

 

It was one day before the start of the music festival where Alice, Mira, Kevin and Peter were meeting at the airport. Dionisio and Ekaterina were already at the festival and would meet their four friends at the destination airport. It would be quite a short flight so there were no real worries of jetlag or anything similar. Security was not particularly troublesome on this day so before long it was on to the seats with a view of the aeroplanes taking off. It is a place where children can sit for hours and feel entertained yet adults be- come tedious after only a few minutes. The plane arrived on time and boarding was not a problem. The seats were not very large but it was fine. The flight had mild turbulence but nothing more than this. The flight landed and a very small applause was given to the pilot. The pairs left and collected their baggage before making their way to the exit where the hosts were waiting. Salutations were shared along with hugs and kisses before the inevitable

“Have you been waiting long?”

 

27

 

 

The usual response of “No!” came back.

They all walked towards the car park where there was a minivan waiting so that all the people and bags could be transferred simul- taneously and whilst experiencing light comfort. The roads were smooth and well paved which led to some contented head nodding as this was indeed the life they were living. They reached the hotel safely and were checked in quite swiftly. The hosts gave their friends time to relax and nap before meeting for a casual dinner. The new arrivals agreed and welcomed the rest as even short international journeys are still quite tiring. The whole split into segments as each person went to their room. Naps and showers were taken freely and a little unpacking took place. The hotel was fairly nice but not very grandiose with a slight home feel to it as opposed to a corporate one. The rest time was over and it was time to prepare for the meeting in the lobby. Within a half hour all were at the meeting point which was not officially designated by a sign provided by the host estab- lishment. Dionisio and Ekaterina led the way to a semi casual place to get dinner or a snack which catered to the hungry and or thirsty. The place was open and as was a little before peak time at half of its occupational capacity; of course depending on whether one is an optimist, a realist or a pessimist. Menus were already on the table so there was no need to wait to be seated as they would come over when you looked ready. The choices were made quickly as an early night was ideal for a busy week ahead. Dionisio had three days of

 

 

practice and one main set ahead of him and then he could holiday with his friends. The starters and drinks were ordered and patiently waited for. When the drinks arrived the group moved to the games area. There was a pool table and a darts board to occupy the cus- tomers. Both were in good condition and currently vacant. Teams were chosen and the only rule outside of the regular rules of the game was that you could not pair with your date. The new pairs were created and the games commenced with unlikely winners. The abilities varied from poor to average and the time to finish as well. After one round the starters were at the table so it seemed like a good time to end the competitive behaviour. The dishes were fin- ished and Peter said he felt a little funny afterwards so he would not be able to do round two of the games. Mira stayed back to make sure his wellbeing was okay. The others continued with the games and expressed concern for Peter whilst remaining positive that it would hopefully not ruin or change the trip too much. With the drinks finished and no more food ordered it was time for the walk back to the hotel. There was a perimeter around Peter for as much as they liked him they did not want to have their clothes stained. Fortunately there was no incident during the walk and the goodbyes could be said without a huge degree of stress. As earlier they went their separate ways and settled down for the night. Mira got some towels and water in preparation of a possible incident. All the lights were off and the sleeping could begin. The next morning came and

 

 

Peter looked much better; it was sure to be the talk of breakfast! Dionisio went to meet other musicians and Ekaterina stayed at the hotel with plans of meeting up later. She went down to breakfast to meet Alice, Kevin and Mira. It was laid out simply but it was enough to start the day.

“What’s the plan for the day?” asked Alice.

“We will go to the festival and Dionisio will give us entry passes for the week. We are then free to explore the festival or go on a day trip as we are not here for work!” explained Ekaterina in a slightly joking manner.

“Sounds fun, shall we leave after breakfast and is Peter coming?” enquired Kevin.

“He will have a day off just to be safe and so he can make the fourth and most important day,” answered Mira.

The group left the table and arranged to meet in a half hour to give everyone plenty of time to ready themselves. Even in this short time Kevin found the time to watch some TV which he described as good time management. The initial response was not overwhelmingly pos- itive from Alice but she saw the funny side pretty soon afterwards. They left the room, took the lift down and sat at the seats by the entrance where they met the others. A taxi was called and the four headed towards the badges. The journey was about twenty minutes and there were only stops at the various traffic lights as the roads were not very busy. The car park was full but because they had a

 

 

special entrance they were able to avoid the queues and the crowds. They came through the back entrance and were met by the door by Dionisio who gave them their own passes and Peter’s as well. Af- ter fifteen minutes he went in and joined the other musicians thus leaving his friends to enjoy their holiday. They put the passes in their bags, took some bottles of cold water and put their sunglasses on. The temperature was quite warm but not hot so it was pleasant weather to be in without feeling like wanting to faint. The plan of action was to sit and relax for half an hour and from there make a decision as what to do but in the meantime it was a nice break away with the faint sound of live music and the refreshing seating area some distance away from the large speakers. A decision was still yet to be made and it didn’t appear as though anyone was in a hurry to take a position of leadership. There were a couple of insects flying around with the intention of slightly dampening the relaxing afternoon mood.

“Shall we go back stage and meet some of the musicians?” suggested Ekaterina.

“Sounds fun – it feels impossible to say no,” replied Alice.

“We’re here early so you probably won’t recognise anyone but it could still be nice to see,” informed Ekaterina.

The four walked towards the backstage area and it was nowhere near as glamorous as expected or shown on television. It was fairly messy and it didn’t need to be a certain way but sometimes the difference

 

 

between truth and appearance can be staggering. After a quick tour of the dressing rooms and the rest of the area the group decided to go for a walk away from the music. It was going to be similar ev- ery day so there was no rush to see or fit everything into a jammed week. It could be more beneficial to take a slower and more selective process to choosing what to see and do. The weather was perfect for walking in and the location of the event was in the countryside so slightly away was just fresh air and a little sunshine. It was ideal for a picnic or a leisurely cycle and it would be a nice sanctuary if the festival felt overcrowded or overwhelming in terms of constant sound through large and frequently placed speakers and sound sys- tems. It was apparent that these were no regular festival goers and they were not even glampers. It would be a relaxing break and they would have a good time just in a slightly unexpected manner. The walk was put on hold as there were two wooden benches who cooed that it was time to sit down and be present with the environment for a few minutes. In order to just let it all blow away; even if for a mere few moments it could be a satisfactory experience. With the poetics and the rest over it was a good time to walk back and catch a few live acts. It was later in the day so some bigger bands would be playing and the non-music performers would start showcasing their works. The walk back was filled by a slowly increasing sound and smell of live music events. The local area was really boosted by this event or at least this was proclaimed by certain ethically conscious

 

 

attendees. There was a small room for the guests to unwind in and keep their stuff but the group opted to keep their possessions in sight and on their person’s; still it was nice to have the option though. The second stage was chosen as the first stage act was overrated and unnecessarily obnoxious. This was not just the group’s opinion but the whole world’s (with the exception of the people who saved up to pay and see them but never mind that!) Anyway the lesser known and therefore better band put on a good set and turned a mildly exciting afternoon into a moderate one. Their music was simple but infectious and a little intelligent. The group was swaying and get- ting a little lost in rhythms and harmonies being presented to them. But only a little as it was not yet evening and some conservation of energy would be needed for that. The set ended and there was a break so it was a good time to hydrate and sit after the period of swaying.

“There is no substitute for ice cold water after gentle exercise,” thought Mira to herself.

There was no hurry to see the next act so sitting down and chatting seemed to be the most sensible decision. It could be a long week in some ways but there was enough freedom and variety to often avoid this feeling. While this was going on Dionisio finished a frus- trating practice; he played well in the morning but in the afternoon his creativity whilst improvising and timing just fell away. This had happened before and would most likely reoccur a few times in the

 

 

future but it was annoying nonetheless. He took a walk outside to calm himself and regain a little composure. It was likely that he would still be a little off when he returned but now he was able to think through what he was trying to play in both the theory and the practice. By the time the show comes he would at least be able to play through his part without noticeably ruining the songs. It was not a first choice but when success does not come sometimes avoiding failure is the next best option. There would be plenty more shows in the future and part of creativity is managing periods of low inspiration. It was time to return for one more hour and then he could go back to the hotel and order room service. The others saw one more live set and then went back to the hotel. They ate at a cafe on the road of the hotel and were joined by Peter who ordered carefully despite looking like having returned to full health. The meal did not last long and everyone returned to their rooms to shower, watch TV and sleep. Dionisio finished a marginally better practice session and returned to his room where his girlfriend was. He told her it had been a long day but it would be worth it for the short term. She reassured him and he ordered from the menu. It arrived, was eaten and the tray left outside the door of the room before a long sleep. The next morning came and soon after waking up Dionisio made his way to practice and woke up Ekaterina during the process. For the morning her reaction to this was not so great almost as if it was half expected. Peter was also awake as he had

 

 

a day of rest and was now itching to go outside and do things and least of all be able to eat with a little less caution than the previous day. There was no official meeting time but between nine and ten it was likely that there would be some calls from room to room. At the same time both Alice and Kevin were sound asleep and obliv- ious to the world as so many people are for at least a portion of the day. This peaceful bliss was soon interrupted by an incoming call which could be described as an unwelcome sound. Kevin picked up the phone and with a croaky voice said hello. His unenthusiasm was immediately recognised and the conversation kept short with the message of meeting in an hour for breakfast and museums. He set an alarm for half an hour’s time with the hopes of squeezing in a nap before waking up and facing the day. Alice on the other hand got out of bed five minutes later and started to get ready at a slow pace for she had time to do this. Mira and Peter got ready as well but in turns as they were sharing a bathroom and did not need to start the day off by getting in each other’s way. Ekaterina had no such problems with a whole room and bathroom to herself. Kevin got out of bed looking and feeling pretty refreshed and when he was ready it was time to meet outside and go to a museum of history and after they could breakfast at the cafe with souvenir buying as a secondary option. The museum was a twenty five minute walk away but in the summer weather it was a pleasure to do. The building was an old but well restored one with signs confirming that it was the

 

 

correct place. There was a courtyard and although not busy there were quite a few people spread over the large public space. Entrance was a small fee but with the way the place looked it did not seem to be unreasonable. The group dispersed slightly with each person spending slightly longer on what was of interest to them rather than walking around like a herd and making themselves impossible to pass. It even got to the point where each person was so independent that they were on different floors to their friends. It was agreed that once they had finished looking to meet in the cafe and Mira was their first and Kevin their last; which was perhaps an indication of their opinion on one representation of a small segment of world history. The cafe was pretty basic but on a week where all meals are eaten out it is nice to have a little bit of a break from big or heavy meals. The plan was to take it slow and easy today and not see any music today. There were of course people who faced with such opportu- nity would wonder why go to a museum and a park instead. For the group it was nice to see the town and in two days see their friend in concert as they didn’t feel the need to see every act. With the coffee and pastries consumed it was time for a walk around a local park and perhaps afterwards there could be a visit to a botanical garden that was adjacent to the park. The walk there was fairly short and there were two roads that were difficult to cross but after this it was so quiet that walking in the middle of the road did not feel particularly dangerous. Once they reached the destination they

 

 

became slightly more anarchic as a collective with some walking on the path and others walking on the grass. The wind was light but it was good that ther was some breeze so that the temperature was not unbearable. There were plenty of benches and even a statue with a plaque explaining its erection. Two rounds of the park was sufficient and then it was onto the gardens where there were many signs around colourful flora in Latin. At first it was a little over- whelming but when viewed in sections it was less intimidating and more manageable. With half the sections covered it was time for a well earned break and a little refreshment as well. Peter was eager after eating a meagre amount of food yesterday. Post break it was time for the second half of viewing the gardens. There would not be a quiz which was good as I think beyond basic understanding of the complex nature it was just some well maintained flowers and plants. The second half finished and there were no winners just a sense of feeling cultured and the glint in the eye that corresponded to this. Meanwhile Dionisio was busy with practice and it was a lot more fun for him today as he clicked better musically with himself and with the other musicians. It was a relief as he did not need another day like yesterday. It was getting the point where it seemed easier to just play the show today and be over with it but no such option was available so there was little use in wishing for it. The practice day was almost over and he could join his friends for dinner today which would be a nice break which potentially could relax him and slightly

 

 

improve his playing. The group met at a restaurant and compared notes on how their day went. Both parties had an enjoyable time and were happy to be reunited after two days apart. There was much to say and plans were being made for the remaining few days. Dionisio said he had the day off but would be busy in the evening so it was decided that they would go for a day trip to a lake and walk around plus have brunch there. With dinner over there was another post meal walk; which was becoming a bit of a tradition. A slight detour was made to enjoy the warm evening as it was uncertain when a sim- ilar opportunity would rise again. Once the hotel was reached it was followed by a similar routine of saying goodbye, relaxing and eventu- ally falling asleep before waking to start another day. Alarms were not set but the curtains in the room were quite thin so eventually daylight would penetrate through them and slowly wake everyone up as a kind of nature alarm for the active minded. With everyone up there was no point in delaying the start and all got ready with small day bags not too dissimilar to the natural bath trip. The first stop was the supermarket for brunch supplies. There would need to be a choice of items that would not perish. Ekaterina had a small cool bag with her so that they could buy and safely store some local cheese and cold cuts. There was an optimistic murmur as a reaction to the good planning on her part. With all the provisions bought it was time to go to the car rental place to rent a large car. Once this was done the drive to the lake began and shortly afterwards

 

 

so did the photo taking. A scenic route and clear roads stimulated feelings of calm in everyone and this included the driver. Fifteen minutes before the lake and the views were already bordering on breathtaking with low levels of pollution and bright colours in the sky and on the ground. There were colours so clear and crystalline that it felt like it was crafted. Whether it was or wasn’t was a debate of the ages but for some the simple enjoyment and appreciation of nature are sufficient. The lake was reached and there was a car park a mile away with a welcome centre and some toilets. A bathroom break was taken and those who were fine stayed outside and looked at their surroundings. They soaked up what they could and enjoyed the feeling of being outdoors in an almost solitary environment. Ten minutes later they all started walking towards the lake hand in hand and pretty content. There were some more plaques by the lake in case you wanted to do some light reading but forgot to bring a book or an e-reader. They ranged from mildly informative to vaguely interesting. The walk continued and the lake drew closer with a slightly increasing number of people walking and eating around it for they had a similar idea. The options were to walk around first or have brunch. A mid decision was made with the choice of walking around until somewhere with a nice view and decent sitting area was found. After about twenty minutes walking such a place was located and subsequently the basic food preparation began and there was a silence and a little relief as they tucked in to the cheese, bread and

 

 

meat. It could even be exaggeratedly described as a microcosmic version of when hunters do not find food for days and then make a kill. Once the first few big bites were taken the feeling of there not being any fuel in the body went away and the conversation started to flow. Little by little eating became less important and humorous exchange of ideas and stories took place instead. The weather and the journey in were obviously discussed as well as how something vaguely noteworthy was happening in their lives unlike the last two times they met. There was discussion as to how the six met each other for the first time at a restaurant with the two previous hosts at one table and the current hosts on another and light conversation led to sustained interest and the will to meet. The sun was starting to beat down quite hard and they decided to move towards an area that had more of a shaded area. There was a little nap break once everything was packed up. The only sounds were water and trees and the gentle movement within them. It gently rocked everyone to sleep as they rested in the way of a villager or someone who has a keen hobby for agriculture. After forty minutes there was a slow awakening and a need to walk around the rest of the lake as it would take under two hours from their current location. With the bags in hand a few of the lazier members needed a hand with getting up. Once everyone was on their feet the walking did begin. Initially it felt a little strange after having been used to sitting and lying around but after ten minutes this was no problem at all as muscles

 

 

unclenched themselves. A game was started but it didn’t last very long as it was not very fun and interest was lost in it almost straight- away. The path was worn slightly but not so much that it felt bumpy when stepping on it. Once the round was done it was back to the centre to use the rest rooms before driving back to the car rental place but via the festival. The journey back was quiet once again and not long later Dionisio was let out at the festival to join his musical comrades for their almost ritualistic night before a big show pattern of behaviour. He said goodbye to everyone and they hugged him and wished him good luck. He thanked them and watched his friends drive away. He then greeted his band mates and started the practice session. They would spend the night at a nearby condo as a group as usual. Spirits were high and it was too late to add any major changes to the set so they opted to enjoy themselves and see where this led like they did in the old days. The car load of people dropped off the rental and left on foot for the hotel. They decided to make use of the pool and sauna in the hotel before showering and staying in. Today they would just watch TV and eat whatever as they were too tired to keep eating out and having to deal with being served and dressing for outside of your own room. It would also be nice to have time away from other people in order to give yourself time to miss them and to vent a little about what you don’t like about them. All rooms did this with Ekaterina using the wall as opposed to her partner as a sounding board. Nothing serious was

 

 

said but there is just something about being in someone’s company as after a while it is purely irritating and a precursor to a long sleep. As it was the day of the concert the band was up nice and early in an effort to get focused for the event. It was more about mental prepa- ration than it was about practice or anything musical. It was just a day to spend together and have a celebration in the evening in a classical work as a team play as a team ethos. None of them seemed particularly nervous as gone were the days of proving yourself or making a name out of nothing. It was what the previous years pay off was - not having to work for someone else and doing something that you cared about and are proud to be a part of. This is what the initial dream was about and it would feel pretty good to be on stage again. It might not be a great show but after dozens of bad shows under their belt it was possible to learn how to raise the minimum standard of the show. Meanwhile at the hotel there was a much slower and later start to the day as much of it would be spent on their feet and the night could be a long one. Thus the meeting time was pushed back two hours later than usual. It left extra time for sleeping and stretching for a long day that would potentially have to be a supportive one if it went wrong. The general mood of the group was of mild excitement as there would be lots of waiting but when they eventually saw them it could be quite nice and if it wasn’t they could lie out of being polite. The two hours passed and the group met up and took a little walk around the town centre and its square

 

 

which was moderately full of people. Some were tourists like them and the rest were local people going to lunch or returning back to work. There were even a few street performers and a couple of home- less people too. A little change was handed out, breakfast skipped and lunch had instead. It was part of a new philosophy; lunch is the most important meal of the day. There was no corporate or medical backing so who knows how far the campaign will go. With lunch eaten it was time for another walk before flagging a taxi and going to the festival. The weather was still good and spirits fairly high. With fatigue from the walk setting in a cab was found and taken. The buzz from the venue was louder than two days ago and there were much more people present. The backstage area was still a little scummy but there were more guests around and a more excitable feel in the air. Refreshments were taken and this was followed by a small walk to familiarise themselves with the venue and where to meet when lost. With safety taken care of fun could be had in a careful and sustainable way. Unlike the other day; the main stage was chosen as the music to listen to. There was a noticeable change in the individuals within the crowd. Last time it was music fans and some people who bought a week pass but today had many one day entry fans. This was not really a problem but it did cause a slight change in the general mood. Nonetheless, the group were happy to see some live music and feel a part of something slightly bigger than themselves for a little while. It would be three hours before

 

 

Dionisio played for an hour so the other acts were being enjoyed in the meantime. When the current set was finished they made their way to the performance art stage where there was some conceptual representations of everyday objects. The insight of the creator was certainly of more depth than an audience can comprehend. To an untrained eye it looked like something made by someone with no sense of imagination or style but this was of course intended. Once the group was done here they went to the comedy tent. It was good to have a laugh and it was refreshing to see a group of people taking life and themselves lightly. After a half hour of laughs it was back to the resting for a drink and some conversation. It also served as a rest before the show they came for. There was one more walk around and then like keen beans they went to sound check before watching Dion- isio play a well received set. They whooped and cheered often and occasionally he would turn to look at them and thank them for their support. The show ended and there was no real encore. Once the set was over it was the headliners turn to set up and play. Dionisio met with his friends where they embraced and congratulated him. He said bye to the rest of his band and agreed to meet them at least once before his flight home. The group had all six members which was a bit of a rarity this week. They planned for a nice dinner so stopped at the hotel and put on some fancier clothes before making their way to the restaurant. It was the kind of place where you have to make a reservation and they employ a maitre d’. The service was

 

 

good and as a surprise Ekaterina had booked a wine tour for the next day so everyone could relax there and share stories. The mood was good and everyone’s faces looked a little brighter than they did at the start of the holiday.

“It’s been a lovely trip,” said Alice.

The others agreed and a toast was raised to further acknowledge this point.

“We have been apart a little this week but at least we can spend the last three evenings together,” shared Peter.

There was another toast which slightly diluted the significance of the first one. With dinner over it was time for yet another walk before visiting the hotel bar and then off to sleep for the night. It would be just one drink as the next day had plans of a similar nature but required a reasonably early wake up and get dressed. With the night turning quite late and the glasses empty the day was draw- ing to a natural close and two by two people left until they were all back in their rooms mentally ready for tomorrow but physically in need of some rest. The lights were all off and the alarms all set for later the same day and because of this it was not long before falling asleep. The dreaded alarm sounded which signalled the start of the day. People were feeling a bit tired but generally good as there would be an opportunity to sleep on the way to the vineyard. A quick and small breakfast was had with no formality so everyone came and went as they pleased before getting ready and meeting in

 

 

the lobby. The van with a driver arrived early which was good as the early ones could get their napping out of the way. Eventually all was loaded and the journey as a passenger could begin. The driver was friendly for the morning but whether it was genuine or to be professional was unknown. There were worse jobs in the world but better ones as well. The vineyards were further than the lake so it was necessary to start the day earlier. The views were lovely and they were missed by the sleeping tourists. There would be waking up from time to time with a loss of direction and time before closing the eyes again. With the destination reached there was no choice but to stay awake. The first few steps outside the van were a little disorientating but after a few minutes all was normal. The guide gave a short tour about the history before taking a seat and pouring wines. There was a lengthy description but it was not a patronising one. The sips were taken and newly informed faces pulled to show the application of the knowledge learned. With the wisdom over the sitting and talking could begin. The seats were comfortable and the lighting good as no sunlight was being blocked by the arrangement of the furniture. There were less people in the late morning but it meant a more personalised experience where all questions were an- swered and no slowing down by the sheer number of people in the group. With the first place visited it was on to the second place for a spot of lunch and a little tasting as well. It was a ten minute drive away so just a little too far to walk to. The place was much more

 

 

elegant looking than the first place although a little less inviting and warm than the previous venue. It was not a cold place but it had a slightly more regulated feel and there would be slightly less freedom although overall an enjoyable experience. The menu was all locally sourced and the dishes tasted excellent with a variety of flavours and ingredients being used simply and liberally. Each course was paired with a wine and the recently graduated experts noted which pairings worked and why. The weather was hot but in the shelter it was very bearable. There were hammocks which is also a sign of how serious a place is. The rest in the van meant that the meal didn’t make anyone fall asleep as wine, sun and food had the potential to lead to this. After a long pause it was back to the van for another short journey to the final place. Here there was a short demonstration as to how grapes are picked and turned into wine. It was an interesting process and led to much enthusiasm and curiosity from the group. There was a final tasting and a more merry vibe coming from people who were on the tour. At the end of the tour there was a visit to the shop which was conveniently by the exit and then back to the van for the journey back. The driver was still in good spirits and asked how everyone was doing and about the day. He had also been on a few tours so shared some stories and experiences as well as listening to theirs. After a half hour the conversation dried a little and it was a more quiet time. The views out of the window were enjoyed and appreciated on the return journey. It had been a long week in some

 

 

ways and although a nice break it did not seem undesirable to be returning home. It was still two days away but the thought of going back was starting to grow. It was now almost silent in the car and a couple of people were growing slightly sleepier. There were no con- crete plans for tomorrow so it could be played by ear as to the mood of everyone. There was something boring about being an individual or a collective but in different ways. It was not better as one or the other just a matter of circumstance and choice. The group left the van saying thank you and leaving gratuities behind. No plans were made for the evening and everyone drifted slowly towards their own room with a goodbye followed by the door closing behind. It was time for a break from each other; not a permanent one but a few hours to refresh and focus on what they needed to do when they got back home. Their lives would separate somewhat at home and they just needed some preparation for that in a similar way that they did the opposite a few days before the start of the trip away. There was some TV watching and email checking depending on what life each person was planning to return to. There was no animosity between anyone it was just an unintentional point of the day to continue do- mestic duties and relationships so it would be possible to return to normal life. None of them lived a completely holiday lifestyle due to personal and state imposed responsibilities but overall it was not an unjust or unbalanced life. There existed people with much more problems and they were aware of this but this did little to change

 

 

their comfortable way of life. Three hours were wiled away in a similar manner before the call was made to take a walk and have a snack at the centre of town. It would be a casual evening and they would take a longer walk than usual as they were fairly stationary during the day. It was another pleasant evening on the weather front which was being made the most out of. The pace of walking was slow and the conversation topics comfortable. The snack was eaten while walking back to the hotel and clothes became a tad less clean because of this decision. With the hotel in sight conversation wound down and reached a point where good night was all to be said. It was the final morning of the holiday and the weather was a little cloudy with some light drizzle. The decision was made to stay at the hotel for at least a few hours and if it cleared up to go outside and do something. It looked like today would be a lazy day which was not always a bad thing. Curtains were not opened as the view did not seem worthwhile. There were no to do lists or anything just freedom through inactivity. Aside from the gentle pitter-patter of rain there was not much sound. The town was usually quiet but was even more so when tourists were inside because of the weather. It was picturesque in the sun but the grey made everything look a bit drab. It was the same buildings and landscapes but the view changed so much. It was a tourist’s nightmare and a painter’s dream. Being lazy became boring for the active minded group and they visited the tea room in the hotel which was extremely well stocked with a global

 

 

choice of classic and modern teas. The teas were served in unique handmade teapots with an inbuilt sieve to keep the dregs and sticks of loose tea out of the drinker’s mouth and consequently their life too. Time was left for them to cool and while this was done curiosity of the comprehensive menu was explored. The only downside to the place was the slight feeling of having to order something that was not usually on the menu instead of a plain and simple tea. Much of this was in the person’s head rather than the place itself but there would be many people who would feel no such pressure. Once the tea was finished it was signed to the room and nothing was bought to take home as it was more of a doing something to pass the time more than a real desire to visit a tea shop in spite of what a wonderful place it was. There was a lounge area nearby with some comfortable looking seats and even a few daily newspapers. There was nothing else in the surrounding area so it seemed like a good way to spend an hour. Alice went back to her room to get some playing cards and the notepad and pen by the telephone. She returned and found herself in the centre of the lounge with suggestions as what to play. Rummy was agreed upon as it was easy to play and known by each person. The cards were a new deck so needed to be shuffled many times to help make the game less predictable and more randomised. There were no card counters or statisticians in the group so there would be no further analysis of the game played. The window around the corner was looked out of by Peter to see how it looked but the grey

 

 

was darker and the rain heavier. The packing was going to be done tomorrow as it was an evening flight and the day could potentially be a long one. After the card games it was back to the rooms for an unwind and rest to this lethargy filled day. The air conditioning was reduced slightly to counterbalance the drop in temperature. The only positive at the moment was that the main part of the trip was enjoyed and in good weather as well. It was overall a pretty success- ful trip for all parties and a refreshing one too. The goals of the rest of the year would be a smidgen easier to achieve with this break and rest. Before long the unscheduled afternoon naps began with hopes of a dry evening to finish proceedings. Unfortunately when the naps were over it was still damp outside and the more organised mem- bers started the packing of their bags for the next day. The others lounged around and felt the smallest bit of sorrow for themselves. With evening drawing near it made sense to organise a meal in the evening at the hotel especially because no one had eaten lunch. The final dinner began and reminiscing of the previous week was the large majority of conversation. Spirits were much higher than during the day and although not much the tea, newspapers and cards salvaged an otherwise wasted day. There was more toasting but not to the level of the special dinner two days previous. There was an air of contentedness to the group and although everyone was ready to be going home it was always sad and sentimental to say goodbye. Two of the couples were unsure if they would have the opportunity to re-

 

 

turn here so were interested in taking a last evening walk regardless of current and forecasted precipitation levels. A detour was made to the rooms to find anything that looked vaguely warm or water re- sistant. With the eclectic and mismatching outfits on it was time to face the great outdoors. Within a few minutes there were minor re- grets but the spontaneity and togetherness circumvented this feeling and state of mind simultaneously. A half hour later they returned to the temporary residence soaked and feeling exhilarated. Drying off in the lobby they spotted complimentary umbrellas and imme- diately saw the unnecessary situation they put themselves through but fortunately they were able to see the funny side. They returned once more to the lounge area but this time there were no playing cards. Around the corner there were some heaters to dry the outer layers and there was some conversation about the newspaper head- lines that were visible without lifting or opening the paper. After an hour and a half the clothes were taken off the heaters and towards the rooms. One armed hugs and goodbyes ensued until all were in their individual room with a lock to keep the unwanted out. There was not much discussion within the rooms but showers were had and no alarms set. The bags could be stored at the hotel and there was late check out so there was nothing pressing that anyone had to do before turning the lights out. Sleep could be tough to get with the daytime napping and largely uneventful day but hopefully the walk and lounge would bring some tired to the bedrooms. The final morn-

 

 

ing was here and it brought about a sense of urgency. There was no hurry but something about the last led to a sense of panic. After a few deep breaths order was restored and the day could properly begin with the list of mundane tasks for the day. The packing began within ten minutes of waking up and ranged from neat packing to throwing it all in and sitting on the suitcase until it closed. With the packing finished it was time for breakfast . The weather was better than the day before but there were still some puddles that did not dry overnight. After breakfast there was a final check of the safe, the drawers and the bathroom to make sure that everything was packed and nothing left behind. The bags were taken down chivalrously and stored behind the reception desk in an adjoining room designed for this very purpose. They took a walk with their day bag which contained their valuables and made their way to the almost familiar central square to observe the town and stretch their legs before the flight. The sun started to peek through the top of trees and the tall buildings and a collective sigh of relief was let out by the people of the square. A few of the subversive members of the town felt their mood change for the worse. There were none of them in this group. Most had packed their sunglasses in their suitcases but two members were proudly putting on their shades even though it was not that bright. On some level it was like they were proving a point more than anything but each to their own. The park was visited again and some sandwiches were bought nearby and consumed on

 

 

benches; there were even moments of eating while standing for some people. The rubbish was thrown away and a couple of laps of the park done before resting in the same seats as lunch. After a longish rest the ultimate walk to the hotel began assuming there were no delays to the flight. The latest news was that everything was run- ning fine so the bags were loaded into taxis and the journey to the airport began. It was a fairly new and quiet airport as you could see the gates when passing through airport security. There were no issues on the way through and there was a solitary shop that did not stock a wide variety of products. However the gate was filling up and there was not much to do other than wait for the plane. As the plane took off quiet goodbyes were said to the town and before long clouds were the only view out of the window. A small snack and drink were offered but they were not all that appealing. The flight landed safely and once immigration was passed it was to the baggage claim. This is where everyone would part so the extra long goodbyes and safe trip home’s were exchanged. The bags were all collected and that was it. The pairs walked off in different directions and would not see each other in the way they had in the past week for a while. On their journeys back they spoke of the trip and what they would do next. A commonality for all of them was that laundry was on their list. It was always a little strange being used to a rou- tine and then it changing. The present moment was not completely like this but it did have a glimmer of that feeling. There were no

 

 

plans made to meet as a six again like the last two times they all got together. This was no indication of the future but it was a worthy note. Everyone was home now and after bringing their bags in and checking messages it was off for hopefully a long sleep. No one had work the next day so there were no real morning pressures.


Recognisable Strangers

  • ISBN: 9781311984296
  • Author: bhupen
  • Published: 2016-05-18 17:20:19
  • Words: 14586
Recognisable Strangers Recognisable Strangers