Forgive my extended silence in this hallowed hall of drivel. My excuses are as follow: week one, I had visitors; week two, I visited; week three, I laid me down to die, or so it felt.
Firstly, Ben and his lovely girlfriend Rachel came to stay for their annual pilgrimage to keep Mother happy.
And the Mother thing, I might just point out, is a constant bone of contention with me. When Ben was small, I encouraged him to call me Debbie, which he did quite happily until he started school, at which point I became Mummy. I have fought this tooth and claw throughout, but it has been a lost battle all along.
I have a name, and I do not want to be addressed by my relationship to the addressor. If John were to call me Wife, or (worse still) Wifey, he would probably find himself needing dentures. And I certainly have never addressed Ben as ‘Son’, or Sue as ‘Sister’. My own mother is, of course, a different matter, and she would probably have a complete hissy fit if I called her Jean, but that’s entirely her choice.
Ben has, with age, found it increasingly amusing to labour the Mum thing with me, and so these days I receive birthday cards with as many ‘My Mummy’ references as possible – usually with little Bunnies and Birdies and Teddies and Woof-Woofs thrown in for good measure. Contrary little sod.
However, that aside, I am always delighted to share a little dedicated time with the two of them. There was, on this occasion, a secret to keep, too. Ben had confided that he was about to propose to Rach – they have been together since school days, and he planned to make his grand gesture on their ninth anniversary, on October first. He further planned an evening get-together at their favourite Italian restaurant with close family and friends that same evening.
So I grovelled to our friends Trevor and Linda here in Spain, who are always good enough to step into the breach should I need to disappear, and to carry out in my stead all the duties that usually fall to me with regard to feeding, cleaning and pampering the motley array of furry and feathered parasites that cling tenaciously within my boundaries and insist vociferously on their rights as squatters.
Rachel must have been somewhat surprised, when I dumped them at the airport at the end of their stay, that I did not become a little tearful in my usual manner. Not as surprised, however, as when she walked into the restaurant on the Saturday night, sporting a beautiful new engagement ring and expecting a romantic meal for two, to find fifteen of us already seated and looking at her expectantly.
Ben had, apparently, taken her for a picnic in the park earlier, to pop the question. All extremely romantic – a trait that he clearly did not inherit from his dad – and perhaps a little self-assured, given that he had already arranged the evening celebrations. I did venture to ask what his back-up plans were had she turned him down, and he confessed that her first response had been, “Can I get back to you on that?” (way to go, Rach!) But she followed swiftly with, “Of course I will!”, so all was well in the end, and his face was saved.
I spent just two nights in the UK – the second being the engagement party. The first, having landed mid-afternoon and then caught a bus to the fire station, since John was on day duty, can only be described with a little background first regarding a rather strange mind-set of John’s.
Throughout our entire time together, we have, in common with most people, borrowed money in order to move house, carry out home improvements and so on. I wonder, though, just how many other people at such junctures feel as John always does that an increased burden of debt automatically equals time to buy a different car? It happens every single time – so much so that I only have to hear the golden words “I’ve been thinking….” when juxtapositioned with a large spend event to know that we are about to arm-wrestle again over his wheels.
And so when I bowled into the fire station, dishevelled from travelling, hungry and thirsty and desperate for a shower, I should not have been in the least surprised (given that we are currently haemorrhaging money into the barn-to-kennels project) to be met with a heartfelt plea for a change of vehicle. The current mode of transport, John announced, needed a new clutch and a number of other bits of work to get through the up-coming MOT test, and it wasn’t, he averred, worth the money it would require.
Therefore he had been looking at replacing it and so would I mind very much if we went straight out to look at one he had lined up? Fabulous. My flying visit had, in my mind, involved a gentle and relaxed evening dining out, the two of us, at one of the restaurants I do miss as a Spanish resident. I had not envisaged sitting in his clapped out old rust bucket (with faulty clutch) for an hour driving to see a potential replacement, and then standing about in a draughty garage for another hour while he climbed in and out and under it, caressed and admired it, took it for a run and then haggled over it. Oh, and then bought it.
By the time we reached my restaurant of choice (albeit that we got there in a much smoother ride), it was stupid o’clock and I was feeling grimy and very out of sorts. His only saving grace was that the food was worth the wait and I still had the engagement party to come. And I had to laugh with him in the end, because he spent the whole time thereafter grinning like a kid at Christmas.
Flying back to Spain was horrible. I am about to go out on a limb here and probably set myself up for a heap of abuse, but I feel the need to say this. I was obliged to fly from Spain to the UK with Ryanair – the bucket airline that everybody uses but that everybody abuses – loudly. In their defence, I say this – the flight was on time. The plane was clean and the seats, while not capacious, were roomy enough that my knees were not pressed against the seat in front. The staff were friendly and helpful. I have no issues whatsoever with Michael O’Leary for the money I paid.
I flew back with Monarch, whom I have always held in higher esteem than the true bucket airlines. They were late. Boarding was a shambles. The upholstery was definitely looking tired. And the seats were so close together that I couldn’t even push my extremely modest hand luggage down between them to stash it under the seat in front of me, as is my wont. My knees suffered imprints of the magazine rack in front. The staff had just boarded fresh from a lemon-sucking contest. I was not impressed.
Furthermore, the plane was full and too hot. I, who take for granted the fresh mountain air in which I live, felt as though the air being drawn into my respiratory system was sluggish, viscous and crawling with unpleasant organisms just waiting to take a bite of my tender tissues.
And that’s exactly what happened, as always when I venture forth from my oasis. So my weekend away led to a week of weakness.
Well, those are my excuses, and I’m sticking to them!