Great Britain, April, 2013.
There is news of a sighting. More precisely, there’s a report that someone in Bristol claims a sighting. It might even be true – perhaps the someone did sight the sun in Bristol, briefly, the day before yesterday. The day before I arrived.
In Whiteladies Road, Bristol, a sandwich board is full of sunny optimism: SPRING IS HERE, it sings, GET READY FOR SUMMER. The advice that follows makes alarming reading:
FULL LEG 10 pounds
BIKINI 15 pounds
BRAZILIAN 18 pounds
No-one in Bristol should shed nature’s protective fur. For that matter, no-one anywhere in Britain ought to follow that advice.
Gippsland Lakes, Victoria, Australia, March, 1990.
A lady, middle-aged, bellows across the water from the deck of her rented yacht. She projects her fruity English accents in the direction of Dad’s boat. My aged uncle sits on Dad’s deck, enjoying the day’s end.
The early evening has turned decidedly cool. Dad and his crew shelter below decks, while Uncle sits above, nodding pleasantly from time to time in the English lady’s direction. As dusk descends, Uncle, who is deaf, drinks in the peace.
The English lady and Uncle have not been introduced. The lady is pleased to share her life story with Uncle. She tells him about her travels and her maritime experiences.
Visiting the daughter, actually. Lives here in Orstraliah. Married here, what?
Uncle nods, smiles.
Always enjoyed boating, all of us. Cowes Regatta, what not. Husband’s vice commodore there.
Cool evening. Reminds one of a coolish time at Cowes. Husband and I went for a quiet evening sail. Left the club, tooled around till dark, turned for home. Monster squall blew up. Caught us unawares – below decks taking cocktails. As one might – moon above the yardarm, what?
Uncle – watching a pelican gracefully spilling air, gliding, teasing his sight in slow, elegant inevitability – misses his cue, fails to nod.
His locutor raises her voice helpfully.
Nasty Squall. Tipped the bally boat over. Husband and I took to the dinghy. Squall passed. Squalls do. Boat out of sight, had to row to land.
Uncle, enjoying the first stars behind the lady, looks attentive. From time to time, as her jaws come to rest, Uncle obliges with another nod.
Rowed all night. Dashed cool by morning. Rowed right up to the jetty at the Club, there’s Reginald, Club Commodore, strolling along the pier. Calls out to us: “Lovely morning for an early row.”
One had to explain: ”Not rowing for fun, Reggie. Bally shipwrecked. Learned something from the experience, though: never knew the purpose of hairs on one’s pussy, Reggie – keep one warm in a shipwreck.”
Copyright, Howard Goldenberg, 7 April, 2013