Some of you may recall that I recently had a bit of a run-in with one of my neighbours. Welcome to the second instalment…
About ten days or so ago I decided to order a copy of this picture as a large canvas print.
It was meant to be for my fab hubby to remind him of our perfect Caribbean holiday, which seems so very, very long ago now. We’re having a bit of a tough time right now, what with dodgy finances and (the FAB Hubby’s) heart surgery and a distinct lack of purpose in life, coupled with an increasing feeling of having been tossed onto the scrapheap of sentience. I don’t want to impose my life complaints on everyone, but these circumstances are not helping my increasingly severe depression and most days I spend staring at my computer screen, trying to find any kind of motivation to get something achieved.
I have occasional spurts when I try to ‘pull myself together’ like a pair of curtains, but these rarely result in much tangible success, although I do keep on trying.
So actually gathering enough *oomph* to select and order this picture was a major happening for me. I was so pleased with myself for achieving something.The picture is particularly sentimental for us as it is of Pebbles Beach, in Carlisle Bay, Barbados, where I learned to swim as a small child. Taking Mark there was one of the first things we did when we got into the hire car – the satnav wasn’t working, but I managed to guide him to the place without too much of a detour, largely based on forty-year-old memories and a keen sense of direction. To be fair, the island is only 14 miles by 21 so it’s pretty easy to navigate around, but I was still chuffed to have found it so easily.
Standing on the exquisite white sand in the most brilliant sunshine, I was suddenly eight years old once more, in my tiger swim-suit (long story !), whiling away my days, collecting precious shells and rolling in the surf on Pebbles Beach. The Aquatic Club bar – ‘Pebble Beach Inn’ as it was known then – also had a swimming pool although it’s gone now, having been redeveloped in the intervening years. Patrick (my bestest of boy-friends) and I spent day after day either in the sea or the pool, only being dragged out to eat or drink something then back in the water we went, like a pair of water babies. It’s a strange misnomer, because there isn’t a single pebble on Pebble Beach – and there never has been as far as I can recall, so it was shells that we collected on the rare occasions that we emerged from the water.
Showing my husband of thirty-six years this precious memory meant that finally we could share it together and this of course called for a stroll along the length of the beach. I snapped the picture from the top of the steps, then he helped me jump down the steps and being a rather rotund shape these days, I tippled forward and he, being the gallant knight that he is, staggered forward to help me, so that I would be spared the indignity of rolling into a ball on the hot sand. He’d been taking his specs off and replacing them with his new sunglasses – another, whole different story – so this process was interrupted during the rockin’ and rollin’ around in the sand.
Fast forward for about an hour as we stroll the entire length of this gorgeous beach and begin our return journey. By now, the heat has gone from the day and the sun is beginning to set -the light is fading exquisitely albeit rapidly, as it does in the Caribbean, being so much closer to the equator and all that. I’m happily snapping away with my new camera at the scenery, the sand, the water, the sky, everything in fact. I turn to take a snap of the FAB Hubby; he’s looking puzzled and just ever-so-slightly panicky.
‘Why’s he fumbling in his shirt pocket?‘ I ask myself. Then I ask him the same question of course, to which his terrified face blurts out ‘I’ve lost my specs!’.
Now, I should probably explain here that FAB H is virtually blind without his specs. Modern technology has reduced the thickness of the glass these days to something that resembles one of those convex coffee-table paper-weights that people have favoured pressed flowers encased in, as keepsakes or whatever. Jam jars are a thing of the past. Well, mostly anyway. The thing is, he genuinely cannot see a thing without them. So this was a BIG deal.
The entire holiday was on the verge of ruin, for without his eyes, how would he see everything? How would we manage? Plus, the damned things had just cost an arm and a couple of legs to ensure he had them in time for the holiday. Usually he has photo-chromic lenses which means he doesn’t need separate sunglasses, so there was considerable cursing of the incompetent optician’s assistant whose fault it was that we were now having to negotiate our holiday of a lifetime, minus the ability to actually see anything, since the actual reading glasses had taken themselves off for a little holiday of their own.
It’s quite a long beach it turns out.
We retraced our steps, trying to remain positive, in spite of the increasingly fading light, turning every grain of sand over with our hands and feet, checking to see where they may have been washed into the sea, for, of course, just to complicate matters a little further, the tide was coming in. Fast.
We’d almost given up as we arrived back at the steps to clamber back into the car.
And then I saw them, quietly, even contemplatively, watching the sunset sitting squarely in the sand, exactly where he’d knocked them out of his pocket when he chivalrously came to my aid earlier.
Lost. And then found again. Just like the beach was.
Now, let’s get back to the present shall we… stop all this lazing around on tropical beaches!
So, I’d ordered this picture to remind him of our wonderful holiday and perhaps to help motivate us both into better frames of mind. I got a great deal and ordered it in a large size – my pictures are meant to be viewed in large formats. This one was about 60cm x 80cm. That’s about 2 feet by about 2 feet 8 inches for those who don’t do decimals.
Thrilled I was.
When I received the email saying it would arrive on Tuesday, I was still feeling thrilled.
On Tuesday I went out of the house for the first time in about … well forever… to go help some friends hang an exhibition in Scarborough hospital. I almost asked my other neighbour to keep an eye out, but she was busy with her three children, so I left it, thinking ‘We’ll be back in good time, it’ll be fine.‘
Famous last thoughts. ‘It’ll be fine.‘ HAH!
Upon returning home the neighbour and her offspring were still in their garden so I asked about the parcel and she told me our other neighbour, the chap from downstairs, the evil one who made me clean his drains out recently, he was the one who’d taken it in. I sent my son round to go pick it up, but there was some confusion about my apparently ambiguous instruction and the long and short of it was that no-one went to get the parcel that evening. I fretted and worried and got antsy and my *long-suffering men* ignored my slightly manic state and pressed on with the heavy responsibility of watching TV (or rather, snoring in front of the telly) and raising hell in some imaginary computer game world. Ahem.
Fast forward again to the next morning, when, as usual we were woken by the sound of the recycling truck and staff collecting the recycling waste. Thinking nothing more than ‘Did you put the bins out?’ I turned over and went back to sleep, whilst the FABH got up and pottered about downstairs for a while.
When I rose, Cleopatra-like, from my slumber a little later on, my first thought was about the picture so I asked if FABH had yet retrieved it and he agreed to put some trousers on and go to collect it. It’s best to not ask about the trousers – just let that one go for now, OK?
He returned, empty handed, reporting that our (despicable) neighbour had no knowledge of any parcel whatsoever.
I was distraught.
I was beside myself with tormented thoughts.
It wasn’t adding up.
How could he not have known about the parcel? What could have happened to it? Where did the UPS chap leave it? Did anyone see what he did with it? These and many more questions began encircling my tiny brain – like the little cartoon birds that used to fly round Sylvester or Tweety Pie’s head when they crashed into something.
I fretted a little more. I envisaged every and any possible scenario regarding my parcel’s fate. Each a more grisly fate than the last.
The FABH of course remained implacable in the face of potential chaos. He phoned the delivery company (UPS) and we had a delightful conversation with a lovely lady called Sarah, who assured me that the records showed that the parcel had been left in a porch around the back. I explained that this property isn’t what it seems and that ‘around the back‘ are two separate, distinct apartments. She sympathised and suggested that the delivery man might call me himself to explain where he left the parcel. We thought this was an excellent idea and readily agreed.
Then we waited.
Only, I’m not really very good at waiting.
The ants in my pants told me to do it.
I went downstairs and around the back and knocked smartly on my (beastly) neighbour’s door. He was on the phone and clearly, visibly, ignoring me. I could see him through his window. Eventually he gesticulated for me to let myself in, which I did. I asked him about the parcel and he flatly denied all knowledge of it.I described it in detail and he shook his head and threw up his hands, asking me what I wanted to DO about it?
I asked for permission to check his outbuildings- an aluminium shed and another, smaller, store-box, but it wasn’t there. I was even more puzzled now and asked him what I was supposed to think when I’d been told that the delivery man had left it in his domain, but it seemed to have simply vanished. As he sagely nodded his head and attempted to stand up to encourage me to leave, he slumped, in a drunken stupor, to the floor. After helping him to the nearby sofa, I took my cue and left. Clearly, I wasn’t getting anywhere there.
Upon my return, the delivery driver, Carl, rang and we discussed the situation with him. He suggested that usually in these cases, the ‘thief’ makes the mistake of putting the packaging into the rubbish bin, to which the FABH calmly stated that it’s unlikely he’d find any rubbish in the bin as today was collection day… and then we both looked at each other in horror as the realisation of what might have happened set in.
With tears (of anger, frustration, utter disbelief and the ultimate pain of loss) rolling down my face, we thanked Carl for agreeing to pop by the next day to check on the location of the parcel and then all we could do was sit and wait. Again.
I am really rubbish at waiting – we’ve already established this – so around six-ish, I went to call on our other (Polish) neighbour to see if perhaps Carl had been mistaken and left it in his kitchen instead. He hadn’t. And it turned out that our Polish friend had actually seen my parcel in the other neighbour’s kitchen.
What can you do when faced with such evidence? Clearly, I live next to an unstable and apparently vindictive man who thinks nothing of stealing our mail. I considered going to the police, as well as our mutual landlord, but persuaded myself these options seemed drastic. I even emailed the council in the hopes that someone might have spotted the brand-newness of my parcel and put it aside perhaps… to no avail of course. I didn’t sleep a wink and when Carl arrived the next day having taken a good look around the neighbour’s property, he agreed that the only thing to do was set everything in motion to replace the picture. He promised to drop the necessary paperwork off early next week and then he left.
Imagine how delighted I was yesterday morning then when Carl arrived with my replacement parcel! He confided that the paperwork hadn’t been required since, upon ‘further investigation’ (I know not what that entailed), my dastardly neighbour had admitted that he’d taken the parcel in and then put it straight into the recycling collection. Part of me still mourns for that lost picture, but at least now it’s sitting where it’s meant to be – above the sofa across the room from the FABH, so he can be re-inspired each time he looks at it.
Lost. Stolen. Recovered. Or at least replaced.
It’s a picture with a story to tell…
Thanks for reading again!
It is official. I am living in a parallel universe.
I told you about my visit to the Ninja Chiropractor last week, which has been working out, fine and dandy, thanks for asking. I cannot get over how much better it feels to be able to sleep without being in pain. To wake up, do my exercises and then get out of bed without groaning, like the noise that elderly, loose metal makes when blown by the wind. To heave myself into the day without having to side-step as I descend the stairs and not have my bones make creaky, cracking noises as I move.
It is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most satisfying feeling to be able to spend at least part of my day without having to grimace from the threat of constant pain – just think of the money I’m going to save in face cream! (C’mon people, get with the progam here… if I don’t spend all day making wHierd faces with my grimacing, I’m gonna get fewer wrinkles, hence the reduced reliance upon L’Oreal’s products!)
Aside from the exercises, The Ninja also recommended that I resume swimming. As a form of exercise, swimming is particularly good when you have leg or back difficulties to overcome as the water supports the body’s weight allowing you to move the affected parts with relative ease. Of course, dear reader, I KNOW that you already know this fact, but I’m just stating the actual reason that I was given by The Ninja.
I say resume swimming because, in spite of the fact that I now resemble a small whale when motoring through the blue, I did used to be an excellent swimmer. Not unlike the whale, I was never more at home than when in the water. As a small child, I took to swimming like the proverbial duck to water which was just as well, living as I did in Barbados, where you’re never more than a very few miles from either the Caribbean Sea or alternatively the Atlantic Ocean. I adored being in the water and splashing around with flying fish, angelfish and occasional dolphins.
Returning to the UK (the first time) when I was eight, I was faced with swimming not in the crystal clear cerulean Caribbean, but in the somewhat less-than-glamorous Stockport Baths.
If you close your eyes, even with the incredibly active imagination that I’ve always possessed, you’d be hard pushed to concoct the island paradise whilst the chlorine-soaked poolside cubicles are dominating the vista.
But, it didn’t put me off. I simply loved being like a fish and could swim entire lengths of the pool underwater quicker than most of the rest of the class could get themselves into the pool. I was less fast on top of the water though and was usually beaten by my nemesis at swimming – Julie Froggett. Still we both raced through the various badges of honour that qualified us for distances (1500m managed by the time I was eleven) and life-saving standards (gold achieved a week before my eleventh birthday).
At senior school, I moved on to diving. Here I was allowed to use the grace and agility that I had longed to put into dancing – but couldn’t afford lessons so that little dream was incorporated into diving instead. I was pretty good at this and represented my various schools on several occasions at differing levels. I suppose if I’d been born twenty-five years later I’d have been pushed towards the goal of competing at the Olympics, but back in the early seventies, this was not even considered a possibility to dream about, so I had to be satisfied with just knowing I was really good at swimming and diving.
I left school of course and found my soul mate early in life – the very next day in fact, so we married quickly and I became a mother three days before my nineteenth birthday. The one thing that I knew I could do was ensure that my baby (and all subsequent offspring) would learn to swim and enjoy the freedoms of the water as much as I did. I am pleased to say that all three of my children thoroughly enjoyed swimming lessons and often chose to swim socially themselves as well. In Hong Kong of course, swimming is part and parcel of everyday life – swimming in club pools, at friends’ houses since most buildings have a pool and of course the South China Sea is a delight to swim in, as long as you don’t attempt to swim in the Harbour or beyond the protective boom that’s there to keep out the sharks… 🙂
So it’s only been in the past few years that swimming has been absent from my life. Returning to the UK (for the second time) I’ve donned my cossie a few times, taking my son (when he was younger) and our grandchildren to the pool, splashing around with them in social pools was great fun, but as I have steadily gained so much weight in recent years I became simply too shy about putting on my swimming costume. Actually, getting one to fit has been a challenge!
The parallel universe beckons now though as instead of saying ‘No! I cannot go swimming’ I’ve found that little bit of courage that I needed to say to hell with what people think when I put that costume on and I can say ‘Yes! I’d love to go swimming!’ and just get into the water and swim.
Yesterday, I walked into the pool area from the changing rooms with a great deal of inner trepidation, but once I was in the water, it felt fantastic! I stopped feeling like a baby elephant and glided through the water, just like I used to do. It was truly wonderful.
Of course my muscles ached after a few laps and I wasn’t able to do as much as I used to do, but I can honestly say that it was just so freeing to be able to do this activity again. I’d recommend it to everyone. I’m going again on Friday – but this time I’ll pace myself a little better I think.
Maybe, just maybe, this isn’t the parallel universe – is it possible that for the past eight years I’ve been living in one and now I am back in this universe, which is the real one all the time? Maybe I can *think* my way to an idyllic swimming paradise? Who knows!