So we’re sitting on a beach, me under a semi-transparent parasol, and M in the full brunt of the sun, and it’s very very hot. Giorgios from the restaurant behind has given us free fruit and water (in ice), no doubt a loss leader, called me a fine man (because he can scan people), and called M a Norwegian model. There are more bum cheeks on display that on Love Island, and I’ve already thrown the lady who chargers for the sun loungers by speaking imperfect Greek to her (and putting the wrong vowel in the right place in the word for “you’re welcome.” Must try harder).
We arrived late last night, the flight delayed by a technical issue with the plane, but the hotel arranged for late donner for us, and served us beer past their closing time (Stavros – honestly – worked past his home time, which was very kind of him). And don’t be mistaken; this is a budget package holiday.
I woke just before 5am to the swallows swooping past the open window into which local music was echoing until 1am (I loved that, but would have liked to have been able to understand the lyrics). I went to have a smoke and a bottle of water on the balcony, and it was glorious to sit there in shorts and t-shirt and look across the bay, past the houses and hotels at the mountain range opposite. And it was still quiet, except for some locals getting in their cars and driving to work. I already like this place for that – there seem to be more locals than tourists, and when we went for a walk before bed last night, the bara seemed to be inhabited exclusively by locals rather than incomers like us.
Holidays like this always present dilemmas – environment vs escape, locality vs incomers, being in a country I barely know the language of; and sometimes I can’t reconcile these. But, without being self-congratulatory or arrogant, M and I have given over almost the entirety of our lives over the last 2.5 years to work, with the rest to parenting, that two weeks alone with each other, and in heat where M doesn’t have to put up with a creaking old man, and without any significant mundane concerns, seems like a real reward, not just an unnecessary luxury.
The real world is never far away, though I’m ignoring woek emails and most other online things. This morning I temporarily thought about not even blogging or writing, but that felt wrong, not from an obligation point of view, but from a self-care and self-need point of view. This is where I am. I am being a writer, the only thing I ever wanted to be.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 127
‘That won’t buy much,’ Robert says. ‘Not for the style of life you’ve so self-sacrificingly become accustomed to.’
Martin says nothing, hisses through his clenched teeth.
‘Talking of which, we should take him back to his wife,’ Aggie says. ‘She must be wondering where he’s got to.’
‘Bloody Polack,’ Martin grunts. ‘She’s an aristo. Wouldn’t know one thing from the other. Wouldn’t believe whatever you say to her. Blue blood and all that.’
‘Probably true,’ Robert says. ‘But we owe her at least that after she saved you from destitution.’
‘You already did that, you and your masters. And mine,’ Martin says. ‘It won’t make a blind bit of difference. She lives in her own world, doesn’t think about anything else.:
‘The what shall I do with you, my dear old friend?’ Robert says, and the words are harsh and unforgiving in the silent warm room, and cold and vengeful.
‘Shall I just give you up to the authorities, to the Service? They’ll know what to do with you, turn you to mincemeat until you talk. Or just do away with you here and now, and call your special troops and tell them you had an unfortunate accident in the crossfire and bled out before we realised? Or use you as bait for your dear Valentine?’
‘He’d never fall for anything you could think of.’
‘You’re very chipper for a man with five broken fingers, and death a distinct possibility.’
‘It comes with the territory. It always did.’
‘Amd for how many innocent people did it become an inevitability because of you?’ Robert says.
‘No-one is innocent,’ Martin says.
‘Oh, that old chestnut,’ Robert says. ‘As good an excuse as any, I suppose. Is that how you sleep at night?’
‘You’ve killed as many as I have,’ Martin says.
‘I doubt that very much.’
‘Even without counting those you let me kill by letting me in. They’re on your conscience, too.’
Robert’s head droops, and his jaw tightens. Aggie sees his eyes close, a tear escaping which he refuses to wipe away. ‘You’re right, of course,’ he says. ‘It doesn’t change anything, though. It just makes me an eternal fool who owes the world endless reparations ‘
Martin laughs. ‘Oh, how the mighty benevolent Robert falls. It’s priceless.’
Robert stares, danger in his face. He steps across to Martin, wrenches at one of his unbroken fingers, the one with an elaborate signet ring on it, pulls it off, ignoring the snap that accompanies the sudden theft. ‘I gave you this as a sign of my friendship, and now I’m taking it back.’
‘My heart bleeds,’ Martin says. ‘wvery time I’be looked at it it’s reminded me of how gullible you are. Just like that darling Cassie. Just imagine her, in bed…’
Aggie’s hand closes around Martin’s throat. ‘If I hold this for long enough, most of that small brain of yours will die. And then you’ll have no chance of redemption.’
Martin’s face turns red, then purple, his legs and arms twitching, fear finally in him. And still Aggie doesn’t let go.