I’m doing the days upside down again. It’s a mistake to leave this until the evening, because my mind is so tired it feels half asleep.
Before now, everywhere I’ve been on holiday has been a fond memory, and the only places I’ve really missed are places I’ve lived and worked. Yes, I love Venice, and living there would be cool, but I don’t feel the same draw I feel now to Agios Nikolaos. When I went to bed last night (and got up again because I couldn’t sleep), I was just about in tears with my missing of the place. And this morning, at home alone because M and A were both working in town, I took a break, sat in the grey cool morning, and wept for my beach, and the gentleness and kindness I felt there. And I’m not romanticising this, nor looking at it through rose-tinted spectacles. Yes, everyday chores didn’t rear their tiresome heads as they do here. Yes, we didn’t need to cook. But that applies to just about any holiday we’ve been on. But what none of them have ever done is leave me with such a sense of place, such a longing for place. And with that I don’t just mean somewhere that has seared itself into my memory to use as a setting for writing and memories – there are many of those places, Venice being the leading one. What I mean is that I felt I belonged, feel I belong. It’s the same feeling I got when we first moved to Norway and I felt like I’d come home. And I didn’t speak that country’s language at that point either.
Most of my epiphanies and best lines and best thoughts happen in the garden, usually when I’m smoking. This could also explain why I wrote so much good stuff while we were in Crete – sitting in the shade, in the heat, outside, air fresh and circulating, and not trapped inside a room. Anyway, my epiphany this morning was all about time. And this holiday, the days actually went really slowly, and now the days are just speeding past again, and there seems no time to do anything. I think that’s because, on holiday, we think “you can do this,” and the underlying feeling isn’t one of compulsion, so time stretches because we are just doing what we want. Back in the real non-holiday world, though, we think “you must do this, you have to do this, and you have to do it by x,” so time compresses and becomes out of our control, and everything happens much more quickly because we’re racing towards those points in time we make for ourselves, or, actually, those points in time which are made for us, imposed on us.
The heat was good for me. I can already feel my body silting up with the damp and underlying coolness of England. It’s uncomfortable, and the creaks and aches are irritating. And I’ve just seen a comment on yesterday’s post quoting my own lyrics for a new song back at me – “Change the world. It can only get better. Take all the chances you get.” I will, MF, I promise, I will.
AGGIE’s ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 148
Everything’s quiet outside, not a hint of movement except for a few cars on the far-off road.
‘Where is everybody?’ Aggie says. ‘Shouldn’t it be busy by now?’
Lilibet shrugs. ‘No idea.’
‘I feel dreadful with all this blood all over me.’
‘Perhaps there’s somewhere we can wash before we go back to yours. I don’t want to scare the girls or your parents.’
‘They’ve seen worse,’ Lilibet says. ‘My parents, anyway.’
Aggie stomps off, head down, determined to find somewhere to clean up. ‘There must be somewhere the mechanics wash before they leave,’ she mutters, more to herself than to Lilibet chasing after her.
‘Slow down,’ Lilibet says, breath coming fast now. ‘God, you can be infuriating. So bloody stubborn.’
‘I just don’t like things not to go the way I want them to.’
‘No point running away from me, though, is there?’
‘That looks a likely candidate.’ Lilibet points at a hut a few yards off, with a No Public Admittance sign on it. ‘Try one of the other keys.’
‘Who’s being impatient now?’
‘Likes attract, is it?’
‘Biological anomalies, both of us.’ Aggie says, running the keys through her hand. ‘This one?’
”How should I know. Try it.’
The key fits, as Aggie knew it would, and they find their way into a heated space with chairs and tables, a corridor leading off to the back. ‘Let’s have a look round,’ Aggie says. ‘It looks promising.’ She locks the door behind them.
They pad gently through the warm room, along the corridor. A row of lockers, battered and old, not like those new-looking ones in the underground cavern they’ve escaped from. None of them are locked, and Aggie opens them one by one. Most of them have nothing in them, but at least three or four have clean overalls in them, dark green overalls with pockets upon pockets for tools and anything else that mechanics usually absent-mindedly put away while they’re working.
‘Those should fit us,’ Lilibet says.
‘They don’t have any monstrous outsized ones for me.’
‘Stop being such an idiot. I’ve told you. You’re perfect.’ Lilibet pushes a door open with Women written on it. ‘Well, at least there are female mechanics here as well,’ she says. ‘Wonders never cease. That’s what I’d call progress.’
‘Why people can’t just share is beyond me.’
‘Men and women?’
‘Well, it’s not all about sex, is it, life?’
‘You’ve obviously never met the sort of men I have. If you shared the same bathroom as them you’d never get out intact.’
Aggie shakes her head. ‘Sad.’ The room echoes around them. A stark bank of showerheads stares back at them, mounted on white tiles. It feels very clinical and sterile.
Lilibet wanders round. ‘Towels,’ she says, and smiles. ‘It’s like they’ve deliberately left us all mod cons.’
‘Hardly all mod cons.’ Aggie shakes her head. ‘Sorry. It’s great, isn’t it?’
‘Time for a shower then,’ Lilibet says. ‘Who’s going first.’
‘How about together?’ Aggie says, and her knees tremble at the thought.
‘I won’t look at you,’ Lilibet says.
‘Ah, but I want you to look at me,’ Aggie says, her voice a whisper. ‘So you can see how imperfect I really am.’
Lilibet opens her mouth, and Aggie puts one of her hands gently over it. ‘And I want to look at you, too.’
They start undressing each other without haste, slowly, gently, respectfully, none of the impatient roughness men think is the epitome of alpha coolness. Their clothes are crusty with Aggie’s blood, with sweat, with the detritus of death and fighting. They stand there, finally naked, the water, rushing out of the taps. Lilibet reaches out, touches Aggie’s face, takes a step back. ‘I knew it,’ she says. ‘You are perfect.’