Friday 9th July
A little tiring was the post-work trudge to my home town’s train station, select but not entirely unsubstantive holiday baggage in tow. Should have been in a good mood, really implausible that I should not have been, as I stood there waiting on the train to Chester. It was, after all, the unofficial declared day of holiday commencement and if nothing else work was over for 2 weeks. Should have been but as it transpired wasn’t.
I hadn’t started making notes at this point, as finer opportunity as this presented for such note making, what with the bag bound platform standing about. Still I have my memories and if that’s not good enough (& writing up this here diary, has shown me clearly its not) then there is always the more time durable source, my written communications with the world from that day, which I will enter as evidence later. As later is when they were scribed.
Back on the platform my mother phoned and I found out about my unexpectedly less than positive disposition. Not that I remember being unduly untoward it’s merely that, on such occasions, I customarily extend every effort to being pleasant and I do remember on that day I did not. Such occasions, being those meeting or calls that immediately proceed a holiday by either her or me and those efforts I mentioned; well they are both overstated and yet still no less a dim reflection upon my character. A character that I hope will be clear from this account, an account I intent to be as detailed as I can afford the time to assemble and infinitely more honest than I customarily would choose.
I want to be able to read this back and not only remember this most different of holidays but also who we were when I wrote it. A self serving effort and one that I hope I shall be grateful for, should ever I summon the energy in the future to troll back through this. So briefly to articulate an accurate explanation for these ‘efforts’, it’s not some hidden fear of holidays or flying, it’s one of the two grate fears though, regret.
Few are the people who mean more to me than I’m able to rationalise, my mother stands quite alone among this scarce crowd (single parenting) a fact I hope never again to overlook and if I do, then I hope to find this passage in good time. We should always make that extra effort, in reality I and I expect others can not. On these occasions as I said I normally do. It is not a logical propensity.
During the call she’d asked a question I’d heard before, more than once, ‘what was our plan?’ ‘Where would we be going?’ ‘What was the route?’ That sort of thing. It was concern, overstated probably and definitely on occasion not entirely welcome. More recently though I’d come to appreciate it for what it was, if not quite its manifestation, the good fortune to receive concern. The answer remained largely as it had been, I simply did not know. We would be headed from Zurich to Munich and there would be two bikes, a tent and some other stuff, among our party, that was the full extent of the plan as I knew it.
From Chester I joined my Virgin Train connection to London Euston, taking up my first class seat, not the seat to which I was accustomed but one I’d seized on spotting a generously knocked down upgrade charge. Making use of the free Internet connectivity, that was all part of the service, I shared:
“Neil Uhler likes watching the world flash past”
I’d already had opportunity to make use of the refreshments cart, another aspect of the all part of the service and the key motivator behind the upgrade.
There was warm beverage (tea) on tap, there was food and so as not to disappoint there were also cold beverages (wine), all available from the cart which did not merely pass through but orbited, passing through, disappearing out of sight for a bit before making a most joyous return.
It’s a pleasant journey down to London, about the right length of time to relax in doing not to much without being so much as to invoke tedium. As I sat, I remembered an email I’d received from one very good friend, a friend of over 20 years my acquaintance, about the wedding of another very good friend, of almost 20 years. In particular I was remembering how I hadn’t offered a reply and thinking on how that was not entirely acceptable.
09 July 2010 19:57
Me > ……….
Subject: RE: Wedding card messages
Very sleepy on train… walking bags down the hill to the station seems to have taken it out of me.. that and eating all the remnants of food I found … very tiring stuff.. .. sure cycling has nothing on that kind of effort
So yes forgot- thanks for the lifts etc the other weekend. Appreciated
Following this up:
09 July 2010 19:57
Me > ………………
Subject: RE: Wedding card messages
They’ve just brought cake and a sandwich I really shouldn’t be hungry..
In truth I was also reading a sort of disapproving glint in the eye of the cart bringer, and good things distributor…look at you … the glint said…sitting there, taking every opportunity to deprive the cart of one or many of its offerings.. the glint went on.. have you know shame, no restraint, this is what happens when you let the cattle in, you demean my first class domain with your ways and your presence, swine.
The jury was out though on two aspects of this, first was there a glint or just some sort of reflection and second, either way, should I really care or alter my approach to appease this.. The initial inclination to do just that was swiftly met with a greater wind of disapproval/greed, that blew any such ponderings out of the way.
The only other evidence of how things went at this stage of the journey, are these remaining few insights that I saw fit to share:
Neil Uhler likes watching the world flash past
Neil Uhler – While remaining less keen of the apparent propensity of virgin train locals to admonish or perhaps merely deny the existence of the third and arguably least critical but still desirable of the convenience buttons – that which has the word “lock” wrapped around its
person is apparently unappealing fashion..
09 July at 21:41 • Like Unlike •
“• Didine – sounds like you’re on the TGV. Where you off to Neilee?” – came a comment back
10 July at 00:07 • Like Unlike •
• Neil Uhler – “i was on my way to London, for an early Gatwick flight.. there is no need for such things, its like a communal house, rule apply.. fridge rules apply..washing rules apply.. noise rules apply… and locking the shitter door rules apply.. generally, but you know its a train we’re all old friends here”
And for a change of perception:
Was tired and a little grumpy from suspected over eating – things in cupboards can’t be left to rot – then the nice people brought tea.. then sandwiches, then cake .. and hmmmm iz good… music, train hum, food and a southern trajectory..
I’d got to London Bridge, the end of the familiar leg of today’s journeying, where I dug out and consulted my print out of Oscar’s email. Joining it at “…from london bridge to queens road Peckham…”.
With this knowledge I stood before the departure board, studied and marvelled at how there was apparently no train to ‘queens road peckham’, odd cause there it was and it did sound like the kind of major rail hub where any number of trains would terminate. I looked tentatively at my limited battery bars and called Oscar for guidance. Some slightly frustrated, random wonderings about in the stations underbelly eventually saw me surface before a larger departures board, promising. More than promising, I had got closer. This was it, the great hanging tablet of train scripture that the Oscar voice had spoken off. With this to guide me I was soon on a train and discovering that what remained of the directions was quite sufficient to take me to Oscar’s door.
Oscar had prepared a suitcase for all our stuff and pre-packed most of his into a couple of panniers, seems sensible. Unfortunately the suitcase he’d prepared was remarkably similar in size to his two panniers, maybe even my two at a push. I looked down at my stuff, looked down at the suitcase, looked down at Oscars stuff and there they were. I contemplated briefly on what camouflage it was throwing out that somehow had muffled the issue alarm. I contemplated more briefly on whether I was missing something, before pointing out that the capacity issue. At the same time keeping one eye on the ‘supremo grande’ suitcase, that loitered impressively on top of his wardrobe.
Oscar for his part seemed, more immediately to be pursuing a two bag strategy a departure from the one bag strategy which we’d been pursuing and not just in my perception. Evidence of the historic predomination of the one bag strategy was on record in the form of our e-Ticket. “Two seats and one additional special place, to be set aside for one good sized travel bag” It would have said, had we gotten to looking at it. But as we sat about in Oscar’s room, consuming the emergency rations he’d recently returned from the kitchen with (some cheesey toast and cups of tea – both always welcome additions to any time) it was more the sort of time for drifting, than for holding e-tickets aloft and declaring peace and single suitcases in our time.
Oscar presented the suitcase ‘supremo grande’ and I set to work, taking things out, putting things in…taking thing out. No that’s not it, I started by putting things in, then I took them out, or rather some of them and put some other things in. A longer process than this brief passage might suggest and probably considerably more repetitious. Eventually a well stuffed suitcase lay upon the floor with only a manageable number of items cast about, awaiting scooping into some item of potential hand luggage.
All that remained was to check the weight of the case, a case whose overhang more than obscured any chance of catching a glimpse of the weight dial or any part of the scale beneath. This wasn’t the sort of problem that two people of our particular talents couldn’t, eventually, fashion an answer to.
Oscar looked at the pouch of stuff I was tucking in. I’d received some milkshake energy power, as a promotion or something similar, it has arrived in the box with my silicon nappy cycling pants. I explained what it was and how I was intrigued by it. Also it felt right that it should come along and given it just kind of turned up, it would be an informative experiment, to see if they might be useful.
The packing process continued, this time it did begin with taking stuff out. Oscar’s travel books entered the fray. One purchased, one lonely planet guide on loan from some library and both rather Switzerland centric.
Here a somewhat key notion entered proceedings, one Oscar had clearly struck upon some time earlier and for me, one that rose with these books and cemented with the discussion they induced.
A notion that was key and reframed the holiday which was to come. Oscar made the point that he had the books on Switzerland, we we’re landing in Switzerland so we should make use of all this and travel Switzerland. I made the point that we’d long decided to land in Switzerland and the books had been gathered up by choice .. twas rather like meeting to play football in the park, only for someone to bring along their banjo some hay bails and say ‘well now that we’re all here and countryed up … lets have ourselves a hoedown sing song’, potentially adding that you were allowed to bring along a football.
I made the point more to myself but a little out loud also. It was the principle I objected to most. Yes I liked the idea I thought we’d agreed on, that we
were Munch bound, I’d rather settled into it but it was peculiarly un-dramatic, unilateral, way in which this was presented, the principle that riled. Sufficiently for me not to present any immediate agreement.
Back on the packing
Somewhat improbably, given the notable absence of any real planning and the continued presence of an undiminished collection, that was our joint stuff, it had all sort of worked out. We’d have to make full use of our hand luggage allowance but eventually no one bag was screaming it’s none conformance to the laws of travel bagery and that was all the working out we needed.
At Oscar’s there’s a room in the cellar, a sort of washroom with a mounted mattress, topped off with assorted covers strewn all across it. I had slept here before, it’s a bit like finding yourself unexpectedly stranded, in a house of course, just not my own. In this house the only available place to be taking refuge, is some under the stair wash cupboard, where a person can bury themselves within the mound of expectant washing.
Before settling in I visited the bathroom and as I lay there (not in the bathroom), my mind turned to the theatre of their fridge (the housemates fridge), the one that must surely exist in the kitchen. This house reminded me of my fathers, bigger (so the tut and bits spreads themselves about more thinly) and younger. Bigger, younger, fuller, but still there it is, familiar. This is the young ones house spliced with my fathers, that’s what this is and on that note came the fridge. There was no script but there was the fridge. I was looking inside of it, at two unconvincing puppets, one a vegetable, one fermenting dairy form. They where in discussion, I could see it but as I said there was no script. Sounds kind of ungrateful, its not that, least that’s not my perception, it was a necessary part of the trip, it was fine, its just that its not that nice down there.
Well no, it would be fine only on this occasion there was a growing agitation. I was a little tired, facing a reasonably abridged sleep period, due to the reasonable early rising and in the neighbouring main cellar, two others sat all too audible. They were discussing and they were watching, watching something, probably multiple something’s over the time, I cared not what, I knew enough.
Saturday 10th July – Arrival In Switzerland Day
Arrival Day – London to Zurich
A taxi from Oscar’s in the early hours takes us to Victoria, though according to Oscar not by the most direct route. From the stance of my more limited knowledge of the local street geography, he seems to have a point. Despite this and against expectation we:
- catch up with our intended train
purchase our tickets from the on board inspector man,
drag the bag that we’ve now formally christened ‘the beast’ through some narrower than ‘beast’ isles,
quickly became tired of this dragging and dumped said beast in a baggage dumping area,
realise we’re still in a first class carriage and head of for a carriage less green.
Here in the departure lounge, at the tail end of our waiting time, as “the gate continued to demand our attendance through the departure screens”, I paid a visit to WH Smith and purchased a notepad. Something which was not without forethought.
I don’t keep a diary, all that rambling about tedious self things but this was different. It had seemed to me that this stood every chance of being such a holidays where something, akin to a diary was worth a go. My memory is not quite as poor as it appears but its open, I imagine, to the odd bit of post event artistic license.
Last year I went to Australia and before that there have been other times, times that I should like to be able to look back upon with the more assured accuracy as would be granted by a record of events. Looking at it presumptively, this trip appeared to have enough of the characteristics to be such a holiday. That was at least, so long as our plans .. no correction .. ‘our intentions,’ were realised. Then it would be filled with movement, places and would be quite unlike other holidays I’ve taken, this was a holiday when experimenting with diary keeping seemed worth a shot.
This generally non-diarising lifestyle of mine does mean that this section of life exists in isolation, its own little world without history. This of course can’t be, so rather than attempt to cover of an abridged synopsis of the preceding thirty odd years, the ones that led up to this clearly most momentous of visits to my second home, perhaps I shall just insert brief snips of relevant history into my notes, when and if events of the day seem to require some greater context.
For some short period in the mid 90s I did keep a diary, the notion of ever revisiting those times through the prism of that view, it makes me cringe. That wouldn’t be a holiday diary it was to be a generic, irregularly contributed to bout of expulsions of the self. Hopefully this will be of more interest to future me.
Back on the historic patched of diary, were I to have an idea of where said scribings could be found, I should visit it only to secure them, such that they could not be accidentally encountered by others. The best way to do this might be to destroy it but somehow I can’t see my doing that. There’s no known revelation that exists there in, that’s of such note that might warrant that sort of dramatic display.
Mind you, while I don’t envisage such a day as the one where I should want to read it back, my only sense of it is that the only thing I can see coming from that, amassing of sufficient motivation to get rid of it, permanent like. In this case no necessary context is being added by the appending of historic events, but it is an example of the kind of thing I have in mind. At the same time, it’s also a way to clarify more honestly the passage above.
Despite our responding to final calls, Oscar opted to make a visit to Boots, after waiting around a bit I decided to heed those calls and head on to the gate, via a necessary pit stop.
On arrival at the gate, despite the pit stop, there was no sign of Oscar. Nor for that matter was there any real evidence of a ‘last’ that would warrant the visually enthusiastic cries, which had been summoning us to this place, from upon the many screens. However, it swiftly transpired (the only thing to do anything much in the way swiftly at this point) that BAA & easyjet held quite different intentions for that Saturday morning, which did not include timely departures.
Still, at least there wasn’t going to be any repeat of the time a friend and I (a different friend) were clearly the last people to wonder onto the plane. That time (must have been the Italy Trip) we’d both been far to engaged in our breakfasts to respond to, or even be aware of, our gate summonsing. That time there had very much been some boarding and we very much were the last call.
The delay, it transpired was something to do with the plane, apparently something was not quite so with it. Not a great message but one, in light of the alternative, that made sitting about, in this uninspiring and bland corner of existence, a little preferable.
As I write this up now, I realise a couple of things.
- I can’t do full justice to the pause that was to follow. It being a pause and there being, as such, remarkably little about it worthy of saying.
Further I notice that I’ve failed, at any point so far, to offer an introduction to my friend and co-traveller on this holiday Mr Oscar Saks. (less so in the final write up – benefit of the edit)
What can I say about Oscar that would do him justice?
He’s about 5-9, 5-10 with big curly dark hair, though this changes with relative regularity (the hair bit – clearly , He’s not Alice and he doesn’t carry emergency cake rations with him to adjust his stature to the occasion and won’t be waking at the end of these notes to realise it was all probably a dream)
Private school educated, at least for much of his schooling and the son of a successful self made father..
A couple of years younger than me, he will be thirty later this year.
I’ve known him for just over four years and what happened before that I can not really say, other than he seems to have dealt quite easily with academia, trained to be a teacher and then, having taken a look at that profession, sought a different direction for himself.
Today still wanted by the government he survives (no today he is on holiday like me) as a home office statistician and has done for at least for a couple of years. He seems,based on what opinion he offers on the subject, to be quite at home in this role, though he now does it on a part-time basis, after heeding the call for him to become involved in the family business.
Most of his closest friends seem to be people that he has known since more formative years. Some of these are people who I have now also come to know, through things like Oscar’s five aside football team and ski holidays. He’s open and honest, not in the dramatic heart on sleeve sort of way, more in a matter of fact, not going to hide too much kind of way. Disingenuous, false, masked, insincere are all things he clearly is not.
Strangely then he can be a slightly controversial figure. For both during our time in parliament and now among his own wider circle of acquaintances there are people he really does not like and people who really are not that keen on him. As I write this though it seems less than surprising, someone who simply is themselves, they are going to appeal to some and not to others, especially in the world of parliamentary interns.
(Not to get myself wrong, I really enjoyed my time there, finding a surprising amount of people whose company I enjoyed. Probably nine out of ten, for me, an otherwise unheard of ratio.)
I suppose, it doesn’t harm to have a bit of one or two of these characteristics, they work as social lubricants but in the world of the intern, Oscar stood apart.
Um..well It has struck me that he is a conflict avoider (mostly) and also quite without malice.
All of this is true of sober and drunk Oscar, a division that is quite justifiable made. For while they share many of the same characteristics, height and general appearance not alone among them, drunk Oscar can be the embodiment of quite an opposite interpretation of those same characteristics. Drunk Oscar operates with negligible constraints or moderation, which can still be quite endearing but not always and when not, really not. Perhaps there will be more on that later.
Hopefully I have offered fair enough description of my friend, so as to be accurate without imbuing this with saccharine fallacies.The test will be in future. Should I come to read this back and find among these pages a person imbued with many of qualities I hold most dear, who has failing but who is who e is and a person that I like all the more for it, then I will have done a done a fair job of painting this picture..
On the other hand, should this record of our trip fall into foreign .. unathorised .. hands, then … well …. [actually I really need to stop taking my notes on tour, in the vain expectation that they will somehow find themselves getting written up .. but that wasn’t where I was heading. So back on track.]
Should foreign hands get a hold of this and should those hands have marched their way so inexplicably off of life’s paths and into this here undergrowth, then – *
Really what are you doing?
Move along people nothing to see here.
That said, rather pleased you’ve not turned back in anguish at the linguistic abuses here in, progress that is but still its like a diary .. not a diary, but a bit like one … it doesn’t do to read a diary, especially someone else’s. Wrong minded people reading other peoples stuff, shame on you, take a moment and think about what you’ve done here today.)
…*. that would be the true test. Should all who came upon this be left thinking to themselves: ‘where can I get me, one of these here Oscars’ then, what I can take from that is, I’ve gone and got myself distracted by some movie replay in my mind. Sidetracked into describing Gizmo, the heroic bundle of well intention fluff from Gremlins. (Gizmo – The not green one with the big round eyes that shall never engage in the post pub cheese on toast consumption.)
If this is not the case, then statistically I will have failed. The picture I have painted was naive and painted with a subjectivity most unintended.
In summary Oscar: 5-9/10, approaching 30, varying hair cuts, genuine, open, sometimes quiet sometimes rambunctious and a good sort.
So there we were, Oscar and I delayed at Gatwick, Oscar asleep on the bench opposite mine. There’s a new reason for the delay, the plane is now ok, apparently, we could all board, if only there were buses to take us to it. There are no buses. This seems utterly ludicrous, of all the reasons to be sat here the one that seems to have hit a particular cord of ‘if your running a bus dependent gate then how many other things do you really have to get right chord’ is this one.
I’ve gone from, not sleepily sitting, hoping the delay would end, to quite irked, a result of what seemed like inexplicable incompetence. The sort of thing that, by now, I should really have been desensitised to. I tired, most of the other passengers were stood by the exist door, waiting for the bus that never comes. They’ve been told there aren’t any but still they stand. Strange behaviour, the barn door really isn’t going to open to let them roam free upon the tarmac.
By now i was truly inclined toward heading over to that service desk, there’s nothing else to do but I couldn’t rule out fatigue impacting judgement. Also what are the chances of them responding with “oh, well ok, seen as how you’re not able to appreciate the joys of holidaying at our gate, I guess we could always call in the alpha bus team. It will mean interrupting their training routine for the synchronised busing, is that really what you want to see happen Mr Uhler? Is that really what you want?”
I didn’t go to the service desk.
Some time later:
I woke Oscar when the bus came. Then the bus went, the door loiterers had filled it, the prize for their patience, the opportunity to wait on the plane for the rest of us to join them. Another bus turned up, I went over while Oscar continued the sleep he had quickly returned to. As I got on the bus the service desk lady performed a check on the gate and found for herself a sleep enjoying straggler. Oscar now came to the bus.
That change of scenery behind us, it was now explained that the plane having lost its departure slot would be staying where it was for around a further fifty minutes. Yay.
Arrival In Zurich
On arrival in Zurich we start back on a familiar conversation, about the cycle that had been reserved with SBB and was awaiting our collection in the central station. Only a few hours earlier we’d covered this self same point. The central station lay on the route that would be taken by us on any train out of the airport. Oscar had earlier thought we would collect this bike on route, while I liked this idea, I failed to see a way in which we could readily manoeuvre the ‘beast’, our hand luggage along with the addition of said cycle. Things were,after all, not proving so easy even without the cycle.
Not sure how much of this conversation remained clear in Oscar’s mind, certainly he seemed to be of a view that we were still to be headed directly to the central station.
We were late, not that the hour was late but in so much as we stood a fair bit behind the theoretical schedule id envisaged, we were late. A lateness that, I considered, could be offset were we somehow to collect the bike on route. He (Oscar) still seemed to be touting the idea that we could split up. One version of this take on the problem, would see one of us bundling onto a bus, all baggage in tow, while the other mounted the bike before taking it on an ‘incredible journey’ through the streets of Zurich, to my grandfathers home. A solid enough proposition in many ways but brought down for me by one rather early hurdle, only one of us had any idea where we were headed.
It was not so long hence (during our group’s ski holiday in Austria) that Oscar had had holiday misadventures with busses in foreign climbs. Misadverntures which had seen him inadvertently disappear of scope for an hour or so. As for his doing the cycle bit instead, well no. All I could see was, me stood, bag bound, gazing out the back window of the bus as a frantically peddling Oscar chased us down the bus lanes, his hair flailing as he went, hurdling and severing about junctions, frantically leaning in as he strove to keep up round corners, before eventually disappearing out of my back window view.
Splitting up approach aside, perhaps it would be possible? We would have to take a tram, my favourite tram the bright yellow 13 tram. Hopefully it would be a new one with their flat and easy access design; so as to save us the additional obstacle of narrow steps. This would however mean an uphill trek to our end destination, my grandfathers flat.
So it was, we headed townward, Oscar, the beast and I.
It wasn’t without effort but we’d collected the bike and now we manoeuvred ourselves and our entourage to the nearby tram stop.
I knew where the bikes were kept, this was thanks to my grandfather’s assistance, we’d been investigating their cost and location during another, very recant, visit to these parts, when they’d proven quite elusive.
Oscar had been mulling over a mounting hunger and as the 13 tram pulled in, one of the new easy access step less 13 trams, he decided that he should like to head of toward the co-op food store which stood just a little up the road. Oscar disappeared out of view, the 13 tram with easy access pulled off. For my part I stood watching over our extended collection of things, studying the arrivals board, wondering if Oscar would be back in time for the next 13 tram and hoping that, if he were, then that tram would also be nice, new, nice, flat and easy to access.
He was, it wasn’t, it was awkward, it was cumbersome and it was effort. On the upside though, during my wait I’d observed other bikes making their way to destinations unknown, on tram back. So that allayed one concern, we weren’t through our plans for onward travel, about to unleash a whole new level of socially unacceptable behaviour, on this unsuspecting nation.
It’s a steep hill, the one from the 13 tram to our end destination and it was a warm day, I can’t speak for others but I found myself sweating quite a bit. At least I knew where the end was to be found.
My grandfather speaks English, least he used to in the comfort of his own home with a select audience. He learnt what he knows, largely from undubbed John Wayne movies and what he’s learnt is neither vast nor applicable to most common social situations. I say used to, I have not heard these efforts for some years; he was though brimming with enthusiastic and energetic welcomes for us.
There are few things or people, I believe, which mean so much to me as to not be within my limited means to explain and are held above any reason. He is one of them. Zurich, while a dim and distant light in contrast, is another of these. So after the introductions are done and an initial depositing of our baggage has been completed I headed out to my customary station on the balcony. It’s the 10th floor with an unhindered view of the city, to the lake and beyond.
There’s always a train pulling in or out of the distant central station. From my spot on the balcony they look more like part of the worlds most opulent and brilliant model railway than the real thing. I think I could stand there forever just watching, in the light of the sun, in the flashes of thunder and at the lights that shine in the darkness of the night. Zurich. I think that but after a period that tends to vary I realise that I can’t, either the temperature hits home, something else demands my attention or I just get a little bored.
But its calming, like an aquarium, only very different in every other respect and yet its more than that. Especially at times like this, the first view of the holiday. It gives me a small warm feeling inside, like some giant cloud from which at some time I was pulled away, now reaching out, look to envelope me once again, to bring me in from my lost wonderings. It bids me to smile, not an excited enlivened smile but a quiet deep calm smile and I think, quite often, I oblige.
Oscar took a seat on the balcony behind me and grandfather joined us, asking whether we want anything? He has drinks and apparently some freshly acquired, very large cherries, which he is particularly eager to share. I don’t like cherries, these are good.
The comment I made earlier about it being a warm day, this was inaccurate. Under most definitions, the temperate in evidence around Zurich today was ‘hot’. I think I’ve forgotten to mention, we (Oscar and I) have mutually and definitively agreed that this would not be the day we commence with the cycling. It was an early start and now that it’s all here as a fully fledged attainable reality (us, the bikes, the bike baggage, Zurich and Zurich’s cycle path start point bit) the prospect of peddling it all somewhere else, didn’t seem either particularly emergent or sufficiently appealing.
Why is this previously unworthy of mentioning decision suddenly relevant? – Because its earlier omission was but an oversight and because this is why we now find ourselves with a sizeable chunk of ‘rest of a day’ to fill.
I like the Limmat river. It had been such a long time since last I’d been down by it for a swim but, in years gone, it had been quite a commonly visited spot , back when I’d spend most of my school summer holidays here. Back then my grandfather and I were frequent visitors to the river and the lake, when we weren’t of on trips to other parts of the country.
The Limmat (a moderate sized river that flows out of Lake Zurich, through the city or Zurich and out the other end, before ultimately joining up with other rivers on the way to the Rhine) shines with a beckoning aquatic blue on fine summer days, such as this. As it heads out of town, it flows along the base of the hillside upon which my Grandfather flat stands and where we now sit. A kilometre or so upstream there is the Limmat canal, narrower and deeper than the river itself. There you and no few others can lay your towel and when the urge takes you, make your way in, the current then grabs lightly but firmly hold, delivering its visitor to a point a couple of hundred metres downstream, where they get out with the heat of the day washed away.
My anticipation on suggesting this was that it would probably not meet with warm approval. From my experience the British trust two things when it comes to water, a nice tiled pool with a yellowed hew and the sea with its quite different sort of hew. Actually no, three things – I forgot shower and/or bath tubs, depending upon personal preference. It wasn’t a vast experience upon which to base this anticipation and it was wrong, Oscar seemed more than content to go with this suggestion.
This was not the sort of oasis that had been discovered and past quietly down the generations. There was, as there always had been on days such as this, a significant part of the greater Zurich pod, to be found here, basking, splashing & meandering about between these two options.
My grandfather had leant us a padlock, so we headed in the direction of the changing and cloth depositing facilities. The first door seemed to express no gender preference, which while this could be taken one way that way could also be the wrong way to take it, so we headed further along to the second door. It too had no clear stipulation of a gender preference and further, this one was locked. The options seemed limited. This and the sight, through the windows, of men folk wondering about there in, consolidated the view that the first door must have been the right door. Unisex facilities and why not? a collection of changing cabins and rows of lockers, what possible rational then for segregation?
We wondered out, until not long after, I realised I was alone (in so much as a person can be alone with so much of the Zurich populous frequenting this area) Oscar had fallen back. It was the small pebbled floor, in conjunction with his recently made bare feet that was causing a few problems. He was tentatively stood, gazing downward, surveying the land for the least impactful spot on which to lay his striving out foot during his next steps effort. That had been me once, in my youth.
How I’d hated being told I ought to go barefoot, it was ridiculous as a notion, when the ground was often times charring hot and all to regularly strewn, in misadventure, with clearly specifically selected anti-foot peblets.
I hadn’t been quick to heed calls to free myself of the comfortable shackles of my shoes but somehow, over the years I’ve still managed to develop a sort of Rhino hyde upon my feet, it’s a beautiful thing. Oscsar clearly had not. Eventually we reach lawn and with that something akin to forward movement that’s discernible to the human eye, was restored.
We dumped our stuff on one of the scares corners of grass that remained uncovered by towels, bodies or both. No sooner had we claimed this spot, we were agreed, we’d head straight upstream toward the water. Admittedly this meant some bare foot re-encountering of paths, so it wasn’t to be a lightening fast manoeuvre but I liked this style.
It has been my observation that adult types like to attend water but then spend vast periods sat about its edges, doing things like reading papers and other none water based activities. This is a disease, a wrong minded and frustrating tendency. Worse still its one which, I have noted with some disdain, I am not immune to. I’ve clearly observed in recant times. signs of my partial succumbing to this ill but not today.
Oscar’s readiness to head straight for the water is not, on our eventual arrival at the waters edge, met by an equal rush of enthusiasm to take on the next step in this plan. He’s content instead to sniff carefully about at the waters edge, making considered use of the improved view afforded by our closer proximity, to carry out some forensic inspecting. A mixture of amusement and a lack of any real sense of urgency, see me hang around. Plus I’m all to resplendently self-conscious, in my long red swimming shorts, to simply submerge myself, its all about the red, they really set of my sun and physical activity shy skin.
To be fair there is the issue of unfamiliarity. The others, the one’s who throw themselves of a near by mini-dam, they have the advantage; they’re all more than comfortably familiar with the temperature, the current and whatever other factors for consideration there might be.
One issue worthy of consideration, but not immediately invoked from this view point, the getting out bit. Once in and bobbing toward the exit point, it comes back to me, the combined efforts of the current and a mass populous bottlenecking, it can be perturbing. The people, of which I am one, they struggle with their footing on the relatively narrow steps, which tends to slow the pace of their exit, this in turn leaves those arriving with nowhere much to go. It’s all about timing, you don’t want to rear end anyone, somebody could take umbrage at such a thing. There it is, the end and the populous build up, it comes back to me, you ease and time your arrival with some upstream paddling.
That all works out. No umbrage is caused by either of us, Oscar joins me on the bank and w e make our way tentatively back to whence we came, fully avoiding being lapped by any of the octogenarians that go off road (off path), in their efforts to power past.
After a few goes we were done and we did not hang about. Oscar still had in mind that an additional cycle bag could come in handy, the kind that gets attached to the front of bikes. I suggested a small shopping centre that I was confident was within walking distance, explaining that it used to house a shop called ‘Jumbo’ a sort of general DIY and outdoor goods shop, large by Swiss standards. It wouldn’t be there as such, not any more, I remembered being told how ‘Jumbo’ had been bought up but as I understood it that amounted more to a change of name sort of by-out. Oscar anyhow seemed more concerned on applying time estimates around the broad concept of walking distance. I knew quite a bit about the nature and history of a shop I have never knowingly purchased from, how, at any point, did these tip bits of conversational information ever get treated to the seldom used stamp ‘meritous of storage’ by the memory warden?
I realise, writing this up, I know quite a bit about Swiss supermarkets, K3000 and more recently EPA no longer exist, having been purchased by Coop (one of the two major supermarkets in Switzerland at this time). Denner still exists but has been bought by Migro (the other of the two major supermarkets) and allows Migro to participate in alcohol retail, as its own chain of stores are prohibited, by its own charter, from such sinful subversive antics. It’s not exactly encyclopaedic or enough to play a special subject part in some sort of run at mastermind but for me, with my selective memory, these are odd fruits to have been raised up.
It’s not big on bike sundries, the shop that was once ‘Jumbo’. After some looking, some retreading of steps, some assured ‘it must be here somewhere’ re-looking, there eventually came, some finding, limited signs of bikes. This saw us narrow our search pattern to the more immediate area, where we felt a collective confidence, that any sundries that every there were would, for certain, be gathered. Because today’s the day the day we’d, exhausted most other feasible locations. Sundries should surly gather at or close to the feet of the bike masters, it only made sense. Not that this confidence was rewarded in instant success or even a true eventual success of note. Our partial success then, this saw us stood before a limited wall of things that go with bikes.
We were seeking to make further progress. Oscar wasn’t keen on the one potential bag we’d managed to locate of our own volition. A bag that was sufficiently distant, to the type of forward attaching bag that we’d envisaged, to have us both peering at it, tugging at it and holding it aloft (so that we might gain alternative perspective) before peering at it some more (in case alternative or second views might reveal some fresh something). It was only with the hard won confirmation of a slightly confused shop assistant that this object, came to be confirmed as something akin to what we sought. It was small, with a cumbersome approach to bike attaching that endeared it in no way to Oscar.
My German gave way, found wanting, where in truth it should probably not have been and not for the first time. It was this we wanted, only not this. They brought forth a different assistant, one of the younger cashiers. With her ability in English and quiet understanding of that ability, she put my dual national German efforts to shame.
There was to be no eventual success, for in attaining this reasonably clear level of communication we found confirmation, this was all the forward attaching bags that ever there were. Least it was in this store.
We left, no more enriched with cycle bags than when we’d entered. Outside a café sandwich bar awaited us in the foyer of the shopping centre, we stopped off. It being a small sort of shopping centre it seemed we had already exhausted our options. In hindsight, that was a conclusion that shouldn’t have required any greater thought on my part, in order to realise swiftly it was errant. As we sat with our refreshments, the sports shop on the second floor simply never came to mind,
Aside from a spot of eating and drinking, we spent this time looking at what routes we might take. This time I started to add pause to the plans Oscar revealed, making a grating sound as they juddered to an inconclusive halt. The thing was, there was no getting away from it, I still wasn’t quite lined up with the cycling Switzerland idea and the particular plan now touted by Oscar did everything to reinforce this. It was a plan that contained a long stretch through the centre of Switzerland and this in particular lay at the heart of my negative response. It was a stretch of the Glacier Express route, beautiful but so achingly familiar. In fact it was only one month since last I’d travelled along it, all be it, in that instance by train. You can have too much of a good thing.
I’d already accepted that we’d travel Switzerland, objectively that wasn’t a problem but the way in which it was reached that was clearly a bug bear that was seeping in and muddying the water of related conversations, such as this one. Better to pause matters for now. I pulled back on the conversation. Conclusions would have to come at a later time, when my toxic disposition toward this topic had been rained in. When the routes could be properly considered, free of the unhelpful taint smeared across all this by the unacceptable way in which this situation had been reached. This was the first real sight I’d had of the main routes, so taking this pause was also a good thing, it gave me time to digest the options, their respective appeal and reach some more considered views.
Meanwhile Oscar was busy realising that somewhere between the Limmat and these seats he and his trunks had parted ways. We started back, though having failed to realise that this would be something we’d be doing, neither of us had taken the time to coat the statutory breadcrumb trail. We’d laid it quite without tipping them in a protective Marmite veneer. As such the crumbs were gone, cleared away by a team of those ever alert but never seen, trained Ukrainian Hamsters that patrol and keep so very clean, the streets of Zurich.
So we could only make out best efforts to retrace out steps, a spot of guessing, while looking about the well maintained pavements as I explained to Oscar, my view of the improbable nature of us achieving success in this effort. I used to have a Ukrainian Hamster – Bruno Erskine Tuffty Brown – I think he was a Ukrainian hamster, maybe it was Siberian, I am not sure. Not confusing these two places, just not being an authority on hamster breeds and having limited memory for such things, leads to some uncertainty. The internet could probably clear this up, if called upon to do so.
We headed toward the Limmat, back across the rather long, sun basked bridge, or is it more an overpass, either way it cuts across the base of the shallow valley in which Zurich is set and it was warm. As we did so Oscar explained his philosophy on such matters which went along the lines that – if he has a find rate of around say 20%, this would mean that two things in every ten would be re-found, so long as he looks. In the distance the bus stop which stood roughly at the point we’d joined the bridge could be made out. A few more steps and it was clear that just before the stop there was something strewn upon the ground. The mere fact that we could see a thing from here, surly that suggested a thing that was of a size significantly greater than a pair of trunks, at least not a pair of Oscar’s trunks, he’s quite a conventionally sized sort and has no need to wear tent sized clothing.
With each step though the growing knowledge this was going to be them, I should be pleased, these were what we had walked the route back to try and find. My friend and his trunks would be reunited yet I can’t say I was, as any sense of this was balanced of by a sense of bemusement, I could not fathom how this could be so, it seemed even less probable now than it had before we’d caught sight of anything.
Sure enough, Oscar’s trunks were there, in the middle of the otherwise perfectly clear pavement only a meter away from the bus stop, how? And good of course, but how?
From there we headed to the city centre, passing away the rest of the afternoon and into the early evening. A further trip to the station, in search of the tourist information, a further refreshment pit stop and a discovery ensued.
The trip to tourist information:
Oscar was after finding something out and wanted to find a tourist information point, so I took us back to the main station, where I was confident any tourist information office would have located itself. If my recollection of why we were there is correct, it was to see about securing some more detailed maps of Switzerland’s cycle paths. We wondered about and having found the tourist information office, searched the shelves to no avail. Oscar headed toward the counters via a short but none too swiftly moving queue, neither of which appealed, the counter enticed not a jot even without the precursor of standing about a bit.
I was the German speaker, I was at home here, I should have been the one who was counter bound. If it came to it I could do my part but it hadn’t come to it, by this point the shelves had far from been thoroughly checked. Were I here alone, I should not have been at the counter, not yet, were I here alone I should spend much time rummaging and re-rummaging among the shelves. So.. For the most part they were organised by canton (region) and for the most part there was quite an abundance of variety, especially for those cantons to which we were unlikely to be headed.
I came upon some leaflets that struck me as bearing the promise of things that might come in handy later, bits and bobs. Most notably a smallish booklet headed budget hotels and a larger pamphlet about Swiss Youth Hostels.
In the mean time Oscar had gotten to the counter. We knew the cycle path exited Zurich, it showed that much on our book’s map, where Zurich was pleasantly circular and cycle paths, they were long and linear, striking out in different directions to other circles. We didn’t know where abouts we were, in relation to our circle and we didn’t know where to go, in order to find those parts of the circle’s edge, from which the cycle paths lines protruded.
I joined Oscar, the maps in here were artistic, little illustrations marked the locations and likeness of some of the cities key features. Not exactly the detailed local map we’d envisaged but it was hard not to recognise the Limmat flowing through the town and out, escorted on its way by one of those cycle path, running close along its banks.
We left the tourist information offices and wondered away discussing something, I recall not what but whatever it was it culminated in the realisation that things had been forgotten, so we turned around and headed back. Whatever our motives they went unanswered and we left, again.
In these parts sun cream is not merely sun cream, it couldn’t be. No front handing cycle bag though. As for the sun cream, we tried to understand what might have gone into its creation, it must truly be special. Perhaps it’s sourced from the last of the Helvetic Uni-corn goats, found up high upon a most inaccessible alp on such days when a rainbow touches upon its crest. The alp that is, not the goat. The cream brought to us here, by the lone hiker, that one person with a hand so fair as to have whittled from the Helvetic- Unigoat, that sun denying cream which we sought. That would explain the ungenerous portions and the most premium pricing.
We used a joint kitty system for handling funds and purchases, a simple approach that had served us well on ski holidays, which now sacrificed itself for the greater burn avoiding good. It might have been an idea to have visited Superdrug before we headed out there. I can’t speak for Oscar but me personally, I would have been ok with the standard: generous portioned, ungoat whittled, no bank loan requiring, cream of the sort that’s served up to an undemanding public back in the UK.
As the shops started to close and the evening drew in, it was time to head back. Something was agitating me, nothing in particular and at the same time everything, innocuous if not particularly pleasant sounds, mundane smells, all prodding at the brain. Oscar was irritating and I was tired. I learnt along time ago the value of determining the difference between these times and the times when the outside world has a determinable something to answer for.
Even if the outside were to do me some genuine disservice right now, my vision would probably be sufficiently impaired so to be unable to reliably distinguish it from those aforementioned noises, smells and general everythings. So either way I would treat the situation just the same, doing that which I was doing now and what I was doing now, was being quiet. There was nothing wrong with the tea cup beyond the storm clouds within it, it was time to baton down the hatches, wait it out and focus energies on containment. I knew Oscar would have noticed, not ideal but it can be helpful. People see storm clouds and they steer round them, make a good job of disguising those clouds and the buggers just sail right on in.
Its effort, you have to grab that containment, hoicke it up around your waist, stand on tip toes and hope they just pass on through. That though is effort, it had been a long day, I was really quite tired and if there could be some steering round then that was no bad thing right now.
We stopped of back at the same supermarket Oscar has nipped into earlier, back when first we’d arrived in the city centre to collect Oscar’s bike, in order to pick up some dinner provisions. We tottered around a bit, picked up some things, paid for those things (in the honest upstanding way that’s good for building the UKs reputation abroad and by happy coincidence is also very good for not getting arrested and instead being free to go about ones holiday) before heading out. This time to catch a bus and in so doing avoid any of that, end of journey uphill walking that had been so welcome earlier.
An Evening in Zurich
I cooked dinner, we ate dinner and a bit later we got back to our options. My grandfather had been ever interested in where we would be going producing maps and answering my questions about the perspective routes that stood before us.
As for Oscar’s preferred route, it still didn’t really appeal, there was the contemptuous sense of familiarity but also I just wasn’t sure how this would work out. After Bern this route appeared to go via Interlaken on its climb to Oberalp, not the shortest distance and while Interlaken was quite unfamiliar it seemed a route that would certainly involve a significant enough alteration in altitude. I say this because on all discussions prior to today we’d both expressed a desire to cycle but not to invest significant parts of our cycling time on the unfamiliar world of ascending altitude. From what I knew of this stretch then, it went quite contrary to this intention.
There were three routes, all of them together and heading west out of Zurich, one of them was Oscar’s preferred number eight route while the other two were my preferences. Oscar had willingly accepted my rational for objecting to route eight. All of this amounted to a decision of sorts, sufficient at least to give us a starting direction for the coming morning and a route neither of us objected to. That said we left the discussion with none of the three west bound routes ruled out.
Outside it had gotten rather dark.
The wind was up, buffeting, tugging and hurling rain drops at the windows. More and more, the rain grew heavier, still given more menace as it was tossed violently about.
It was quite the little storm, even my grandfather was impressed and he must have seen a fair few of them from up here on the tenth floor. Very diverting.
With the two sofas in the living room we both had a place to lay our heads for the night. So we lay there, quietly chatting until it came again, bobbing back to the surface as it had in both subtle and direct ways through out the day. Oscar and his view over my disposition, he kept jabbing at it and I kept letting him. It had nothing to do with the events of this day nor, as much as it felt as such, was it intended to offend. These were the conclusions at any rate and up to this point I’d not only held to these but also to the view that whatever it was, I owed it to Oscar to bite upon my instinctively responsive tongue.
‘More than this, there was something more than this’, I think, I believed him concerned and each of these, somewhat irritating comments were the manifestation of that concern.
It all came back to the previous holiday, back in the February of that year, when we and three other friends has been skiing in Ischgl.
It had not gone well, now Oscar was uncomfortable, drawing errant conclusions and my self imposed punitive silence in the face of this, it was showing no evidence of alleviating matters.
As well as my silence, I’d earlier sought to offer confidence by sharing a little something about holidays, holidays Oscar hadn’t been on. It went a little like this, there has always come a time during holidays when the close company of my companions or companion on those trips has become anything other than sought, windows of time when the need for solitude was primary. At such times I may be quiet or may briefly take myself off, occasionally there is no denying those are thing I’ve felt the need to do but no more. The subtlety of this intention, to alleviate concerns with an honesty which simultaneously delivered a clear wedge, setting apart normality and the experiences of that last holiday, had clearly gone unrealised.
As we lay there, fourteen days of holiday ahead of us and with my patience close to burning down and a very real need to cut out this seeping rot, the immediate alternative was to just do what came most instinctively and take back the front foot. I came about, opened gun ports and fired warning shots, for it wouldn’t do to engage actively in friendly fire.
Less metaphorically, I made no more apologies, reminding Oscar that he’d long since had my clear apology for what had been…Further that he’d been far from blameless for the events of February. This was something that unequivocally needed to be drawn to a close, starting with Oscars snipes,
even if that wasn’t what they were. As for his possible thoughts, that I might again be temperamental, this had no wings to fly on, beyond my occasionally being quite or perhaps needing space. The last holiday had been the exception and not the rule. Should he need evidence to that effect, Oscar needed only to look beyond that February holiday, at all that had gone before, to know it was true.
Oscar still couldn’t see what it was about February and on point of fact he was quite right, the change of job, the move north and all that had been coming in March was coming because I had chosen that it would. I’m not sure I explained this part quite so well, it was after all not entirely clear to me but it was indisputable, the coming change, about which I had never been entirely convinced, had in February, been proper stressing me out.
It was a good conversation, not dramatic or self indulgent just direct and forthright. A good conversation, it fed no animosity and seemed to end having addressed whatever discomfort had set in.
How to describe the conversation, without being dreadfully dull and belatedly achieving that self indulgence, which had been so happily avoided at the time?
This was the sort of conversation you’d probably never come round to having with the very very closest of friends. You’d have the history hopefully to shrink such a blip, to put it in perspective, and to have seen its rumbling well before, there in a look and that which went unsaid. It’s the kind of conversation, which apparently you can be forced into having, with a true and good friend. When and only when, that friendship show signs of being at risk, being caught in a past, unable to free itself, jeopardising the present. But though it could only happen a true and good friend, it did not make me comfortable… hell, aside from that, it’s not an extent to which I’d be going for anything less.
So many words spent not describing a journey in what was to be journey journal. These though were the main items of the day: a delay, a flight, a river, a trip to the city centre and a re-emergence of some recent history.
It was a good conversation, things felt better and not in a scratched sore way.
Then it was sleep time.
The February Ski Holiday
Following a very enjoyable trip to Soll (Austria) in 2009 the same group of 5 headed to Ischgl (Austria) the following year. I’d joined the others at Gatwick, fresh from moving out of my home in Acton, it was two or three weeks until I would leave my job in London and had viewed it as a timely distraction from the tide of change and uncertainty that was upon me.
The theme was born on that first day, as the loud bodily function based exchanges filled our taxi van, it seemed at first embarrassing, then grating and then it was past.
It never hit any heights but tootled along with skiing, cooked cheese and some nights out but only in occasional moments did it truly distract. That this was due more to the short falls in the holiday rather than the baggage taken on it. Seems doubtful
So as the holiday neared its end a sequence of events unfolded. First, I declined to go out one evening. It was a quiet decline born of a simmering quiet that knew it was time to indulge peace. Oscar prodded and cajoled that I might go with them, it was well meant but it was a poor idea and as it continued that which had been simmering frothed up.
Even through my irritation I knew I had no right to criticise the humour or behaviour of others, people are well within their rights to be themselves
One of the others, who was staying in the other apartment, had also stayed home. We went to dinner at a nearby restaurant, a pleasantly quiet night, I chilled out.
The next day was to be different, I’d been unwarranted in my behaviour and it was time to reconcile that.
That next day, over lunch, we all sat in an alp top restaurant, Oscar was off self serving, there was something, the others had looks and were speaking of an unspeakable. What was it? and if I was not to know, why was it being mentioned at all, its existence, whatever it was, was without doubt, as it was so clearly being muted.
The landlady was not a warm and friendly type, we’d discovered that when we arrived. Though the rooms were fine and no discernible wrong had been done us, she had not endeared herself.
Oscar, on their return to the apartment last night, it eventually was revealed had relieved himself, in a vase behind the reception desk. A vase it had then transpired was not water (or other liquid forms) tight.
I was amused, to say I wasn’t does not match with my recollection, amused, shocked but these two, they were not alone. A third emerged from the dark, the other two quickly
scattered. Oscar had not wanted me to know about this, presumably not a good cherry on top of yesterday’s disgruntlement cake… or not….was it more than that? something had happened many years ago ..perhaps… what if a piece of the past, swept beneath a rug was emerging.
Years before, around the time we first met, back when we worked together, we’d been at a party at one of our colleague’s parent’s houses. There had been a few issues as the party came to a close, if Oscar or anyone else were to have been annoyed by these then they would have had every right. I say, have been quite right but it was border line quite unacceptable, but what happened was, that he simply disappeared.
Not long after, in the following days, I learnt that damage had been done to car of the parent, at whose house the party had been hosted, further the finger of not quite blame was being pointed at Oscar.
This was a problem, we may have been recant acquaintances but I liked Oscar, I didn’t really believe in his guilt in the matter but couldn’t say I knew with any educated certainly. We were relatively recant acquaintances, I could be wrong. Worse, at that time our mutual colleague was, to my surprise, fast becoming one of my closest friends. This made sure that simply ignoring this inconvenient speculation was an option that was unavailable to me.
So there I was, stood in central London, surprised by this turn of conversation and wondering what I was expected to do with this information, expected by this friend and equally expected by myself.. I could ask? I was happy to ask, well not happy but comfortable with the need to ask, rather than deal in any forms of probably ill-founded speculation. It was an acceptable and reasonable thing to do. Yes, this, as I saw it, was one of two options, either I talk to the accused or i don’t and if I didn’t then he wouldn’t be the accused, least not to me.
I was not to ask Oscar about this … fine.
In that case he was not the accused. I hadn’t thought him likely to be guilty of such a thing anyway. That should have been that. Bar a festering and lingering cold but mostly ambivalent disdain toward Oscar (not mine), it largely was. >Oscar and I had both since left our temporary roles, no longer colleagues the two of them seldom, if ever, met, which was fine, good even. Occasionally, the lingering seepage of this unresolved matter imposed its existence upon me, resurrected as it was, in the form of passing conversation, quips and through away comment. They would bring it back into my conscious thoughts but unwelcome and long past its sell by date, it was generally summarily rejected.
Then there was today. This was the last thing that the day needed, while the others finished their lunch I went for a ski, it didn’t help. Rejoining them I couldn’t look at Oscar and when I did my eyes burned right through him, what if I had been wrong? What, if drunk, he had damaged the car, what if anything this socially unacceptable filling of the vase mean? What would I force myself to do in response to this? My head buzzed and juttered around.
Though some of the tension was relieved that evening, when I revealed what I’d learned earlier that day, by asking Oscar something along the lines of ‘you pissed in the vase, I mean you pissed in the vase..what? why the fuck would you piss in the vase?’ I paraphrase. The visuals that accompanied the topic helpfully tempered the annoyance and frustration, coxing the humour back, for a while.His explanation was brilliant, ridiculous but brilliant and what’s more, showed a surprising lack of malice, given the act in question. An exploration of the reasonable and the ridiculous, though of course, it went well beyond the social boundaries we should customarily apply to ourselves
But it wouldn’t go away. The problem was this was years later (roughly 3years later) and Oscar was no longer a recent acquaintance, he was a very good friend, one I was loathed to loose or risk loosing. Besides this was still evidence of nothing, I wanted the issue to go away, I wanted this explanation to suffice but it didn’t and the issue wouldn’t. I was wondering, over and over I was wondering, did urine-gate mean anything more than the very poor introduction to the day this must have heralded for our land lady.
Thankfully while I went round and round, Oscar knew well enough that something remained a miss. On such matters I can take a long time, such a very long time applying breaks, overheating said breaks, applying them again and repeat until done. Handled wrong, this could have a poor and undesirable outcome and maybe all for nothing, Miswords or deeds toward my friends, needed avoiding.On the other hand, history tells me, I tend not to contain such matters and those times I have, they can get stored in the ‘let yourself down their’ category.
So it was left to Oscar to draw matters to a close, not I. As we sat apart from the others on the plane home. Knowing something was amiss he wanted to know what it was, I hadn’t fathomed if something should be said or if it were to be, then how. He asked again. I don’t know how many times Oscar asked before, as it customarily does in such situations, the answer made its way out. All those years late, I asked him, it was always going to be the case that I would have to ask him, I should have known that, it would never have just dissipated in my hands.
From the wreckage of my inconclusive thoughts I surprised myself, fashioning the question that had to be asked into a form I was surprisingly happy with. It was the question of a friend, least it felt like it to me, devoid of any prejudgments, aggression or accusation.
This and of course the answer it drew, finally put a line under the matter, I got my answer and that was good enough. It did not make for a great holiday, all this and the baggage of unwanted change awaiting me, shrouding the days in a persistent stressed darkness, but as I am writing this as a retrospective, with the two of us on holiday once more, it could have been worse, I guess it had that potential, not much, but a bit