Tuesday, 28 July 2009


With Hubby’s new job reeling in my head and the subsequent relief of him not going away, I was very amenable to an email from my American friend Candy, enquiring at very short notice of the possibility of coming over for a week. Always happy to receive guests, especially old friends, I replied that I would be thrilled to see her and so, last weekend I drove to Bristol airport to meet her flight.
Never one to be caught short in the germ department, Candy travels nowhere without being armed by a handbag full of hand sanitizer; imagine her distress then when she walked through the arrivals hall, her precious bottle of disinfectant having been confiscated. She was almost in tears.
“Oh my God, I’ve just sat through an entire red-eye flight next to two vomiting little girls without so much as a dime sized amount of lubricant to kill any bacteria. And all this swine-flu everywhere, I feel as though I’m crawling with disease”.
I felt this was not a salient juncture in which to inform her that currently, Hubby was lying in bed, in a pool of sweat with a high fever, a cough, aches and pains and general malaise. To all intents and RN Medics purposes, he had a kidney infection. Hmm.
Candy and I visited the ‘bathroom’ at Bristol airport where she spent the next fifteen minutes scrubbing down. Any passing surgeon would have been happy to have had her handing over utensils at his/her surgery that morning, especially as she even whipped a neat little nail brush out of her bag. Finally satisfied that she was free of any germs, we left and drove home via Endsleigh Garden centre, where I needed to buy a few more fish for my aquarium. Candy was enthralled.
“Oh. My. God. I love it here. Look at this dear little teapot”. It took ages to climb the ramp up to the pet department as she stopped and admired every little plant and artefact, something she felt she should share with a member of staff.
“You sure have a fine store here m’am”, she told a vacant looking teenager who was holding a watering can with that expression of ennui that only a teenager can adopt.
“Ta”, came the British reply.
After we’d shared a scone and a pot of tea which she wiped out with a wet wipe under the indignant expression of one of the cafe staff, I went off to chose a couple of fine, piscine specimens. Carrying a large, water filled plastic bag, I returned to the rabbit section only to find Candy gone. After looking everywhere and paging her, I eventually located her in the loo advising two old ladies on the importance of personal hygiene.
Smiling apologetically and mouthing, “She’s American” at the poor dears, I led Candy out and home. As she emptied her suitcase to the general murmur of “Oh wow” and “Yu-um”, I was reminded of black and white war films where benevolent Americans are seen handing out candies and nylons to the indebted Tommy and his family. It begged the question had she brought any clothes?
As it turned out, nowhere near enough warm nor waterproof ones and the unfortunate woman spent the next few days next to perishing. No amount of my telling her, “But I can’t believe it! The weather has been scorching. The garden is in fact, scorched!”, placated her and we had to find her more bedding and a selection of jumpers.
On one day, when it was just very windy and cold and the rain held off until the afternoon, I drove her to Goodrington Sands to catch a steam train to Kingsweir, then a boat to Dartmouth. She was in 7th Heaven.
“Your country is just so beautiful Alice. It is a privilege just to look at it”. The youngest children had accompanied us as well, the holidays now being upon us and no matter how child friendly you think you may be, when yours have grown up and someone else’s are suddenly thrust upon you, one’s level of tolerance is not quite what it was and by the time the girls had almost given her a nervous breakdown in Simon Drew’s gallery, we left Candy to wander around by herself, whilst we went in search of some swings. It then rained and we sat on a bench under an umbrella in a park in Dartmouth, eating American sweets and drinking pop. It was a quintessential British scene.
At 3.45 as the water poured off our cagoule hoods and dripped off our noses we returned to the boat where my 7 year old made me laugh out loud when, looking up at a street sign she declared, “Why won’t they let you have boomerangs here mummy?” It was a No Right Turn sign.
The next couple of days were spent peering out of the window in the morning, listening intently to any weather report and changing our plans accordingly. Candy never sat on the beach, walked on the moors, nor swam in the sea. Her only ice-cream cone got soggy from the rain.
We did however and together discover things that I’d never seen or done before, like and I’m ashamed to admit it, visit the museum in Plymouth. Fantastic place. Highly recommended even if you just pop in the there for a quick perusal and a coffee. And it’s free. The admission that is, not the coffee.Hubby, much to Candy’s relief, recovered and she was able to sit on the sofa and converse with him without a handkerchief covering her facial orifices impairing their intimacy. I do believe she had a splendid time. She got tipsy on a cocktail of Plymouth Sloe Gin and champagne, had a curry and was on a winning team at a pub quiz. You don’t get that kind of bonhomie in central Pennsylvania. Believe me, I’ve lived there.


Candy said...

Cannot believe I evaded the swine flu without my hand sanitizer. Your country is indeed beautiful, even in the rain. Longing for some of that wonderful cider!

Lots of love and thanks, Candy

Anonymous said...

When's the American coming back? I'll buy her a cider!