Monday, 19 April 2010


I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen Hubby tremble. Once or twice when the bank has written to us, the time Paul Weller spoke to him, oh and when I told him for the fourth time that my pregnancy test had shown a positive little blue line. He is after all a commander in her majesty’s senior service, he has sailed the seven seas on waters so rough that the captain stayed up all night as the waves crashed down the funnel. He has chased pirates, intent on blowing up our shores, across the channel and has, in more recent, sedentary but no less scary years given steely presentations to sea lords aplenty. So it was not without a little amusement that this last week, the youngest children and I stood, rather unsteadily at the top of the knobbly, uneven keep of Pembroke Castle, one hundred feet up, as Hubby stood just below us, still high but not quite as uneven. He was green, clutching a lichen encrusted wall and looked close to tears.
“Health and Safety had no part in the court of Henry VIIth”, I yelled down, teasingly, my words stolen away on the wind that savagely whipped our hair around our faces.
“Please, Alice”, replied Hubby, knuckles white on the stone, “Please get down. I think I’m going to be sick”.
“Dad, don’t be such a cowardy custard!”, laughed his eight year old, “It’s great up here, I can see for miles”. Her hubris resulted in her tripping backwards a little over a prominent rock causing her to grab me and we both stumbled but, as is evident, we did not fall to our deaths but instead and rather inelegantly, crumpled onto the uneven floor. Which hurt. Like hell.
We scrambled to our feet again, smiling unsurely but when we looked for Hubby he was retching over a rusty railing.
“We’re ok, we’re ok”, I called down. Hubby was having none of it and his green complexion had paled to ashen.
“I can’t cope Alice”, he called up, “Please come down”. His voice suggested he was not joking and the three of us slid down on our bottoms and were with him in seconds.
He was trembling and shaking and a weird, clammy sweat had attacked his brow.
“Get me down”, he said, his voice unfamiliar. As quickly as someone can move with jelly legs, we descended the one hundred steps of the cold, unyielding, spiral stone staircase. The girls tripped down like mountain goats and ran on ahead into the fresh air. Hubby and I emerged from the tower, with him clinging to me like a drowning man. We had to find him a chair. Had they been there, St John’s ambulance would have attended him. Unfortunately they were not but a café was and after a strong coffee and a fresh Welsh cake, Hubby felt sufficiently revived to explore, if tentatively and without climbing, the rest of the castle grounds.
“But darling”, I said as we walked, hand in hand, “You’ve been up the Eiffel Tower”.
“I only got as far the premier etage”.
“Yeah, if truth be told, I didn’t really vacate the lift.”
“But you took the eldest kids up the Empire State Building”, I replied in amazement.
“Very true but unlike Henry VIIth, the Americans are at the forefront of health and safety and there were nets and railings everywhere and I kept my back against the wall. I never saw Manhattan”
“You could never have been an extra in Vertigo then?”, I teased.
“Listen, that Hitchcock bloke knew a thing or two about fear. Can’t say that I’m that partial to birds either”. Well I never.
We meandered a little while longer before returning to our friends’ house. The eldest children had declined to come, the fascination of the Pembrokeshire countryside no longer fascinating.
“Really mum”, the 14 year old had argued, “I am really fond of our friends but they live in a field, and that field is about five miles from the nearest house, let alone shops and cafes. I’m happier with Drake’s Circus if it’s all the same with you”.
“Ditto ma” agreed our son, “What I don’t know about Caldey Island then neither do the Cistercian monks that inhabit it”.
“Fine, I won’t make you come but neither are you staying home alone. Alternative lodgings must be found”. There was a roll of the eyes from our daughter, our son might have done the same but I wouldn’t be able to swear to it, I haven’t seen his eyes since early October, not since a curtain of hair obliterated his facial features.
I rang them when we got back. From the land line. No mobile signal for miles, another reason not to go on hols with mum and dad.
“Your dad had a funny turn”, I told each of them in turn, “On top of a tower”. The relief that they hadn’t been there to witness it was palpable.
“Poor dad”, said my daughter, “Did anyone see?”
“That’s not cool”, said my son, “Was it crowded?”
I was able to reassure them that their tall, dashing, Naval hero of a dad had not shamed them in front of a horde of tourists, by being “gay”. I reminded them, in rather uppity tones that most of the gay people they knew were actually quite brave.
“Girly then”, said my son instead.
“Still offensive. To me and your sisters, who are girls and who were in fact on top of the tower”.
I repeated that they were to behave themselves, to act responsibly and not bring shame upon the family, “unlike dad”. Then I lay back in the garden and enjoyed the shining sun. The dog, having acres of fields to run and roll in, lay in seventh heaven panting by my side. All that remains to be said is that as long Hubby doesn’t see any adders that secretly inhabit these parts, he should be equally relaxed.


Anonymous said...

My husband has vertigo too and won't set foot on balconies, high towers and clutched white knuckled onto the bench in the middle of the London eye pod when we went up in that. We unfairly taunt him by leaning over pointing out interesting views while he remains white faced in rooms and away from edges! (Not alwys though we do give him a break now and again - he's never vomited though!

Alice Band said...

SL and DL - where are you my loyal commentors?