The clouds in the adverse weather in the United Kingdom were only matched in their potency by those of alcohol which surrounded my nine-day sojourn in Wales - and it all started with an innocent pint of bitter.
I had been looking forward to my pint for a number of months and the interval in the Mozart concert seemed like an ideal time for me to partake of a beverage which used to be as mother’s milk to me. Having purchased an ice-cold pint (over priced admittedly, but cold and to hand) I was not even allowed to enjoy that in peace before I saw a couple of people whom I knew and was being whisked away, pint in hand down a flight of steps to view one of Ceri’s paintings.
When I got home, Friday Night Club was in full flow in every sense of the word and I was swept along on the river of alcohol and I made the cardinal mistake of the sober while drowning and opened my mouth!
The next day after a night of pontificating with increasing authority (is that a device where I am needless repeating a word’s sense by using another one – and yes, I have forgotten the technical word for it, but I am sure it will all come to me in a flash when I am not expecting it) [Tautology (Ed.)] as the unnatural quantities of wine slipped down my throat was one of pain and increasing tiredness.
And The Party – the reason for my being in Wales in the first place was in the evening. The evening seem to gallop towards us, casting aside the hours as if they were minutes which meant that the perceived amount of time available for recovery from the last excess was illusory.
And so into the party with more alcohol as glasses were constantly topped up for flitting waiters and then back to Louise’s sister’s house for more drinks. And I had been in Cardiff for less than thirty hours!
The Light Supper with Hadyn was gratifyingly un-light and was accompanied by bottles of wine whose numbers were well into the teens – between four of us!
The meal with Ceri and Dianne was wonderful with a tasty start, a melt in the mouth main course and a bought-in splendour for dessert. All of which was accompanied by wine which flowed like water – except for the fact that I do not think that I drank that quantity of water during my stay!
The final delight (or horror depending on your abstemious point of view) was an evening with friends and colleagues. This was in Skellini’s (sp?) an Italian restaurant whose chef and I used to play at squash. The two Pauls and I were early and so had virtually drunk a bottle of wine before our lady guests arrived. They were much appreciative of their corsages but we went through the usual rigmarole of trying to fit them to some part of the female attire to show them off in all their restrained splendour!
It was only when the bill arrived that we realized just how much a bottle of wine had cost and which went some way to explaining the eye wateringly large amount that it had cost us to “eat” there. It gives you some idea of how much we spent that the restaurant actually gave us a bottle while we were waiting for the non-arriving taxi – on a night when Wales were being thrashed by the All Blacks and patriotic Welshmen were drowning their sorrows
The boys did not really surface until the afternoon and by then I had had my much anticipated “Tutorial” with the Open University via the Elluminate site. Our tutorial was, to put it mildly, a somewhat cumbersome affair with a lot of time spent getting on to the system and finding out just how to use it.
One person, of course, had major problems and was like a lorne, lorst soul bleating about his inability to be heard like some second hand Dickensian minor character in one of the more irritating minor novels.
On this system only one voice can be heard at a time and to speak you have to click on a “hand up” button and are then given a number which indicates the order in which you can contribute. As we were also reading text messages, mostly from the lone-lorst, trying to keep the thread of what was happening was difficult. Add to that the fact that I would rather have been in my bed, Paul Squared appearing like a zombie and the telephone going off while I was reading out a portion of Buddhist scripture in a low and thrilling voice and you have an event which was not the most intellectually satisfying I have ever had! But it was a start and gave me at least some idea of the calibre of the characters who I am going to have to deal with in the next element of the course.
I could look back on two aged relatives visited; friends partied with; friends eaten with; friends visited; friends shopped with; old friends looked up: one Lady of the Front Desk of Eastern Leisure seen; shop workers sweet talked; Indian food enjoyed; next seasons clothes bought; inexplicable purchases packed safely away; two umbrellas lost; one umbrella found; a British bank account considerably lightened, and a general feeling that I had “been somewhere”!
And then it was Sunday and the day of my return.
The experience at Bristol Airport was awful. The flight was called in good time, but we were directed to the furthest gate where we formed a long, hot, sticky queue until we were passed into another holding pen where we were simply left to fume. Well, I fumed. As usual there was a delay and as is even more usual (and yes, I know that is not conventional English but it help me keep calm) no one told us anything until we finally moved over the cold, wet, windy tarmac to the plane.
In spite of the delay we made good time to Barcelona and arrived a little ahead of schedule and the baggage handling was reasonable as well.
Unpacking has been done in the usual resentful way that I use at both ends of the process, but this time I feel that I am justified because I am typing this at the end of a day when I have been called back to our local school to spend a mind-numbingly tedious day supervising exams. At least I do not have to mark them! And I am paid!
I positively ran out of school at the end of the day just in case I happened to pass the path of the lady who asked me to come in and found out that there were people who would be out of school the next day and they might be needing a hapless supply person!
This evening, after a “welcome back swim” in the pool next door, I will contemplate the final unpacking of the case with all the washing and putting away that it entails.
I think that we will go out for tapas. And I will drink fizzy water!
Well, that didn’t happen! Toni is not well and couldn’t go out and, more interestingly I found messages waiting for me from the School on the Hill asking me to return to replace a replacement who has now, most inconveniently developed pneumonia – just at the height of the examination season!
The story develops!