Friends

02 April 2020

THE BUTTERFLY ON THE WALL


The view from the steps was breath-taking, the sea like an ultramarine carpet laid before Vesuvius. Except that Vesuvius was lost in cloud. A good sign, according to the courier. It meant the heat wave was certain to continue. We carried on, treading gingerly from one step to the next, gripping the handrail firmly lest we should skid on the rubble.

The thicket was denser now, obscuring the view altogether. A dank smell rose from the undergrowth making it difficult to believe a charming panorama lingered on the other side. Then, as abruptly as they were upon us, the shrubs fell away, permitting the sun to warm our shivery arms. It was like stepping out of a damp dungeon and finding the world was on fire. I freed the breath I had been holding, astonished to find I had been afraid. Me, who had faced a mugger in the underpass and denied him the satisfaction of snatching my bag. But the underpass was on level ground, not built into a cliff like those steps. As if he knew, Vic took my hand and led me along the bumpy path.

At the next bend we stopped again to take in the awe-inspiring view. Colourful trawlers were moored by the quay, rowing boats and rubber dinghies abandoned by the water's edge. An ocean liner was anchored in the bay, brilliant white and highly impressive.

'That's my kind of boat,' Vic said, raising his binoculars.

Sweat was running down the nape of my neck. A pair of blue tits flew into a nearby olive tree. I scanned the harbour and wondered if the pink building was a cafe and if we would reach it before nightfall. Once Vic got binoculars to his eyes he was quite likely to stay there forever. I told him sharply that I was moving on. It was far too hot to stand around.

We progressed slowly. The steps were sheer and the handrail at this point had gone astray. I hooked my fingers in the single strand of green plastic wire which, presumably, was intended to stop us falling the eighty feet or so to the sea. Unnecessarily, Vic cautioned me to be careful.

*****

The pink house was open, the Signora informed us, yelling her message from the far side of the building. Since he couldn't abide noisy women, Vic strode on until he reached a Taverna near to where the fishermen were mending nets, brown as berries and uniformly wearing T-shirts and mules. They worked to the high-pitched cries of herring gulls circling overhead. Gee-ya gee-ya.

Vic ordered the coffee in Italian, selecting the words from the phrase book he kept in his breast pocket. It didn't sound right to me, but the robust, silver-haired proprietor in the white vest obviously understood for he produced two cappuccinos exactly as requested.

Vic stretched his arms above his head. 'This is the life, Pauline. Can't remember when I last felt so relaxed.'

The last time I felt relaxed was at the top of those steps, before the handrail ran out. A smidgen of apprehension skulked inside me at the prospect of climbing back to the hotel. Tugging the straw hat to a more advantageous position over one eye, I shrugged my misgivings away and settled back on the wooden bench; no good marring the day with pessimistic thoughts.

Idly stirring the cocoa powder into the froth, I watched men on the launches ferrying passengers from the liner, scuttling across the water like red toads before disappearing behind a promontory. A cruise sounded romantic, but with so many steps to negotiate and being hauled into small vessels by rugged seamen it would be hard going. I had enough trouble with my legs without that kind of undertaking. The doctor said it was all in the mind when he inspected my knees. I argued that some days I could hardly bend them, however an x-ray seemed to prove his point. He recommended exercise but he would, being a fit young man who looked as if he worked out every day.

'See that, Pauline?' Vic was eyeing something through his binoculars. 'A batch of butterflies just landed in that hollow in the wall.' He removed the binoculars from around his neck. 'Here, have a look.'

Following his directions, I searched for the spot. Up the ramp at the end of the quay, ignoring the holiday-makers straining to glimpse the offloading of the day's catch; past the quaint houses, their balconies a riot of geraniums; and on to what Vic had labelled a hollow. It was really a sacred grotto, graced with a bust of Our Lady, surrounded by flowers and foliage and an illuminated cross. I adjusted the focus. The Virgin Mary smiled. Disbelievingly, I polished the lens with my skirt and looked again. She was smiling still. Her eyes seemed to beckon. I was surely dreaming, or else my mind had become addled by the sun. Vic surveyed the fishermen, unaware of the peculiar development. A single butterfly fluttered across Our Lady's face. I mumbled, 'Be careful,' then, overcome by a sense of urgency, I thrust the binoculars at Vic and hurried off.

*****

I ran all the way, down the Taverna's wooden steps, dodging the coils of rope and trailers and mountains of nets, past the souvenir shop and its array of tablecloths and postcards, up the cobbled ramp and round the bend until ... until, there she was, the fairy lights barely seen in the strong sunlight, the flowers showing no colour, foliage showing no green. Her smile was colour, her eyes the illumination. My feet were rooted to the scorching cobbles as I gazed at her tranquil countenance. Vic's fingers seized my elbow. I had not heard him come. My knees trembled, but there was no ache. Our Lady's eyes twinkled and I knew why she had summoned me to her cave. Cautiously, I bent one knee to genuflect. Not one twinge assailed me. 'Thank you,' I mumbled, wanting no-one else to hear my words.

Vic pointed to the wall. 'See the butterfly, Pauline. Isn't that a magnificent creature.'

I pushed him playfully and suggested a race to the steps, giving a backward glance as we moved away. A butterfly soared, brighter and more beautiful than the rest. An aerial display of shimmering colour. Yanking my hat into place, I squeezed Vic's arm. I had never felt so alive. 'Come on, slowcoach,' I said, 'or we'll miss our lunch.'

Arm in arm we marched down the opposite ramp, past the vegetable seller and a brood of scavenging feral cats. Canaries bravely sang from the confinement of tiny cages attached to walls in full sun. Beyond an arch of weather-beaten dwellings, the church bell began its forbidding toll. The sun beamed constantly and the butterfly twisted and wheeled non-stop, sometimes alighting on the wall, but mostly dancing ahead to guide the way.

31 March 2020

Hello again

Honestly, I couldn't eat all that!!


Sorry I have been unable to write. Apart from the back problem I am struggling to understand what is going on with our world. The silence is awful. Still, at least I don't have to worry about creating noise and waking the neighbours. 

The back has been playing up something rotten and sitting at the computer doesn't help. I have to type a bit and move out, type a bit and move out, type.... oh you know what I mean. The silence here is killing. I would love it if people broke into song, but I guess there's a law against singing as well as everything else. 

It's very strange not having anyone to talk to, except the cat. Neighbours are scared of what might happen if they hang about too long. They would probably get arrested.
It really is an appalling state of affairs. I got a bit scared thinking about what might happen to me now that I am all alone., so persuading big son to phone every day to check on me was a good idea. So far, so good. The thought of having to suffer alone was preying on my mind so I had to do something. So, what he and his partner did was contact the people next door to me and arrange actions if anything happened to me. It's all a bit morbid but I feel better knowing that people will know if anything does happen and can act accordingly. The knowledge made me feel good.

I am sure you and yours are just as fed up with the way of the world right now. Since all shops are closed I bought a load of stuff from Amazon, cat food mainly. Well, I cannot see my pussy cat suffering. It cost a bit but my pussy cat is worth it.

So how are things with you? Have you acclimatised to this new world of ours? 

Will dash off now, the phone will be ringing any minute. Take care.


27 March 2020

My point of view



Present conditions remind me of the war years, when food was short and life uncomfortable, but at least people stuck together. Now we are avoiding passing the time of day or getting close to passers-by. Gone are the days when we felt able to greet our neighbours with a smile. I happened to be outside when my next-door neighbour came out of her house, took one look at me and rushed back inside, slamming the door as if I had insulted her. Although I knew the reason, it didn’t make me feel any better.

Coronavirus!

Back to the loneliness of life!

As I live alone and cannot do much in the way of helping myself in the outside world, loneliness takes over and I pray that someone somewhere will say Hi, Val, how ya doing? Well, I can dream, can’t I?

Yesterday, it dawned on me that if I was taken ill or something nobody would know. My son and his partner live a good distance away so we use the phone to communicate. Not often, but the opportunity is there. So, yesterday I suggested they keep a check on me by phone, at least once a day. They went one better. They spoke to my next door neighbour and arranged to keep in touch on a daily basis. As a result, the neighbour would check that I hadn’t fallen or something. It remains to be seen if good intentions continue.

Okay, I know the family should have used their own initiative and not waited for me to shout ‘Help’.  I can only thank the good Lord for giving me the brains to write a blog, something that gives me the incentive to carry on carrying on. I can still do most things, but slower than when I was young and fit. No problem, until along comes coronavirus and world wide panic. I am grateful that I have no sign of worrying symptoms and my heart goes out to those who have suffered and died.

Wishing you all a sackful of patience in these troubled times. God bless.


20 March 2020

Just a few words....



Okay, so I’m on my own! My only concern is if the grocer stops delivering food. Charlie the cat and I are okay. We’re on our own. Neighbours don’t bother checking to see if I’m still alive and I don’t bother letting them know that I am. Well, I could hardly notify them if I had passed on, lol.

The situation in our world is worrying but I am definitely not going to worry unduly. ‘What will be, will be’. It is no use me worrying myself silly, I might just as well sit back and relax. I keep abreast of things by watching television, but not too often – it’s too depressing.  

Actually, I feel good. The sun is shining and walks around the garden are something to look forward to, and treasure. The birds sound happy, even those who like to fight. I still put bird food out for them and enjoy watching them scramble to the bird table in search of their favourite seeds. It is all very uplifting. Would that mankind could be as happy as the birds.

Well, I wish you all well. No matter what transpires in the coming days. let’s all try to stay happy. Let’s think and pray for those less fortunate than ourselves. God bless us all and keep us safe.