Still, I’m running ahead of myself. First I had to check out of the hotel. The last time I stayed here I fell in love. I was drunk after a lunch to celebrate my aunt’s 80th birthday when I bumped into this lovely woman with an infectious smile (but it cleared up in no time with antibiotics). She was banging on about her children and I slurred, “Why are all the attractive women I meet married?”
Concluding, perhaps rather presumptuously, that I was referring to her, she said, “But I’m not married. I'm divorced.”
Within the hour she was feeding me morsels of birthday cake and telling me that I was very sweet. Within two months we were engaged. Within three months we had split up. It was all my fault. The best that can be said for compressing an entire relationship into such a short period is that it saves a lot of time, money and grief compared with actually getting married and divorced.
Oh dear, I’m getting all maudlin just thinking about it. Maybe I shouldn’t have come back here. I’ve got a friend who makes a positive fetish of that. When he used to come up to see me in Northumberland, I’d say “Why don’t we go to the Jolly Fisherman in Craster and then do that lovely walk to Dunstanburgh Castle?”, and he’d reply, “Ooh no, I’ve done that and it was absolutely magical. It would spoil those memories if I did it again.” Repeat ad infinitum to any number of conventionally attractive suggestions, until we got to “Right then, why don’t we go and look at an opencast mine and a landfill site? You haven’t done that before, have you? You prat.”
He did make certain exceptions to the rule, obviously, or he’d have had to buy a new house every day. He even had two children by the same wife.
I ask the woman at reception ever so nicely, but she tells me that Love is most definitely not on the menu today. Not even as a special (supplement payable). So that’s that, then. My aunt spares no effort to console me by preparing a lunch suitable for an invalid, walking all the way to the Costcutter supermarket to buy a tin of Baxter’s chicken broth, and lovingly heating it up on the stove.
In the afternoon I feel well enough to go for a short walk, so we drive to the beach I failed to reach on foot yesterday. The first thing we see is an immensely complicated machine in which you have to enter your car’s registration number and pay a pound in order to occupy a space in an otherwise completely empty car park. The next thing we see is a big sign proclaiming “No Dogs”. Eventually we find a stretch of sand where dogs are permitted. There is a sandstorm blowing that would have delighted the makers of “Lawrence of Arabia” or “The English Patient”. I let the dog off his lead for a run and he stands absolutely still, his eyes narrowed against the wind-borne sand, and glares at me. I throw a ball for him and he very clearly communicates the thought “Fetch your own f***ing ball, you ****.” What a great holiday this is proving to be. We come back through the pinewoods and get torn to pieces by brambles. We’ll laugh about this in years to come, I tell myself, though I have to confess that I am thoroughly unconvinced.
In the circumstances, it was probably a mistake to delete the chain e-mail that arrived from a friend last night, promising me great good fortune so long as I copied said e-mail to another 20 friends within 48 hours (or was it 48 friends within 20 hours?) This is not really an option for me, since I haven’t actually got 20 friends, and I suspect that the small number I do have might diminish if I start sending them this sort of garbage. The only thing is that it also threatened some really, seriously bad luck if one ignored the instruction. Surely not?