This is the time of the west coast summer I like the most. Warm, lazy days, fresh tomatoes and black berries on the table, cool languid evenings and the leaves turning colour already. It’s the end of the summer, kind of a metaphor for myself. I feel a bit nostalgic, having just spent last weekend at an annual cousin gathering in Heidiland; talking, walking, eating and drinking. Maybe not in that order.
I noticed the grey hair, the lightly less than straight backs, and the slower movements. It’s been a few years since I joined this family party and it’s like a time-lapse movie. A snapshot taken every few years. Of course we warmed up the silly old stories, retold some jokes and after a few drinks we giggled and goofed around like the kids we once were and knew. We must have been a strange sight. A bunch of geezers and old girls carrying on like a tree full of monkeys. We used to be able to party into the wee hours but we’re wiser now. I held my own for a while – thanks to a mean case of jetlag.
I feel like this is the best part of my life, somewhat mature but not wilting yet, a bountiful harvest still ahead, healthy and still looking forward to a pint or two at our local watering hole by the sea with my friend Campbell, Camp to all of us.
‘Do you ever feel like you’re getting older?’ I asked Camp after we clinked our frosty pints, sitting once again at our usual spot in the corner on the breezy terrace overlooking the harbour. We’ve had to take whatever seats were available during the summer due to the influx of tourists and seasonal visitors.
‘I just pretend that most days are the same and time passes by like an old friend, waving at me once in a while from the bathroom mirror or a random reflection. Most times I don’t know the difference between age and time, and I don’t really care,’ Camp said, shaking his head of curly, grey locks.
‘You’re lucky because we’re all getting older,’ I said pointing out the obvious, ‘or as my old aunt puts it: As long as I don’t put my shoes in the fridge, life is ok.’
‘Age is a funny thing,’ Camp said, ‘it can sneak up on you in the shape of an aching knee, a sore hip or a lapse of memory. All three in my case, but I try and don’t pay it any heed. Or as Clint Eastwood said: I don’t let the old man in and having found a partner like Muriel has taken years off me.’
‘Yeah, I just don’t look forward to getting old.’
‘You’re in a gloomy mood. What brought that on? I hope there is nothing wrong with you or Clare. Oh, I get it. You met your cousins, all a few years older and a bit longer in the tooth.’
‘Yes, that’s part of it. Also a friend died. A new friend, someone we knew only for a short time and who never let on that she was ill. In fact the opposite. She loved life, lived it to the fullest, a smile on her face every day we knew her. Always positive and engaged. It was a shock to hear she passed but she knew. She had a photo taken of herself on the day before she died. It simply said: Thank you. It shook me.’ I had to pause and Camp didn’t say a word. He just waited for me.
‘Thankfully there is nothing wrong with Clare or me. We’re like old wine, getting better by the year,’ I said, trying to steer into calmer waters.
‘Just don’t turn into vinegar ok. Old wine indeed. I’m more like old cheese. Not great to look at or smell but perfectly aged and full of hidden potential.’
‘To smelly old cheese and corked wine,’ I toasted my friend and we both took a deep draught.’
‘Did you get caught up in any mass tourism on your blitz trip?’ Camp asked. I hear that thousands of these so called tourists can descend on a pretty destination like locusts and ruin it for the locals and everybody else.’
‘You mean like in Venice, Barcelona or Luzern. I saw some of these clusters at the airport, all wearing the same colour ball caps. Let’s just hope these hordes don’t invade our small paradise here.’
‘They’re already invading our paradise,’ Rosie said while clearing the table, ‘Ever ferry is overloaded, even on weekday mornings.’
‘That’s true but tourism here is still of the benign kind: campers and cottagers, weekenders getting away from the city,’ I said. ‘Just don’t tell anybody that the return trip on the ferry is included in the fare.’
‘And we’ll have another round,’ Camp said, pointing to the empty glasses on Rosie’s tray.
‘Coming right up gents.’
‘This would never have happened to Vicky,’ Camp grumbled after she left.