“say hello, wave goodbye” Soft Cell
Hi there, girls and boys.
This may be a long and soppy one.
Last Tuesday was my final official day at work. I’ve not been in since I resigned, and to say I’d deliberately left some items in my locker so that I would have to return would be a stretch, but .. yes. Word had got about and there were flowers, cards, teddies. I’m still overwhelmed by the support and kindness shown by everyone. If you’re one of those reading this, thank you as well. The manager goes out for lunch so that was the time I visited in order to avoid him. In my locker, which has always been in the public changing rooms as I like to be accessible, there were a few notes and more cards that had been posted through the airvent, from customers. One was from a woman I’d taught to swim, an elderly but sprightly lady of 87. She used to swim only when I was on duty, as she said she felt safe then. The trust people have in me as a lifeguard is wonderful.
Some staff were asking me about other jobs, “You should buy your own pool!” I’ve looked into this, oh yes. There are a few closed for good now which wouldn’t take much to get back up and running. Three more staff have handed in their notice, including my lovely mugger Steven. All have other jobs lined up. Mr Manager may well have to close his pool. Well well, hello karma. As if I believe in that…. Some of the gymbunnies were on hand too, and even though I’ve sometimes had a less than friendly workplace relationship with them, they were all apologetic for their colleague’s behaviour. Two of them have also left.
In a way I’m glad covid happened, it forcing me to stay away from work, as a sudden end wouldn’t have been good. Goodbyes and all that. It was bad enough on that day. I went into the pool with a bottle, filled it with pool water, and put it in my bag. A memento. Yes, I’m strange. While doing this I noticed the glass roof had cracked again.. oh well. A metaphor for life. You work so bloody hard at something to make it better, make people like the place, the experience, to make friends, help others, build up the business, engage others in the process..then along comes a cunt in a tight red vest to break it all.
Will I ever return there for a swim? Unlikely as the place is out of my way, but never say never. As I left for the last time selfies were taken, email addresses exchanged, and plans for a night out made by the ever noisy but deliciously funny Susie. If this will happen remains to be seen. People move on. Perhaps I should too. I’m desperately sad at the outcome.
The weekend has flown by, as I’ve had a houseguest. Last weekend Father Dave stayed over for a night. He’s wonderful, has so many interesting things to say, tales to tell, and is genuinely interested in what I have to say as well. Or he gives that impression! I’ll tell you about the time we went to Ireland together to see the Pope one day. Did I cover up the poster sized canvas of a naked-from-the-waist-up image of Ellie and I, boobs, noses and foreheads touching? No. He knows all about us. I desperately want him to marry us, even though he can’t. Giving me away though…
No, this visit was from Maria, the girl I met in Rome. She’s altogether a different guest! We’ve kept in touch by email and a few calls. Her brother is studying at Sheffield uni, so she’d asked if she could visit before going there… what’s a girl to say? I met her at the airport and did she look even more stunning that she had previously? Her English has improved massively in the two years since we last met and we rabbited on about everything on the Metro ride to Tynemouth.
I showed her about the place, giving her the choice of three of the four beds. She chose the one downstairs, a very pretty room with a nice view. All of the bedrooms are en suite. When buying the house I asked a builder to convert them all as sharing a bathroom in someone’s home isn’t something I like doing, so others may not like that either. Of course if there is no alternative I’m ok with it, but that’s just another of my foibles. You already know of the toe-curling embarrassment I feel when having to ask if I can use someones facilities.
I’ve a pair of pyjamas that are worn only when its colder, Peppa Pig.. Yes, mentally I’m the age of 5. I had a quick shower then got into them. They look better to a guest than what I normally wear around the house at night and I don’t know how Maria would react if I wore my usual tshirt and knicks. I love the way they feel. The trip I made to Edinburgh Primark for them was well worth it.
She returned from her own shower in.. tshirt and knicks! “Peppa Pig! she squealed.. another thing we like about each other. I won’t say I didn’t look at her legs, her shape, her body. Beautiful, I mean Ellie levels of gorgeousness. By this time it was 1.30 in the morning. We said goodnight, hugged and went to our separate beds. In the morning I crept out for my run, and on my return discovered she had made me breakfast, cereal, juice, toast, coffee. Girlfriend material for some lucky person.. Later on we went visiting Newcastle and Durham. She adores Durham, but Newcastle has the same effect on her as it has me.. I can take it or leave it. Durham is small, tiny for a city, while Newcastle is bigger, more people, can I say trampier? I love Geordies, their humour and kindness never fails to impress me, but sadly the centre of Newcastle has a problem with the drunks that occupy old Eldon Square and the Monument area. The charvers or chavs have no problem making themselves heard.
Durham is the perfect antidote, especially on a sunny day. We popped into my place there, running into Marcus my gay neighbour, introductions were made, with him mouthing, “fucking hell, she could turn me” as we chatted while Maria admired the view from the terrace. That night we went to a club in Newcastle and had a dance or eight, and chatted nonstop. On the walk home we bought fish and chips, and sat in “my” shelter overlooking the sea. She scooted along next to me, then kissed my lips. “My first girl kiss, bellissimo!” I wasn’t prepared for that. We ate, watching the sea roll in, talking about life, until she asked if she could kiss me again. Again I had no time to answer, and still it was a lips closed affair. Finishing our chips, I held her hand as we made the two minute walk to my door. I’d no intention of thinking abut Maria as anything but a friend and for once acted on that.
In the past there have been girls that have caught my eye, “What I thought was fire was only a spark – Poison Arrow, ABC”, then for that spark to fizzle out. My fault entirely, of course. What they see as just a friendship, I have thought of as sexual attraction. Ellie will tell you of a girl we’d known for two months. I absolutely positively 100% thought she was gay and was about to ask her to stay the night with us, only for her boyfriend to arrive in the pub that very second. Just how had I been so stupid? Had the subject of boyfriends not arisen? We’re still friendly or course. I rarely cut anyone off, even if you are straight! To this day though, she doesn’t know. Until she reads this. Sigh.
Being Italian Maria is a bit of a coffee demon but I was prepared, having purchased a moka pot before she arrived. It makes very good coffee, something I don’t normally drink, but over those two days I had my year’s supply. She showed me how to make it properly. Even watching her do that was nice.
I’d not told Ellie of her arrival so that evening logged onto Skype, where once again there was that feeling of contentment and enjoyment as they squealed with delight at seeing each other. It’s like watching a couple that have been together for years. Ellie, my girl. If you ever want to leave me…
We spent the rest of the late night and early morning talking to Ellie, before heading off to bed. Again, just a hug was all that was needed.
The next day I took her to the station for the train to Sheffield. Maria produced a bunch of roses from somewhere and I still don’t know where they came from as there were no flower sellers in the station, with her telling me Ellie and I will have to stay with her in Rome soon. She asked me to hold her coffee, then leant in and kissed me again. This time I responded, a proper kiss. The smile on her face was lovely as we pulled away. “Very very nice, Anna”. Too soon the train arrived. More hugs, promises to keep in touch, then she was away. I have a rule when seeing people off, even from my house, that I will close the door as soon as they leave. I just hate goodbyes. But as the train left, I watched it until it disappeared around the corner.
A younger me would have been in floods. I know how badly my chest would have hurt at the thought of a girl so pretty leaving me there, even on nice terms. How that ache would then go to my throat, constricting it, leaving me temporarily unable to speak. My heart would be pounding. And of course, all of this happened. You’d expect this from somebody that had been shown little affection in their lives, but that’s something I’ve never had a shortage of. I suspect my 16 year old self would have been running along the platform, as would my 20 year old…30 year old…stay still, legs.
On the Metro going back to Tynemouth, holding the red roses, (my fave flower, a guess or inside info?), my mind wandered to the circumstances that cause people to meet. As you will probably be aware, I’m not a believer in fate or destiny, dear reader, but life can be a strange thing. One day you’re happily bumbling along, thinking that you are the only person that matters, then somebody else enters your life and everything changes. Do we make our own fate? Attending a school I didn’t want to and therefore meeting my girl for instance, or the time I thought it might be an wild idea to write to George Michael.
If I hadn’t have been in Rome on that day, in that restaurant which I very nearly walked past, if I hadn’t have seen Maria shouting in there, if I had been on the tram before the one she boarded the next day.. So is it fate? Are we destined to meet people in our lives, for good or bad? What made me go into that restaurant when there were others on that street, and indeed other streets? The tram wasn’t full so why did I wait until the next one?
Eventually it all leads back to my parents of course, with what happened to them allowing me to travel. Thanks mum and dad. I love you.
Now back home the flowers were placed in a vase, (water and a can of 7-Up, I know all the tricks!), but not until I’d removed two petals. These go in my diary. I’ve always collected bits to add to the diaries, tickets, flyers, strands of hair, (hi Lauren), grass, (hi Alan Shearer) and two rose petals from the school garden, picked on the day I asked Ellie out. The flowers in the vase will of course die and I’m going to feel a tug of the heart when it comes to throwing them away, but the petals will stay that colour for ever if cared for. I wrote eleven pages in the diary that night, the most for a long time, as well as an entry into the “other” diary. What you see here is just the very much watered down version.
On the Sunday night I Skyped Ellie again, telling her the details, showing her the roses, and the note that Maria had left in her room. It said very nice things, which again, are not for here. Ellie of course asked why I didn’t drag the girl off to bed, but sometimes we just need a friend to stay and to say hi to. Not everything is about sex. Our conversation went on well into the early hours, deciding that another visit to Rome will be included in our plans. Maria was on the invite list for our wedding even before this weekend, but I may have that remaining bridesmaid spot filled!
As ever, thanks for reading.
1st September, 2021