I love quiet.
An Absence of noise.
I worked in the Lake District on the flood damage to Cockermouth, Keswick, Egremont and Coniston back in 2010, from December – April. And the first thing you notice is the quiet. No traffic in close season. Its a different case when the summer kicks in mind. But during the winter months, places can be quite remote. It can be like sitting in vacuum. The only sound you hear is what you create your self.
Driving was a pleasure. You wouldn’t see anything behind you early morning. Something would pass in the opposite direction intermittently, but bar that it was a wonderful place to be. When I finally returned to Manchester to work, months later, the stress levels shot back up and it took a couple of weeks to acclimatize to the volume of traffic. Every car behind me felt like it was tailgating me, pushing me along. And everyone was so impatient to get somewhere.
Whilst in the Lakes, though, I was fortunate enough to be staying in a lovely B&B run by a couple of geordies who were the most unobtrusive, genuinely kind people I was lucky enough to meet.
Graham and Gina. (Bacon to die for and the best poached eggs ever)
And Graham was one of those people who inspired you with his own experiences with human nature.
There was a picture on the wall of the dining room which showed Graham and another person, leaning on an Old Land Rover somewhere far away and dry. The sky looked hot and the ground had that dusty, sandy look to it.
When I asked about it he began to explain. Years previously he and his brother had bought an old, ex-council land rover, fitted it out, and driven from Newcastle and right across Africa in it. And the thing that stayed with me is, Graham telling about his experiences of the kindness of people far away, who were desperately poor, and who had nothing.
As I admired the Photos on the dining room wall, he began,
“D’ya know what? For everything you hear about these 3rd world countries being dangerous, They’re made up of people incredibly poor, who, will drop everything to help a completely alien face they don’t know.”
“We wrecked our axle on the Land Rover, in the middle of no-where. Completely stranded. No way of getting anywhere. And suddenly people just appeared. Just materialized. And without any prompting they set-to sorting the jeep out. And they strapped a great fuckin log to the axle and it worked. Got us to the next point on our travels where we could repair and carry on.”
And he paused for a moment as he looked into his past.
“What I’m getting at here is this. It was humbling. To see these people with nothing just drop what they were doing to come and help 2 complete strangers on their way. People, who meant nothing to them, who were just passing through they’re lives, to somewhere they’d never see…And they didn’t even hesitate. They just helped in any way they could….
I’m a real believer in Karma and I’ll tell you this. Pass it on man. It comes around. “
I think this view he held was evident in all of my conversations with Graham. We do tend to be eyes down in this busy society of ours, chasing unimportant things, we don’t actually need.
Part of the point I’m trying to get at here is, the lovely quiet. Graham was always busy. But I think he lived somewhere that offered an opportunity to think and really put a value on something. Place a level of genuine importance or not.
Made me try and slow down and take a look around me a little bit more.
Graham and Gina, two genuinely lovely people, never intruded, they were just kind. (Harvington House)
And it’s people like that you don’t forget. Kept me sane while I worked away from my family for 4 months.
But, getting back to it.
The first time we took the kids away abroad was to Ibiza, and I think it was pure luck we landed in the resort we did.
It was a 16 apartment accommodation and it was, silent. One of the most relaxing holidays I’ve been on. beautiful flower enveloped balconies, full of geraniums. All the sunbeds laid out of a morning with lovely padded mattresses lain on top. Pure comfort. we made some wonderful friends during that holiday and had some fantastic moments. Most notably was the Octopus latching onto one of the kids legs on the edge of the shore.
(Not one of mine I can happily say. So I just took my time getting there)
The child in question, a young was part of a fantastic welsh family, was frantically hopping one legged around the beach, screaming her head off. She was ploughing furrows in the sand, knocking kids sandcastles over, and generally waving her leg around like Zorro on speed, trying to shake this thing off.
While her dad danced around her, shouting,
“Whats occurin’? WHATS OCCURIN’??” with that fantastic welsh accent.
(Think Gavin and Stacey)
He was wild eyed, almost as frantic as the child, with a bucket and spade in either hand, looking for an opportunity to batter the octopus.
“This should be good I thought.” as I strolled over.
I think in the end the octopus just got motion sickness and fell off, and was then catapulted back into the sea some 600 yards out off the spade. It was like a Jaws with suckers moment, and there was a mass exodus from the water as it flew over everybody’s head.
The other memory is having a sit down meal in by the pool in the evening, surrounded by flowers, clear blue sky with the day gradually cooling down. We pulled an assortment of tables and chairs outside and everyone contributing food and beer.
Poor old Nikki added more than was bargained when after one beer too many, (actually she didn’t drink, I think it was just one beer bless her) led to her chucking up. There was a general scraping of chairs as she cleared an area of 20 square foot.
Then people tentatively came back and patted her on the back as she moaned, suffering in her own world. I think Kev- her husband – just felt cheated she had wasted one of his beers.
Brilliant holiday. we went back the following year to find the caretakers hadn’t been paid for 3 months.
No flowers or understandably, mattresses on the sunbeds, as they were laundered daily. And the company was nothing like the previous year.
Then we went to Skiathos.
You’d be surprised to find I’m a joiner. I work with wood, machining, manufacturing, fixing. All noise.
I think that has something to do with the yearning for quiet.
But Skiathos was wonderful. So quiet and peaceful.
The defining factor of these holidays for me is spending the time with my wife, Jane and my Kids. We would either be at the pool or beach. And if available go on an excursion to a water park or some other trip.
The kids would spend their time playing in the pool with me or some other kids, or snorkel in the sea, dig in the sand and generally just have fun. But it was a tiny complex and extremely quiet.
Our next door neighbours were a family of 5. Mum, dad, 3 kids, one of whom had fantastically ginger hair.
I mean. Come on. Not satisfied with the trials the poor kids going to face in life with his orange noggin, they added to it by calling him “Giles”.
Giles just doesn’t suit an 11 year old. It doesn’t fit the shape. It’s too “Hawhaw” and old for him. And every time he was shouted,
He would appear, like orange lightening. A blur of tangerine every time he ran past you. He was like a wiry Orangutan. It actually scorched the eyes as he whipped by and made them water.
I thought initially every time I saw him coming from the corner of my eye, that someone was throwing a large Satsuma, as he exploded past me.
We never actually socialized with the parents, but the kids all got on well. And when it became too hot, took to playing in a games room where there was a large plastic Wendy house, pool table and various toys. This was slightly lower down the hill from the pool, and we could keep an eye on the children while they played, or just hear them if they disagreed.
This particular day we heard a commotion then a Crash and wail of a small child, as the wendy house collapsed.
It turned out Giles had been up to no good stood on the roof, while his younger brother was inside when the structure finally collapsed on top of him.
His dad hauled him off back to the apartment with,
“Your’e bloody grounded Giles! No meal for you tonight! Your staying in my lad!!. No telling you is there??”
(I hasten to add, the on site beautiful open air dining area was opposite the front door of their apartment.)
And that was the last we saw of him for that afternoon and the quiet descended again around the pool with the only noise being the kids quietly playing and laughing, and crickets chirping in the heat.
So, later that evening, kids all showered and dressed, ready to go out and eat, we were sat on the porch, just relaxing having a drink when,
“Giles!! Pack it in! Deal with it for Christ sake!! That’s all there is to it!!”
And his father, true to his word, obviously exasperated with the ginger demon, having grounded him was refusing to let him come over to sit down for a meal and was making him stay in. A bit extreme I thought, but obviously a man who carried out his threats. Giles in the mean time just continued throwing himself around the room, shouting and roaring, finally descending into out-right tears.
And for some time we had to sit and listen to the screaming and pandemonium next door. And I must admit, I was slightly put-out to say the least, because the lovely silence was shattered.
My kids were sat huddled around me, wide eyed and obviously frightened, and Jane having finished dressing had come out side,
“What the hell was that all about??”
And I looked down at my goggle eyed children and tried to explain in a way they could understand.
“Its ok kids. Its nothing to worry about.”
And I paused before I continued,
“They’ve just told Giles he’s Ginger.”