Now that I am for all intents and purposes, practically bald following my hair cut, I take comfort in the extra layer of material on my head in the form of my trusty baseball cap. The trusty baseball cap was purchased in 1995 when we first arrived in the States. It was my token gesture to blending in with my new surroundings. It is a modest garment, a faded sludgy brown, maybe tan. Over the years it has faded more so by the burning unrelenting sunshine that it has to endure. It’s crispy peak has protected by eyesight for as many years. I wear it now, in England, over a decade after it’s acquisition, to protect me from the torrential rain during our Summer holiday.
I stagger back in the general direction of the flat. [translation = apartment] My progress is slow due to the fact that my trousers are sopping wet and have therefore grown several yards in length. The excess material slaps back and forth around my ankles. At each stop, at each shop, for each purchase, I make a point of discussing the abhorrent weather. [translation = moaning about the weather is the inalienable right of every Brit] Each check out girl, and they are all girls, assures me that this is highly unseasonable, if not unreasonable, especially for June. I suddenly remember why it is that nobody wears make-up in England. I am unable to see anything through my fogged up, rain drenched bifocals, but this doesn’t matter because my face is so wet, that they merely slide down my slippery nose in constant peril of slithering off completely.
My plastic carrier bags crowd together for comfort, nestled, as they cut off the blood supply to my tortured fingers. The baseball cap begins to droop. Waterlogged. I am in danger of total blindness if the peak decides to give up the ghost and flop down like a trap door and completely block my vision. I wear my natty little waterproof jacket, purchased from Paradise Point in San Diego, a decade ago. Fortunately it is pillar box red, which saves me from annihilation by the convoy of traffic, windscreen wipers on full speed, but still unable to spot hapless grey pedestrians. I am glad that I am wearing black socks because the black dye from my shoes will ensure that I have tattooed my feet to match. I wonder if the red dye will similarly tattoo my torso? The red jacket has never experienced so much as a droplet of rain since it has been in my sole possession. I wonder if my watch is waterproof? I wonder if any part of me is waterproof? Am I soluable? I will soon find out for sure, if the rain continues for much longer. Surely I will just dissolve into a puddle and merge with all the other puddles into one big lake, never to take human form again. A water baby, though unwilling.
I have a sudden vision of Devonshire Cream Teas, or should that be Cornish Cream Teas? Where are my loyalties exactly? Which county should I favour? Since I don’t like jam [translation = jelly] nor scones, nor cream, this is an odd vision to be envisioning at this moment. Maybe this is what happens when you have a near death experience? Malnourished and sodden, I have no other option but to foresee cholesterol loaded calories as a life saving gesture for survival.
I replace that vision with a better vision, that of microwaved left over curry, once, or if, I every return to the flat. [translation = solid dry ground, an island in this watery world] No wonder British people eat so much curry. No wonder that Chicken Tikka Masala is the national dish. No wonder that in order to survive the weather, Brits all over the country have to resort to reheating curry in order to kick start their arteries, increase blood flow and prevent us spiraling down into a race of reptiles. I feel a small glow of smugness as I recall the conversation with my youngest son an hour after we had first arrived in the flat. Barefoot within seconds, they had investigated our new surroundings with a certain amount of interest, especially all the light switches on the lamps. They made a full and thorough inventory of all the buttons available. At some stage, my son presented himself to me for inspection. “I am different.” “Er yes, indeed you are.” “No! I am more different.” “Really. In what way are you more different?” “I am a different colour.” “Really. What colour are you?” “I fink dat part of me is being, er, grey.” “Really. Which part of you is grey?” “My feet is. Look!” He lifts each foot in turn so that I am better able to see the mucky soles. “Oh yes. You’re right. Part of you is grey.” “Why I am grey?” “Because you are barefoot. Your feet have picked up the dirt on the floor.” “Dirt is grey? Da grey is dah dirt? I am dirty?” “Well yes, part of you, your feet, are dirty.” Why is this not obvious to him? A spark plug ignites in his brain and sends him into a parody of an epileptic fit. After a few minutes he calms down enough to take remedial self help treatment. He sits on the floor and blows the sole of each foot in turn. This method of cleansing is ineffective, which sends him off into an additional flurry, “what I do, what I do, what I do?” I scoop him up and carry him to the sink to wash his feet with cold water and washing up liquid, which is about the only thing that we’ve managed to unpack thus far. As I restore his personage to [his] hygienic standards, I reflect that it really must be the case that our floors at home are clean enough to eat off, if he has never before experienced dirty feet in this manner before. But of course if you clean your floor between three times and five times a day on average, to co-ordinate with each meal, notwithstanding additional accidents in between whiles, then of course they’re going to be clean.
As I glance toward the quay, I am unable to distinguish the horizon from the land or the sky. Together with the fog, there is merely a uniform backdrop of grey. Grey sea, grey sky and possibly some grey land in-between, but who would know? This reminds me of when my father would take me to visit whatever ship he was serving on, during his career days in the Navy. Hundreds of grey ships would be tied up along the dock. Big ones, small ones, pointy ones and fat ones. They all had special names, even though they were all virtually indistinguishable from one another. They were all painted the universal battleship grey, which I thought rather dull and unimaginative. As my father would wax lyrical about the many different features of each type of ship, I would imagine a fleet of rainbow coloured boats instead, a flotilla of welcome, rather than this drab array of uniformity.
Of course! How apt! Grey sky, grey sea, grey ships, the perfect disguise! No wonder Britannia rules the waves [but San Jose still lures my gaze]