Friday, December 11, 2009

Gevelow vs. Ida part the second

The following morning I woke up, fully clothed, lying on a sofa in a room I didn't recognise. The room was large, and lit only by the cracks of light that shone round the edges of the curtains and blinds. I seemed to be in a sort of half-kitchen half-livingroom about the size of my parents' house.

To my right there was a heap of sheets on a sofa. The heap of sheets was moving up and down in a slow, rhythmic manner. At this point the higher brain functions were starting to shamble into my consciousness, bleary-eyed and wearing their bathrobes -- one of them pointed out that, as sheets don't breathe, the breathing pile of sheets was probably Kristen. Another higher-function switched on my memory and explained where I was, and why. I remembered the journey, the late-night introductions, and the power-cut. I could remember carrying candles around and I could remember the discussions about air mattresses. I didn't remember going to bed.

I didn't know what time it was. Due to the power cut, all the electrical devices around me were flashing "12:00" and waiting to be reset; my body-clock, after 24 hours of non-stop traveling, was doing the same. My phone told me it was one thirty in the afternoon. After the bit of my brain that does maths and knows about time-zones turned up for work a few seconds later, I figured out this meant it was about eight thirty in the morning, which seemed a reasonable time to get up.


I've eaten a lot of breakfasts in my time, although probably not as many as I've had hot dinners. Usually they consist of cereal, or, more commonly, toast. The toast is usually rendered edible by some form of butter, but in a pinch cold gravy, mashed potato, or custard will do. Breakfast, in case you hadn't already guessed, is not a meal I take particularly seriously and definitely not one that I've ever spent more than a minute preparing.

You can imagine my shock, therefore, when I reached the top of the stairs and was hit by the smell of all manner of cooking. Various early-rising food pixies had prepared a mountain of tasty, which included everything from bacon to what appeared to be bread and butter pudding. It was easily the biggest, tastiest, and most fattening meal I'd eaten in a few months. A few more introductions were made--an assortment of aunts, uncles, and friends who had gone to bed before we arrived. They were all friendly, and I think I managed to make a reasonably good impression--well as good as could be hoped for, considering that I'd traveled halfway across the world, slept a night on a sofa in my clothes (I was wearing the clothes, not the sofa) and still hadn't showered.


After the gargantuan breakfast, I was left at a bit of a loose end. I can't sew, can't bake, and I'm not much good at organizing things, especially things I don't really understand. I had no errands to run, and no important matters to discuss, so I spent a long time just wandering around the house, pushing buttons and giggling. Once that got boring I sat and talked to anyone who'd listen and checked my emails. I watched the heaviest rain I've ever seen bludgeon the landscape, and stared, amazed at the kiteboarders out in the sound -- to whom a hurricane is merely a patch of really good wind. They stayed out there for the whole time we were at the house. Even on the days when we had to batten down the hatches and rope ourselves together if we ventured outside, they were out on the water, leaping off huge waves and jumping over entire islands wearing only wetsuits.


Beyond the poolhouse there is a little wooden jetty. It goes out about 20 meters before it ends with a square deck. The deck has two chairs bolted two it and some mooring hooks around the edges. In the afternoon, after the storm abated, me and Kristen walked out there. It was a beautiful day, not something I'm used to in November. The Pamlico sound was glass-flat and the sky pure blue. For an hour or so we sat on the edge of the deck, dangling our toes in the surprisingly warm water and watching the pelicans flapping about on the shore. My body was deeply confused by all this, seeing as it had just got used to the British winter dispensing with the niceties of the indian summer and settling down to some good old-fashioned, pissing-down rain. Nothing on the same scale as Hurricane Ida's outbursts, but somehow wetter, and more insidiously unpleasant; coupled, as it was, with cold winds and steel-grey skies.

After a while Kristen was called into the house for some reason, and I was left to amuse myself again. To this end I wandered back down the jetty in search of pleasingly flat rocks. There were not many -- I'm guessing many others had rummaged among the shoreline pebbles before me -- but I found a couple of reasonable skimming-stones and one pleasingly boulder-like rock. I walked to the edge of the deck and sat myself down by the completely flat water. Conditions were perfect. There was a small patch of ever-so-slightly rippled water about 60 meters off the shore, but that wasn't yet disturbing my reflecting pool.

Stone by stone, I picked my heap away until nothing was left but the boulder. I'd pick each one up, feeling its weight and shape in my hand, then send it skimming across the water. For few moments after each stone sank I watched the ripples dissipate and interfere with each other. I think I managed to get one stone to bounce seven times, but there was no-one there to see it, and I'm a bit too old to impress anyone that way. Once all the flat ones were gone I allowed everything to settle. I kept my feet as still as I could, and tried not to breath too much. I then picked up my huge boulder (it was about twice the size of my fist, roughly spherical, and weighed about 6kg), raised it over my head like a caveman, and heaved it into the air.

I have to admit, it didn't soar like a bird. It flew with the uninspiring ballistic trajectory of a heavy rock thrown by a rather feeble man. If I'd wanted to see something soar, however, I would have watched the birds. I wanted to see this fall, and fall it did. Splooshing into the water like a giant raindrop. The water was momentarily forced down and out, forming into a crown. It held it for one perfect millisecond then -- with a glooping, flopping slopnoise -- it collapsed and sent another sphere, a clear mirror image of the one that went in, flying up into the air then landing in the disturbed water below. I was still watching the water pull tight and flatten when Kristen came back down the jetty to see what I was doing. We got some more stones, and repeated the process. I was impressed to find that, with sufficient force behind it, you can skim a roofing tile quite a long way.


Later in the day I decided to make myself useful in whatever ways a generally not very useful person can. I held things, chatted to people, and tried to get a kite off the roof. I spent some more time pushing buttons and wandering around the house before it was time once again to eat tastyfoods until we could no longer stand.

Not wanting to sleep on the sofa again, me and Kristen decided to set up camp in the poolhouse after dinner. We brought an airbed the size of a high-jump crashmat and a heap of bedding. Once the bed was inflated and the stereo fiddled with (even the poolhouse was filled with buttons for me to push), Kristen, loaded down with Jetlag and food, fell asleep at 9pm.

I went back up the house and had a fun evening drinking beer and playing a strange card game that I didn't really understand at the time, and don't remember now. I recall that I seemed to be winning at one point purely because I was able to give my explanations in an english accent.

That night I had the strange experience of sleeping in the middle of a hall about the size of the gym in my primary school. After a while the sounds of the sea were drowned out by the sound of the wind in the trees, and then both were overwhelmed by the rattling of rain on the roof once again.