Apologies for the single post today.
But on Saturday night the temperature dropped to 10 deg F (-12 deg C) and the pipework above our well froze. Despite all day Sunday with the help of neighbour Bill to thaw out some of the pipes the job wasn’t completed by nightfall last night. Thaw coming on Thursday!
Learning from Dogs
It was difficult at first for Philip to embrace truly what had been opened within him. Yes, there was one change that was clear and obvious. Him now knowing that Maggie’s unfaithfulness was a blessing in disguise. For the simple reason that the marriage would end without Philip having a whole pile of guilt sitting on his shoulders. Apart from that clarity, the other changes within him were much more subtle. No better described than that there was a feeling of, how would he put it, a feeling of inner peace. Almost impossible to articulate any more clearly than that. He had no doubt that there would come a time, possible a couple of years hence, when he would look back and fully realise the importance and significance of his time with Jonathan. What an amazing stroke of luck to have met Jonathan and to have had his trust that they could manage their reversal in their relationship in the way that it turned out. Golly, and how!
The weeks flowed by in a manner that could be described as tranquil. It wasn’t until well into August that Philip started to kick around in his mind Lisa’s suggestion of spending his Christmas with her and Don out in Mexico. Despite so much travelling around the world back in the days of him running his business, he had never been to Mexico, didn’t even have a clue about the place apart from the fact that the national language was Spanish, a language he couldn’t speak. He rang and spoke with William and Elizabeth who, as he expected, were completely relaxed about the idea of their Dad being out of the country at Christmas time. Then he called Lisa and Don to get a better idea of what to expect. He had looked up the details of the San Carlos online but not found anything that really helped him. Lisa explained to him that San Carlos was a very popular second-home destination for Americans and that not speaking Spanish wouldn’t be an issue at all. She continued describing San Carlos as a great place to get away from the English Winter weather and, in answer to Philip’s obvious next question, said that it was mostly sunny with daytime temperatures around seventy-five degrees and not falling much below sixty degrees at night. As they were chatting, Philip idly converted in his head the Fahrenheit temperatures to Centigrade: mid-twenties in the day and not below twelve degrees at night. Gracious, he thought, that’s not a lot different to Summer temperatures in the Western Mediterranean. In particular, thinking of Nice in Southern France, a place that he had been to several times. This might be a lovely, relaxing way to prepare for 2008.
Finally, he asked Lisa about the best way of travelling out there and she told him to take a flight to Los Angeles and then take the short flight from there to Hermosillo in Mexico, going on to explain that Hermosillo was just an hour’s run from their house in San Carlos and that she and Don could pick him up from the airport.
“So, Philip, are you coming out?”
“Yes, I’m strongly minded to do it. But Lisa, if I was going to come out it would seem to make sense to come for three weeks or so. Are you sure that’s OK with you guys?”
“Philip, absolutely. It would be such fun.”
“OK Lisa, leave it with me and as soon as there’s a clear decision I’ll call you with the flight details.”
“Can’t wait, my friend.”
His next call was a quick one to Danny who immediately said that he would be pleased to collect him when he arrived at Los Angeles, have him stay with him and Georgie, and drop him back to the airport when he was ready to fly down to Mexico.
Danny went on to point out that for his return trip he could probably fly in to Los Angeles airport the same day of the evening flight out to London. Just a simple change of terminals. Philip made a note of that as it clearly made good sense to do it that way.
He then wandered out from the flat with Pharaoh to find Liz. She was over in the milking area, raking up the cow pats and shovelling them into a trailer just the other side of the fence.
“Hi Liz, you not shovelling shit again!”
Liz laughed, “Always, got any of yours you want me to shovel up?”
Philip belly-laughed and even Pharaoh joined in by furiously wagging his tail and scampering around the yard. Pharaoh had quickly settled in to the surroundings and even stopped trying to be boss dog around Liz’s pair of friendly sheep dogs. He wondered if Tracy and Jack, Liz’s dogs, were teaching Pharaoh how to round up sheep. For he had caught the three dogs out together in the large field where Liz kept fifteen or twenty sheep, the dogs appearing to be instructing Pharaoh in the art of rounding up the woolly creatures.
“Liz, I came over to explain about going to Mexico over the Christmas holidays.”
“Ah, yes, you had mentioned the possibility when you first moved in.”
He explained what he was thinking of doing. Liz responded by telling him to go for it; that it’s not every day that one gets the chance to swap Devon’s Winter weather for Mexico.
“You’ll put Pharaoh with Sandra?”
“Yes, Liz. I mentioned the possibility of going to Mexico to Sandra when I collected Pharaoh last time back in from California and she said not a problem in the slightest. Went on to say, in fact, that she was usually so quiet with dogs over Christmas that she could give Pharaoh extra special attention.”
“Oh that’s good, must reassure you hugely.”
“I wouldn’t leave Pharaoh for a minute if I wasn’t sure that he was being looked after fully.”
Later that afternoon and into the evening, Philip trawled online airline websites looking at flight prices, schedules and trying to put together an itinerary that felt sensible to him. There was one schedule that would have him flying into Hermosillo airport at a little before five in the afternoon. He called Lisa again,
“Lisa, I’m looking at a direct flight from LAX that comes in to Hermosillo a little before five in the afternoon. Would that be OK? Didn’t want it to be too late in the day for you.”
“No, that’s perfect. There’s a Costco in Hermosillo and I can catch up on some shopping and then come across to collect you.”
He didn’t know what a Costco was but presumed it was some type of American discount store. “Great. Will get the flights booked and drop you an email with the flight details.”
An hour later it was all done. He would be flying out to Los Angeles on December, 12th and catching the AeroMexico flight to Hermosillo on Saturday, December 15th.
The weeks turned into months. November slid by and allowed in an unusually wet and warm December to blow over Devon. While Devon had more than its fair share of rain, Philip had long been fascinated by living down here in the South-West of England because, so often, the arrival of a low-pressure weather system in from the Atlantic perfectly conformed to the classic meteorologist’s textbook description of a Low. In fact, he watched such a classic cold-front chasing him up the A303 as he drove from Devon up to London on the Sunday before his flight out to LA on the following Tuesday morning. It was an opportunity to stay with his daughter, Elizabeth, for a couple of nights; these days he rarely came up to London without Pharaoh.
The long flight to LA was as uneventful as they always were. Philip chose to re-read the David Hawkins book Power vs Force rather than watching whatever films were on offer. When Jonathan had lent the book to him back in June he had longed to write notes over many pages. That had quickly persuaded him to buy his own copy and for a multitude of reasons he had never got around to that second reading. Today’s long flight was the perfect opportunity to do just that.
He walked out of the terminal to find Danny almost parked in the exact same spot as that day back on the 8th May when he last come over; gracious, he thought, now over seven months ago. They chit-chatted about what they had both been doing these last few months as Danny drove back to Costa Mesa, the multiple lanes of traffic just as disturbing to Philip as they always were.
Later that evening, as the three of them sat together at home after Georgie had served a delicious dinner, suitably gentle on Philip’s stomach as, once again, his body didn’t know if it was tea-time or breakfast-time, they wanted to know more about his sessions with Jonathan. Danny had studied psychology at University and easily understood Philip’s earlier family experiences and the resulting long-term implications. Georgie was just as interested, perhaps even more so. Later in bed, as Philip felt himself slipping into a much-welcomed sleep, he wondered if Georgie’s curiosity in his own emotional discovery was touching some deeper places within her.
The fifteenth, just three days later, came round so quickly. Danny dropped Philip outside Terminal Two back at Los Angeles’ airport. It was a little after 1 p.m. He couldn’t recall using Terminal Two before but quickly realised, looking up at the flights board, that many international airlines were coming into this terminal rather than Bradley International.
Ten minutes later he was sitting in the pre-boarding lounge presuming that the Embraer aircraft that was coming to rest alongside the walkway was his flight to Hermosillo. Yes, he looked at the tail fin and saw the AeroMexico symbol. Good, he loved flying in high-winged aircraft because it provided such a great view of the land below, especially as today it would be all new country for him to look.
The flight promptly push-backed from the gate at 2 p.m. and less than ten minutes later was heading out over the blue Pacific before turning to what he guessed was a South-Easterly direction. He was initially surprised that the aircraft, after gaining height, didn’t continue around to the left to cross the high, rolling mountains he could see in the distance; he presumed the southern end of the Sierra Nevada range. But, no. They continued following the coast, perhaps only twenty-five miles off to the left, for a good forty-five minutes. He thought he saw San Diego pass by and then the land started to look much more barren and desolate. He assumed that they were now flying seawards off the Mexican coast.
It all became clear when he was able to match the route map in the airline magazine to what he could see out of his window. For the land off to their left had obviously become the Baja California peninsula, to the extent that he could see the waters of the Gulf of California beyond the narrow peninsula. Not long after, the aircraft turned to the left crossing over the peninsula. Perhaps half-way over the waters of the Gulf, a slight reduction in engine speed signalled the start of the descent into Hermosillo.
Philip was now aware of two things. Outside, a vista that looked very deserted, seemingly a barren, hot, landscape. Inside, a rising feeling of excitement at his untypical, adventurous idea of coming to Mexico for Christmas.
Moments later, that delicious squeal of tyres on tarmac and the taxi up to the parking spot alongside a two-storey, glass-fronted terminal building. The few steps from the aircraft to the terminal doors felt more like a hot summer’s day than the late afternoon in mid-December that it was.
Hermosillo was one of those lovely small regional airports that was a joy to pass through. Even for Philip, suitcase in hand, immediately aware that this was a new country for him with an unfamiliar culture, found he was approaching the glass doors to the outside area in front of the airport terminal in less than twenty minutes from the moment the aircraft had come to a stop. He looked at his watch; it was a little after five in the afternoon. He was looking forward to seeing Lisa the moment he stepped through those doors.
The doors slid open and the heat struck him again.
He put his case down and looked around for Lisa. Strange, no sight of her. Even stranger when he considered that there weren’t that many people around. Her distinctive, waist-length plait of white hair would be easy to spot. Maybe she was running a little late. Perhaps caught up in the shops, but even as that thought came into his mind he instinctively rejected the idea. What could have gone wrong? Here he was outside a strange airport in a strange part of a strange country unable to speak a word of the local language.
2,212 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover