Day train to Portugal
One of my very dear friends got engaged this week, to her delightful, handsome male counterpart. As it is with most things these days, social media notified me first. Upon discovery of this exciting bit of news, I picked up my phone and called her from the hills of Ludwigsburg to the peri peri port of Albufeira. There wasn’t much to the conversation except, “Oh my God, that is amazing! No way! He really did that? Oh you lucky bitch. I’m so happy for you!” Which I am. So happy for the both of them. But that is their story to tell, not mine. It did, however, get me on that thinking train about our long-standing, unwavering friendship we’ve had, ever since we were about 4. And how we’ve talked about the likeliness of this day ever occurring for the both of us.
Kitch and I both met our hunks around the same time, under very similar circumstances. We exchanged our colourful, descriptive tales on the first encounters, the bullets of butterflies thereafter, the curse of long distance, and the knowledge of the acceptance that these hunks were the real deal in the game of love. And given that we were reaching the questionable age of over-ripeness, we were ever so grateful for their participation.
One New Year’s eve we were sitting on a farm deck overlooking the Hemel en Aarde Valley, throwing back copious amounts of red wine and gin. A combination of which is an ideal dosage for morbid recollections of the year gone by, and a prosperous cocktail for the intent of the year ahead. Our biggest concerns were the fact that we were watching the sun set over this breathtaking landscape, laid-back on our loungers, swathed in kikois, listening to some decent beats, without a single potential victim in sight. It was just my family so there would be no snogging at midnight. Dollar was sitting with us, heavily pregnant with my niece, equally emotional, though without the gin to blame for it. She shared her concerns over the lack of eligible men in our lives. And her heartfelt disappointment that we, as brilliant, strong, independent, funny women (her words), did not give any inclination towards locking a man down. Dollar’s sentiments were always delivered with good intent; to love and only wanting us to be loved is what she was intimating. But Kitch and I shrugged the words off the tops of our shoulders as if they were pestering flies in the heat. Feigning our fineness with confidence like Tom Cruise tossing cocktails into the air. Nah, we were quite simply ok with being single at the apparent ripening of age, even though most of our friends were married with at least 9 children.
So we sniffed out what was left in the cooler box and toasted to the new year, secretly wishing for 2013 to introduce us to a couple of fellas. Under no circumstances were we depending on it happening, but we didn’t mind the thought of it, either.
So, a few months later we were like, Hell Yeah! Debbie Dollar’s resolutions and our nonchalance has paid off. We have found our lobsters.
As we both shared the life-changing decision of relocating to other countries for our hunks, we talked it through with each other from conception to birth. One breath at a time. In many ways we have undergone our individual journeys, perfectly aligned with timing. Commitment sagas, career changes (well, she’s slightly higher ranked than I, but no one’s counting), and all of the other little bits and bobs. Coincidentally, we crossed hurdles at the same time, holding hands.
Although, not this particular monumental moment. That’s been slightly different for me.
I’m pretty certain that no matter how hard-arsed you are about independence, and / or traumatised by your parent’s odd decisions, whatever your story is, I’m confidently tossing cocktails on the belief that there is a tiny part of everyone that allows for envisaging that day when one says, I do. Well, I do.
I’m perfectly happy with the arrangement I have now whereby we play happy couple turning over stones and playing monopoly. I have an awesome life with my awesome love.
But there is this memory, that for the days left living in my currently functioning body, I will always remember. As active as he is, my guy loves to sleep late. I’m what they call an early bird, but he will sleep deeply until it’s absolutely necessary to turn over and get up. So when he suggested, one evening, that we wake up the following morning before sunrise and climb a 99-metre hill, to capture the light, I thought, Holy shit-balls he is going to propose!
We were in Vietnam, just off Cat Ba Island at a secluded spot known as Monkey Island Resort. Our accommodation was a little timber hut, on the beach, overlooking Halong Bay. We were snacking on some fish and rice when he told me about his idea, to which I immediately said yes, wiped my hands of the grease, pushed the plate away and power walked to the bar to order a rather disgusting looking blue cocktail that was the first on the menu and had a mix of everything.
4 of those later, I staggered behind him towards the shack, where I laid out a pretty little dress and some bangles for the next morning. I scrubbed my nails and plucked my eyebrows, set the alarm and climbed into bed next to him. I didn’t really sleep that night but I got up looking remarkably good, considering one of my eyebrows had been massacred.
We started the climb as the morning was rapidly changing colour and temperature. Unfortunately the kitchen was not yet open for coffee, but I presumed there was a miniature bottle of Veuve hidden in his camera bag, so all would be well. As soon as we made it to the top he arranged 2 chairs side by side, under the flakey roof of a little white pagoda, that romantically sat at the top of this magnificent hill. He snapped away at the misty pink limestone formations that stoically held their stance, as my heart beat like a bongo washing out the waves below.
I took it all in, witnessing dawn at her best, savouring each tick of colourful transformation. But gradually the Aries impatience seeped in and I was like, yah yah yah, halong bay is this going to take?
I heard some shuffling from beneath the pagoda and turned around to 3 gorgeous giggling girls, who appeared to be ballet dancers, only by the form of their physiques, approaching us. In a very sweet Australian accent, one of the hotties requested admission, “Oh we hope we are not interrupting anything?” Me – Ummmmm… My man – Not at all!
So all 3 of them stepped onto the deck, as I pushed the paired up chairs to one side and made room for their incessant thanks and adorable light-as-a-feather skips around the place. The taller, more forthcoming one initiated the chat and boldly requested that we take a photo of the 3 of them, up against the side of the pagoda, in the direction of the sun rising, with their Vietnamese conical hats on. “But of course,” I blurted out, “He’s a photographer and would be happy to oblige!” “Oh that’s so greaaaaaaat of yewwwwwwwwwww guys,” taller one cheered “but, the thing is, we would like to be naked, with only our hats on.”
“No problemo, girls, go for gold! I’ll just make my way down to the kitchen and get us some coffee. Milk? Sugar? No, of course not.”
Here I was thinking this was my moment, but it ended up being his! Totally, his. And what a lovely moment that was for him.
So, to my darling friend in Portugal and to her darling man, I say woooooooo hooooooo!
As for me, life is exactly as it should be, in the sweltering heat of Southern Germany, hanging out with my German family, as we escape the current throes of Hamburg.
But yooor it is hot here. And the pestering flies are persistent.
Record of this post – Janis Joplin – Me and Bobby McGee