The sun beat down from an azure sky, over the gin clear sea. Happy holiday makers, splashed and reveled in the little bay. It was the very image of holiday heaven.
Not for Simon.
Putting down his Kindle, he groaned inwardly; it wasn’t working out for him. He had known it would turn out like this, it always did. It wouldn’t have been worth even raising the subject with Bridget before they left; he knew it would have turned into one of those blazing rows. She always planned their annual holiday. Anything he contributed (unless it was in the absolute and enthusiastic affirmative) would have been rejected, simply tossed aside. A stern stricture would follow to the effect that if he was going to be negative, he might as well stay at home. So, he had kept his mouth shut once more and made the bank transfers when instructed.
He used to love their holidays. The peace and quiet of the mountains, little villages, islands in the Med they used to visit. They would enjoy meeting new people, fellow tourists, local villagers. There was new food to eat, exciting new wines to try; even the nudist beach they once stumbled upon – it had been a long walk on a very hot afternoon, the sea was inviting, “Oh, what the hell. In for a penny and off come the clothes. No need to tell the folk back home.”
And then they’d tried this new resort in the Caribbean. It had been recommended by the wife of one of Simon’s colleague’s. ‘Lovely hotel, super staff’, she’d said ‘Nice class of guests, lots of restaurants in the local village, plenty of water sports. You simply must try it!’
So, they had. Simon loved swimming and sailing in the bay and Bridget had soaked up the sun and lapped up the endless conversations she had with the other guests.
Fair, enough, they had both decided that this was something of a find and well worth returning to the following year. So, as soon as they got back home, Bridget had been on her iPad booking for the same weeks the following year.
As they walked into the reception that next trip, they were welcomed back by the management and recognised by the staff, like old friends. Walking into the bar that evening, Bridget instantly saw the Carmichaels who they had met before and who greeted them like long lost friends.
“Come and join us!” squealed Gaynor, “In fact we’re just going in to eat; we can get a larger table.” “Yes, come on” said husband, John “We’ll make a night of it!”
The night went well enough but it soon became obvious that John was intent on making clear, with endless anecdotes, his previous life as Finance Director on the board of some minor PLC. The evening was far too boozy for Simon and they were much too late to bed after their early start and long journey.
A sharp dig in the ribs woke Simon the next morning.
“Come on, sleepyhead,” Bridget’s voice boomed in his ear “John and Gaynor have invited us to go on a boat trip with them.” It had started.
The following day they were introduced to the Thompsons. Billy and Sally were a little younger and still running the family motor business in the Northeast. Simon and Billy hit it off straight away; they weren’t really alike at all but seemed to share a common outlook on politics, an interest in cars and a love of wine. Similarly, Bridget and Sally got on like a house on fire. The only problem was that after a couple of days of shared activities, Simon came to the conclusion that if he never saw Sally again, it might not be soon enough. A more domineering woman he had trouble imagining, even when she was simply, one hundred and eighty degrees wrong (which she frequently was on a wide range of subjects).
Then there were the Hathaways from upstate New York; bearded Jim, jovial and engaging and good for a chat. But wife Nancy, oh, dear. Simon shivered again at the thought of those pea-like staring eyes, kohled black, staring intensely from a face that had suffered such ravages of repeated botox and face-lifts that normal expression was now beyond her. All that remained was a mask fixed in what Simon could only describe as a meaningless leer.
The holiday dragged on with Simon’s frustration of running the gauntlet – trying to avoid yet another conversation with people when he just wanted to mind his own business, to read, to think, to gaze at the scenery and the goings-on. It wasn’t that he was a recluse, far from it; he loved a meaningful, extended conversation, getting to know someone new. During his many years of travelling, he could be quite happy in a bar or restaurant, on his own, just soaking up the atmosphere, the energy perhaps, from those around him. If he got into a conversation with a stranger, well fine, if they had common interests it would be great. But it wasn’t essential.
As the next few years unfolded, Bridget would keep in touch with Sally Thompson and coordinate their respective bookings. The pattern was always the same, meet for drinks in the bar the evening of arrival, dinner together and before Simon could say a word, a fortnight of coordinated activities was mapped out. During the day, Simon managed to plot time for himself by escaping on the hotel’s Hobie cat – perfect, because no-one else would dare come along with him. An hour or so of sheer personal pleasure, alone with just the sea and the sun, up on one hull, scything through the waves. However, the feelings were soon erased when greeted back on shore by Bridget gushing that another dinner or trip had been organized.
There were other guests that Simon would have liked to get to know better. But Bridget’s fear of offending the Thompsons overruled every other consideration. So, on went the seemingly endless cycle of lunches, afternoon teas, dinners, trips and what have you. He felt he could scream with frustration.
It wasn’t that he and Bridget weren’t happy, they were and had enjoyed many years of married life together. All he needed was some space for themselves – a bit of bloody elbow room!
He looked up – the Thompson’s were bearing down upon him…