Recently I went to Lanzarote to do some research on the painter/politician Cesar Manrique as well as a spot of sunbathing.
I stayed at the Beatriz, outside Costa Teguise, and was given room 225.
How that number brings back memories!
My father was a GP. Perhaps because of his profession, he was inclined to spend as long as it took when meeting someone which meant that somewhere along his chain of arranged meetings for the day, someone had to suffer.
As often as not that someone was me.
This may explain my obsession with punctuality – my own, not anyone else’s. I remember all too clearly the agony of waiting, the nightmare dread, the sense of abandonment once the time for our meeting had passed without a sign of him.
Now, to avoid putting anyone else through that ordeal, I invariably arrive at least five minutes early for any appointment, no matter how important or unimportant. In fact I worry more about being on time than about the appointment itself, how I look, what I’m going to say, what sort of questions I might have to answer……
When I was ten I went with my father to Paris and on our last day there he arranged to meet me at 12 o’clock outside the main doors of Notre Dame. (All this was way before the mobile phone came into being – one of the first presents I gave my daughter!)
Anyhow 12 o’clock came and twelve o’clock went.
At half past I started counting the number of people who passed me coming from the right, having told myself that he would appear before I had even got as far as 30.
30 came and 30 went .
Should I leave the big doors and walk round to see if he was waiting for me somewhere else? What if as soon as I wandered off, he arrived and went off looking for me? How would I get to the airport? Should I try explaining my problem to the gendarme who was standing with his back to me only a few yards away?
As well as counting I now filled my mind with how I would explain my problem to the gendarme. Excusez-moi, monsieur. J’ai perdu mon pere. Aidez-moi, s’il vous plait. Je suis…Je ne sais pas….Je pense que….
If I stopped counting or stopped rehearsing my speech, I didn’t know how I would cope, what I –
The gendarme wandered off, giving me a passing look.
What I would do, in Paris, abandoned, no money, no –
225 and there he was, not even hurrying, smiling his usual smile. There’s a little cafe near the Metro station where I used to sit with your mother and watch the world go by, he said. Fancy going there?
That was my father. And Paris? I’ve never been back.