Drowsy with the harmony
Friday, 28 September 2012
This year, both the bots were finally old enough to go on the senior school music tour. Two coach loads of singers and musicians, plus overexcited teachers, go for a week every August to somewhere fantastic in Europe. They sing and play jazz and swing in squares, by lakes, in churches.
It was Freddie's birthday while they were away. He was a bit thoughtful about that and so we suggested Edward and I fly out for a week. We would attend the concerts and on his birthday take them, any little chums they cared to invite, out to dinner. Rose immediately asked to be excused; the whole thing would be embarrassing. And anyway, they had a rooftop pool at the hotel. And anyway, it was Freddie's birthday, not hers. And anyway it would just be really, really embarrassing.
By the time we waved off the coach, prior to our dash to the airport, Freddie had also decided that he'd be fine on his birthday, and in fact, we really didn't need to come to any of the concerts. It would probably be embarrassing.
I had made a list of the paintings and sculptures I thought we should see. I organised early-morning bookings at the Florentine museums, googled restaurant reviews and made reservations. We sorted out a hire car and printed maps and directions to the five concerts they were performing.
Our hotel, which turned out to be a castle, was in the absolute middle of nowhere. It dated from the 14th century and was a cicada-filled paradise; great scented bushes of ancient greying lavender and rosemary; crumbling ochre walls; thoughtful spots of shade for the wimpy Inglesi. That dry, throbbing heat for the sun-worshipping Scot. Heaven. That first night, the bots texted - it's fine, don't come. Please. You'll be embarrassing.
We negotiated attendance at one evening concert. The tiny cobbled square was pinpricked by candles; we perched on rickety old chairs and tried not to cry or clap too loudly. The bots muttered 'Hi' as they ran past at the end. It took three hours to drive back to the hotel.
The next morning, we cancelled the tightly-packed schedule of reservations we'd made. We didn't see a single masterly brushstroke. Not a solitary marble rump. Not a shaving of truffle passed our lips. Instead, we spent the entire week reading by the deserted swimming pool. Giddy with solitude and freedom, we played Marco Polo, pushed each other in and did cannonballs. I did yoga and fell over a bit. Edward found an old wooden ladder and scrumped white peaches and tiny pears from the orchard.
How really, really embarrassing.