I woke up this morning to the sound of next door’s car starting, as the man of the house prepared to back his large truck out of the drive and off to wherever he goes everyday at six am.
I guess there was a small chance that I would have slept though this, but thankfully – and as if to make sure this fate did not befall me – his wife, with whom he had presumably spent the entire previous evening – chose that time to come out of their house and issue him a string of instructions, all of which were delivered at a impressive shriek to overcome the noise of the engine. Every now and then the engine register changed slightly, as he predicted she was coming to a full stop and put his truck into gear to back out, at which point she would launch into another idea with renewed gusto until he decided he was not going to get out quite yet, put the vehicle back in neutral and presumably sat nodding in agreement, hoping that his wife’s miraculous ability to talk without breathing would be cut short soon. At any rate, if he was not thinking that, I certainly was. These folk are not city dwellers, that’s for sure. You can tell because they still have face-to-face conversations, rather than communicating via text.
This is not the only engine noise that permeates my days here though, for a little later I become aware of the unmistakeable buzz of a light aircraft climbing up into the morning sky. It will not fade for a while as the plane is not going anywhere but up.
I guess it is ironic that I have come on holiday by car to avoid flying, which terrifies me, and find myself at a cottage around the corner from a Sky Diving outfit. There is a perfect spot in the garden, in the shade of the only tree, where I lie and watch as the plane gradually ascends, almost disappearing from sight until suddenly a series of black dots appear around it, like poppy seeds. They are difficult to track until, miraculously, a cluster of petals open against the blue as the parachutes are deployed.
They are so high up, you would think that would be it, but you can hear the unfurling of the chutes as well as the screaming. Well, maybe not screaming, but whooping. I would be screaming, except I wouldn’t, because there is absolutely nothing that would persuade me to hurl myself into the void with a man strapped to my back and plummet at terminal velocity towards earth. Life is too short to die that way and I just read a thing that if you fall from a height and land on you back, your eyes pop out of your head and hang out of their sockets on cables. I am not the vainest of people, but I don’t want to be remembered like that.
There is no escaping it, though. Apart from the compulsion I have to go to the garden look up every time I hear the plane – as if I am somehow personally responsible for their safe descent – they film all the jumps with GoPro cameras and when you go to the pub, there they all are, falling though the sky. Upside down, lying flat, waving at the cameras as if they don’t have a care in the world, the videos loop endlessly as the jumpers surf the sky. As each of them waves at the camera before boarding the plane the voice inside my head goes, ‘That could have been the final shot their grieving families had of them.’
Three or four times a week when you buy drinks in this pub, they hand you a clump of raffle tickets too. I am usually quite laid back about this because statistically I am so unlikely to win that I don’t worry. I am just happy to sit drinking on the plastic garden chairs they have indoors, which create a pebble dash effect on the cheeks of your bum. But last time I was here, my ticket was called. Terrified, I approached the counter to be told I could choose between a bar tab of a certain value or the envelope the manager had in his hand, one of forty, which could contain something worthless, $1000.00 or a Sky Dive with the local company. As I wavered, he increased the bar tab value, which was non-transferable and had to be used that night. The problem was that I was at the end of my drinking night and the end of my holiday – I had to drive home early the next morning and did not fancy doing it with a hangover or a blood alcohol limit that might cause me to drive into oncoming traffic at speed. Eventually I had to make a decision, and teeth gritted, chose the envelope while trying to work out how I could get out of the jump if I won. As the Manager tore open the envelope, I just knew fortune was going to get it on with irony and I was going to win the Sky Dive. It was one long minute.
I didn’t win the jump and let me tell you, I have never been happier to win a stubble holder in my life.