If you’ve missed any of the earlier posts in this series, this’ll make more sense if it’s read in the right order. Links to each part are given at the bottom of the page.
It’s funny how time races away with you, and all the more so as you get older. And yet, when you’re apprehensive about something coming up, it slows right down. You keep tapping your watch to check it’s actually working.
That’s how it felt while I waited for my fellow course members to arrive. I’d paced about, drifting from the saloon to my cabin, to the heads (just to practice that pumping action), and even up on the deck. Still it dragged, until finally I heard them arrive. The afternoon had come to a close and the air chilly, so I was back in the saloon by then.
Taking a deep breath, I headed up the companionway to the deck. The boat was moored stern-on to the pontoon, and we were the last but one in the row. Standing facing me were four smiling faces – which threw me for a moment, as I was only expecting three. Fortunately, an English accent explained he was just the taxi driver.
Alongside him were a man with closely cropped greying hair, a blonde woman and a younger, slightly built man. Already my preconceptions were being shattered. When I was told it was a family, I expected a couple in their thirties, possibly forties, probably with a teenager. Here was a couple probably closer to my age (fifties) and – as it turned out – a twenty-seven year old son. I suspect they too were a little guarded about the person they’d be sharing space with for the next week, though Ioannis (the husband/father) showed no sign of it.
He smiled and introduced himself, then his wife, Linde, and son, Konstantin. Then it was a case of rapidly grabbing all the baggage and bringing it aboard. Unlike me, they were heavily laden, though it transpired Ioannis and Linde were staying on for a week after the course was over. It was also explained that a lot of the baggage would be stored at the home of our hosts, which was a relief, because I couldn’t work out where it would all go on the boat.
For a short while, it still felt a little awkward – to me, anyway. The family had to settle themselves in, and get their bearings.
I think the ice was broken when I realized I needed a pee and went to the heads. As I was standing there, the door to the double cabin opened. The door was behind me and Ioannis and I looked at each other in the mirror for a moment before the apologies flowed. Fortunately, we both saw the funny side. It seemed he’d been getting his bearings in the cabin and thought the door opened into a storage cupboard. I think we all learned a lesson from that experience. As there were no locks on the doors, from then on I, for one, made sure I had something leaning against that door whenever I was in there.
The real shift came a short while later. Linde turned to Ioannis and said something to him in Norwegian. Ioannis stopped her in her tracks.
“No, Linde. English! Out of respect for Graeme, we must only speak English all week.”
I can’t recall if I actually protested at this out loud or if it just went through my head. What I do know is that I couldn’t help feeling embarrassed – but only because I wouldn’t have had the option if the roles were reversed.
Over the course of that evening and the remainder of the trip, I learnt Ioannis was actually Greek, which made sense – his name hadn’t sounded particularly Norwegian. But he’d also spent a good part of his childhood in Russia. He’d met Linde while she was working in Greece and, smitten, moved to Norway when they married. So he had a range of languages he could draw on – while I would struggle to order a glass of water in a local bar if the natives didn’t speak English.
It had been arranged that, once we’d all settled in, we’d meet up with our Skipper, Clive, and Alex, his wife, at a bar in the town. This was to be a “welcome aboard” kind of gathering, which gave us an opportunity to introduce ourselves properly. I don’t mean there were formal presentations but, with a beer in hand, we opened up a little and began to get to know each other. It was during this session that it came to light that it was Ioannis and Linde’s wedding anniversary, and they planned to celebrate by going for a meal.
To my surprise, they seemed to expect me to join them, but, rightly or wrongly, I felt it should be a family celebration, so declined. A part of me regretted it, but there was also a part of me that had built up an expectation that I would spend a lot of the coming week on my own, so when I returned to the boat and sat alone in the saloon snacking and reading, I was okay with it.
As it turned out, things would change anyway.
Links to previous parts to this story: