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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

September 09, 2003


Lucy asked if I wanted to go out for a drive. I wanted. For a while we didn't talk, and then we did. The sky was a uniform blue -- or black, if you're watching in infra-red. We found a side road that wound through several villages. They were all beautiful. After a while we started ranking them in terms of dream home desirability, deciding quickly that even the most minor flaw would disqualify it. For example, one had just one flower under the "Villages Fleuris" ranking, which was pathetic, unless you're a hay fever sufferer. Lucy had borrowed a map from Sally. After a while she caught her breath and started issuing instructions.

"Where are we going?"
"I've got to see this." She was pointing to a spot on the map.
"What is it?"
"It's a village called St Guthlac sur Mer."
"And, it's clear from the map it's about 10 kilometres inland. Looking at the contour lines, it used to be right on the old coastline before they reclaimed all this land from the sea."
"Right up your alley, in other words."

When we were two kilometres from the village, Lucy folded the map and leaned back in her seat with a sigh of contentment.

"So. Weird or what?" she asked. "The last time we saw these people we were all children."
I agreed. "But I'd have punched your lights out if you'd called me a child back then."
"It's hard to think back what everyone was like. Some people think you can see the adult in the child, but it's not always so easy. You haven't changed much, but Mike - for example - is unrecognisable. Douglas seems like a really cool and contented guy, too, but what was he like then?"
"He always seemed nervy and spotty to me."
"Exactly. Whereas Mike worked at being the coolest guy in the school and has turned into a..."
"Sad, middle-aged, sack of potatoes."
"Don't forget bald."
"I feel for him a bit in that respect. I know it must have hurt when he realised it was happening. I was expecting something like that myself."

We passed the sign welcoming us to St Guthlac sur Mer, and then another one directing us to the Vieux Port. There wasn't a lot else to the village. On the hillside, there were some new houses going up, as there seemed to be everywhere we'd been. Some of them were in the classic Vendéen style, two side bits with a mini tower bit in the middle. The roof were red, the shutters blue, the walls, where painted, were white.

I saw a faded blue P for parking and pulled in to an empty car park. We stepped out of the air conditioned car into the ineffable hanging heat. The tarmac sizzled and the air shimmered. The cooling fan in the Audi kicked in automatically and somewhere in the village a church bell rang. It was half past 12 on the village church clock and the place seemed deserted.

"Do you think we'll need our coats?" she said.


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