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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

October 22, 2003

Last Day

Lucy was up early. It was our last day, and I suppose she wanted to make the most of it. I don't know what time it was when I woke up, but I could hear her moving around, singing to herself. She sounded content, and I indulged myself in lying there imagining what it would be like to wake up to the sound of her singing on a regular basis.

I decided that if I could ever get by the way she made me think about the past, it might be pretty nice to wake up like this.

Suddenly she knocked on the door, waited a second or two, and the poked her head round.


"Why don't we leave today? I mean, let's still go back to St Guthlac, and then we'll spend the afternoon on the beach, but then why don't we head off and stop the night in a hotel?"

I couldn't see any objection, so I just said okay. But then I started thinking, would I have objected if I had actually objected? I seemed to be going further down the path of just doing whatever Lucy wanted to do. The truth was, I'd been at a loose end, and if she wanted to go chasing off after ghosts or relics, I was game. I didn't have anything better to do for the foreseeable future. I wondered if that was a problem as I had a shower and got dressed.

She'd made coffee, and was leaning on the kitchen counter. I felt like I should at least try to have a conversation about why she wanted to leave today.

"Why the change of plans?"
"It was... last night, I thought we might... you know, end up in bed or something. I was thinking about that all night, that I wanted to ask you. But then after speaking to him, Didier I mean, and that weird bloke we didn't know who he was kept staring at me. And then I thought a lot of people were looking at us, and a couple of people made some snide remarks. It didn't feel right any more, so I never said anything to you. And you didn't say anything to me, still. So I think we should get away from all this, all these people, all this stuff about the past, and we should go somewhere and be ourselves."

It was a longer explanation than I'd been looking for.

We packed up quickly and loaded the car, then walked over to the main house to say goodbye. There was the usual stuff about staying in touch "this time," and hugs all round, and then we were on the road. I don't like to linger. Often, when I know I'm going home, I've left in my mind anyway. This was more sudden, but it felt good to get away. Truth is, I'd have carried on driving all the way home, but then I tried to think of it as another holiday, and I settled in to accepting that.

It was another bright and sunny day, hot, blue, and St Guthlac Sur Mer was still quiet and beautiful. We parked in the tiny car park and walked over towards the church again. On the way, Lucy noticed something we hadn't seen before: a sign pointing to the Old Port. So we walked down there.

There wasn't much to see, just an area of cobbles, and one of those information boards with a map of how the port had looked. We looked at it together. Set into the cobbles was a very old cast iron mooring post, which I guess we were supposed to think was from the original port. I didn't believe it myself.

"A couple of things tend to have happened with places like this," she said. "First of all, rivers tend to silt up, and if you don't keep dredging your harbour, eventually you can't use it. There's a place just down the Vendée coast called Ile d'Oleron, which is not only not an island, but a couple of kilometres inland. Not like this, through reclamation, but through silting. They used to build boats there."
"It must affect the local economy when things like that happen."
"Yes, so the other thing that can go on, when the Dutch engineers arrive and start to drain marshes and build dykes, they find them being sabotaged. It's a very controversial move, because you're affecting the livelihood of the local fisher folk. And you know what they can be like."
"So why do it?"
"Because someone in power wants more land for hunting and farming, and the Dutch engineers had a vested interest, because they got paid in land."

She started walking back up towards the church.

"So what's the story here?" I asked.

"I suspect there was a bit of both. First of all, the tendency of the port to silt up. Second of all, someone wanted more land. And then I think there's a huge pinch of superstition or magic going on. If there had been controversy over reclaiming the land, some bones reputed to have special powers might have been brought in to counter the protesters and saboteurs. So they'd have been very secretive about exactly where they were."


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