On Reading (1)

We went out for the day. We went to Aberdovey, to the hotel on the hill. The sun was out. All the guests were outside. The lounges were empty. They sat on benches and plastic chairs, on the grass looking down upon the links golf course and the sea. Some sat at tables under umbrellas. One woman lay fully-clothed on a sun-lounger reading the Daily Mail, another sat with her Labrador.They read papers, did crosswords and drank tea poured from metal pots and carried to them on silver trays. Many walked with walking frames or sticks, slowly and steadily like determined snails making their way back and forth to the WC.

We’d saved the Times Jumbo Crossword. He read out the clues while I lay on the bench, eyes shut to the sun. The Labrador sniffed his mistress’ teapot.

My back unclenched. Scaramouche, I said. How did you know that? he asked. I wouldn’t have got that. I bet Ken won’t either.

Later a party of four inched their way onto the lawn beside us. We’d watched as a car had deposited them on the tarmac. One of the party was a tall woman of about forty wearing a sun dress with a low neckline and narrow straps. She strutted on ahead, her heels sinking into the grass, to find seats, carrying a large wooden chair back and forth before she could decide upon where to settle. The other three followed her. A middle-aged woman and then what were clearly her parents. The elderly man came last, his trousers pulled up high over his chest, a hearing aid in his ear and navy-blue slippers on his feet. He was tiny. Can you manage? he said to him. Oh, yes, he said, thank you. And thank you again, he called out, once he had sat down.

Earlier on two women had sat in the same seat. A mother and daughter. The mother deaf. The daughter shouting, in Welsh. When they weren’t talking they sat, both of them, faces lifted to the sun, flat and opened out like the wings of butterflies.


He has had sciatica for quite some time now. A few weeks ago he told me that he’d booked to see Veronica, my masseur. I was pleased. That’s brilliant, I said. It will hurt. But she is so good, I said. I saw her last week. How did he get on? she asked. Has it helped? Oh, yes, I said. She went into the room to prepare the bed. She came to the door and signaled for me to enter. Shutting the door behind her, she said, he’s not very brave is he?


The woman with the handbag was back in the gym this morning. Today she was on the bicycle reading an Sunday supplement magazine pull-out called Originals.