I flung open the window of our hotel room and stepped out onto the balcony. After a grueling journey we were here at last. The view was glorious. Hills soaring out of lush, green grass, the sun catching its light on the distant sea. Fantastic. All was well. For a whole three weeks we have nothing to do but please ourselves. No children to look after. No animals to feed and walk. Just the two of us. It would be like a second honeymoon.
I decided to unpack – something I always like to do as soon as I arrive on holiday. I started with gusto. First my things. No problem there. I packed really lightly, well, almost. Did I really pack nine dresses and ten pairs of trousers? Mind you, if I could have made up my mind which colour cropped trousers I wanted, I wouldn’t have purchased all four. Of course, I knew I would need all eight pairs of shoes, although perhaps the gold sandals will look a little over the top. From what I’ve seen so far, casual dress seems to be the order of the day. Now, I would just have time to unpack my husband’s suitcase before he returned from ‘finding out the lie of the land’. (An habitual thing that many men have to do it seems- not sure why). I must explain here that I don’t usually pack or unpack for James but last holiday I, apparently, moaned at him for packing in such a way that everything was creased. After a little row - quite a big one really where we were never going on holiday again – I somehow ended up promising to pack for him! Not sure how that happened.
At top speed I got on with the job. I had almost finished when I went hot and then cold. No! It was not the dreaded menopause. His washbag. Surely, I hadn’t forgotten to pack his washbag?
I swiftly went through the clothes I’d plonked on the chair. No joy. I flopped onto the bed. What was I to do? The only thing to do, of course. I would go out and purchase more of the same.
I felt sure there would be a local shop that would sell most of what he would want. I scribbled a hasty note saying that I was just going for a short stroll and left it on the bed.
I asked the hotel receptionist if there was a shop nearby which sold toiletries. Fortunately she spoke with an English accent – quite a rarity in these parts – and, thankfully, drew me a map of how to get to the one and only shop in the area. Neither my sense of direction nor my map reading is at the top of the tree but, after a couple of wrong turnings, I found the shop. The assistant was beginning to take her wares in from the frontage. It must be near closing time. Where were the toiletries?
I started grabbing the things I wanted – flannel, soap, shaving cream, disposable razors. Why didn’t I think to pick up a basket? What else would he need? Body spray. Good job I hadn’t forgotten that. I looked along the line of body sprays. Ah yes, found it. That was what he used. Oh no! They had all sorts of perfumes but not the one he liked. Africa. Now what? I looked again. I even went to the back of the others to make sure there wasn’t one lurking there but as I did so I knocked one over which caused a domino effect. I stared with horror as they clattered to the floor. I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the shop assistant.
“I’m looking for Africa”, I mumbled in my embarrassment. “My husband only likes Africa” I said rather pathetically.
“Then you’re way off course” said the assistant in a strong Scottish accent. “This is the Isle of Mull”. I looked at her quizzically.
“No, you don’t understand” I said in a slow voice. “I’m looking for the body spray called Africa!” The assistant gave me what I can only explain as a ‘sad look’.
“I know,” she said in an even slower voice. “It was just my little joke.
Did I feel silly or what? I gave a little laugh while attempting an apology for the noise I had created, grabbed one of the sprays from the floor, dropped the bar of soap, managed to retrieve it by putting the flannel in between my teeth to free up my hand and dashed to the till where I duly paid for the said items and got out of the shop PDQ.
I ran most of the way back and arrived in our room red of face and puffing like a steam engine. I went to go into the bathroom to deposit the goods only to collide with James who was coming out. I stared at him in amazement.
“You’re shaving” I squeaked. “How are you shaving?” I was aware that my voice had gone up an octave. “Where did you get the shaving cream and your razor from?”
“From my wash bag, of course.” By the look on his face he might just as well have added the comment ‘Dah’ onto his last sentence.
“What’s wrong?” he asked as he turned to go back into the bathroom. “You seem very flustered. Thanks for emptying my case by the way. I started to unpack before I went out but only got as far as my wash bag.” I stood there gawping. “You’re looking very guilty, what have you got in that carrier bag? Not been buying souvenirs already have you?” he asked as he returned to the bathroom. “Are you going to get ready for dinner? I’m expecting haggis as we’re in Scotland. I’m starving”.
I took a deep breath and, for the second time since we had arrived, I flopped onto the bed. Panic over. I leaned over the edge of the bed, unzipped my case and put the carrier bag, and its contents, inside and re-zipped it. I kicked off my shoes and as I did so I heard the gentle sound of an aerosol being sprayed and the smell of Africa wafted from the open bathroom door…
© June Linscott