Time Waits For No One
14:43: It’s later than I thought. I guess we all got swept away by the tide of memories. Rita and me are sat back with Raph and the Shapiro’s on the balcony of the fish & chip restaurant. We’ve got through another jar of Pimms, Daniel has terrorised some pigeons, Rick’s nose has got burnt from sitting in the sun too long. It’s been fun, better than drowning in a sea of self-inflicted guilt I guess. Still, it’s high time I left, although oddly I find myself a little conflicted. Surprisingly I’m a little disappointed that I have to leave. I’ve reconnected with a few people from my past, and if I’m honest with myself it would be nice to hang around and see a little more of Bournemouth. I’m really not that bothered about heading back to London. Still you can have too much of a good thing, and I know I’ll start getting itchy feet within a couple of hours. And besides, even though the idea of heading back to the sweat and smog of the capital doesn’t exactly fill me with joy, there is someone I need to see, even if it’s to get a simple answer.
Rick and Jenna offer to drop me off at the station. They’re taking Raph, Rita and Daniel to the airport anyway, and they apparently have plenty of room in their six-seater people carrier. I guess they’re planning on adopting more than one? We all wait for Rick to go pick up the car from the mass tourist trap that is the town centre car parks, and I decide to put the time to good use.
“Emma, are you by a computer?”
“Well nice to hear you too!” my producer friend responds, sounding slightly more hung-over than me.
“Um, sorry. How you doing?”
“Five points for effort, minus ten for lack of sincerity!”
“Nothing. So what’s up? Curiosity got the better of you?”
“What?” I was starting to sound more and more like David Tennant’s Doctor Who!
“My idea? I guarantee you’ll like it, don’t know why I didn’t think of it before!”
“I’m sure it’s genius as usual, but it’ll have to wait. Can you get in to my email?” I’m notoriously private about my email accounts, so this request unsurprisingly creates a massive gap of dead air over the phone, although not for the reasons I thought.
“No need” she says eventually. I can almost hear that smug, all-knowing smile of hers. “I have one right here.”
“What? One what?”
“Oh come on Dan it’s me. I can read you like this week’s copy of Gossip Monger!”
Subtle! But it’s true, she can.
“Doors open at six tonight, but according to this the celebrations start around eight.
“And where is it again?”
“Our favourite; the Paradigm! But you won’t get in” she warns. “You never got your name on the guest list and there was no chance I was going.”
“No problem” I say with mock confidence, hoping my gestating idea will somehow go to plan. “I have that covered! Thanks Emma. Really, thank you!”
She makes some gratuitous remark that others would probably dismiss as incredibly rude, but I know her better than that. And with that Rick is back with his people carrier, a lot quicker than expected. For some reason the opening drum beat from the A-Team starts rumbling in my head as we all throw our bags in the boot and climb in to the back through the sliding door on the side. Jenna sits in the back with me, Raph and Rita while Daniel sits in the front all excited with an empty Cola bottle in his hand. Everyone watches him and Rick for a couple of seconds, and just nod at Jenna. Their kid can’t get here too soon.
The drive to the train station is only a short one, less than a mile. No one’s really in the mood for talking. I mean everyone clearly wants to, but it’s pretty obvious the main topic of conversation would be Max and Lucy, and I don’t think anyone’s got the strength for it. I guess we all just think they’ll figure it out. I send a quick text message to Max saying hope everything works out, it was good to see him again and he can always call me if he wants to. I doubt he will.
When we get to the station it’s a lot busier than when I got picked up on Friday night. I figure it’s just the sun worshippers thinking they should start heading back from their mini-vacations. “Well, this is it I guess” I say with a slight shrug of the shoulders. Everyone just nods to themselves, not showing any signs of the big fanfare farewell that I wasn’t necessarily expecting but my ego would have appreciated. Rick comes round the side and opens the door as the child safety lock is already being tested. Everyone clambers out while I start grabbing my bag, and then we’re all just stood around. No one makes any mention about staying in touch this time. I guess we all know it’s never going to happen again. A once in a lifetime event this was.
As we all try to find some kind of satisfactory way to part company we all start noticing a mild commotion from the station entrance. Someone is screaming their head off and drawing far too much attention to themselves. When you think about it I’m surprised we didn’t realise sooner who those shrieky hyper-sonic tones belong too.
“Karim?” we all call out in unison as he bounds over to us with his brand new husband carrying enough luggage for a Village People tribute band, and all of their roadies.
“Oh – my – GOD!” he sighs as he takes centre circle. “You would not believe the day I’m having!” Now Karim always was one for slight exaggeration when it came to telling stories. But with Brad looking like he was ready to pick up the Shapiro-mobile and throw it in to the station Hulk style you couldn’t help but wonder if he was actually being completely (for want of a better word) straight. They’d been at the station for almost ninety minutes waiting for a train to take them back to London. They’d been told the first one was delayed due to signal failure but another was being prepared. The other one then got cancelled, then was arriving in two minutes, then got cancelled again. Now apparently all trains from Bournemouth to London have been cancelled and they’re both stranded here. No wonder Brad is pissed as he’s got an important appointment to keep at a certain opening party at six o’clock. My plan is starting to take shape – not necessarily the way I intended, but I’ll take it.
We start debating how Karim, Brad and myself will get back to London. Buses will take forever and judging by the queue we’d have to wait a good few hours just to stand a chance of getting a seat. “I would drive you” Rick says in his Good Samaritans voice before adding “but the car is booked in for a service tomorrow and I just daren’t risk it”. That’s fine, understandable. I mean it’s a good three hour drive to London, plus you wouldn’t want you car to end up screwed around the time you’re trying to prove you can take care of a kid (although I do find myself wondering just how safe it was in the first place for all of us to pile in earlier!). Someone else suggests renting a car which is do-able I guess. “Sure” I say. Know where we could do that round here?”
“I could fly you.”
“I think there’s one round the corner” Jenna suggests. “Just down the road from the Post Office?”
“I’ve got my plane parked up...”
“Do you think they’d let us leave it in London?” Karim asks, his head turning left and right like an excited meerkat.
“...it might be a little cramped but it wouldn’t be for long.”
I finally notice who’s talking, and the penny finally drops. There’s a chance this could work. “Raph are you offering to fly us three to London in your plane?”
“Sure why not?” he says, like it’s something that happens on a regular basis. “It’s sort of on my way anyway.”
* * *
Back in the people carrier we’re speeding down the Wessex Way, weighed down by two extra passengers and enough luggage to make all of us in the back feel like we’re taking part in a see how many people you can squeeze in to a phone box challenge. (I really hope that much needed service isn’t for something urgent, like breaks, or suspension!). Still, it’s kind of exciting. In fact I’ll go so far as to quote Daniel as we turn left off the junction for Christchurch Road: “Weeeeeeeee!”
We drive past the usual departure terminal – which is actually more of a garden shed with an extension – and head for a private area where all the non-commercial planes are kept. We all start trying to spot Raph’s mean machine of the sky, passing expensive looking Leer Jets and planes with four propellers. “It’s that one right there” Raph points, and my heart sinks.
We stumble out on to the hot concrete runway. Looking around the airfield you can see the heat shimmering in the distance, suggesting just how hot it is today and leading me to ask how the hell this plane hasn’t melted.
“Sorry” I say, with both hands in front of my mouth in what must look like a position of prayer “not wanting to go all Luke Skywalker on you, but what a piece of junk!”
Karim and Brad just nod in silent agreement. Rick, Jenna and Rita just stand there trying to find the words. Even Daniel seems reluctant to come out from behind his mum. In fact I think I hear him ask in Dutch “Mummy, we’re not going on that are we?”
Oddly Raph doesn’t seem that insulted. “Well without going all Han Solo on you, she may not look like much but she’s got it where it counts!”
“Is it even safe?” Karim asks, doing a great impression of Woody Allen having a panic attack. “I don’t think it’s safe.”
“It’s a little small” is a natural observation coming from Brad being the larger of us.
“Yeah but so is a Mini!”
“But Mini’s stay on the ground Raph” I say, slowly easing back to the more relative safety of the people carrier.
“Yeah but Mini’s have got a great safety record, and this plane is exactly the same. Better in fact. Believe me its fine!”
“So Raph what you’re effectively saying is this plane is a Mini with wings?”
“Exactly, a Mini Coupe’ with wings!” he declares with pride, stretching his arms out either side. “And remember, I used to drive a Mini Coupe’ so it’s a perfect analogy.”
“Oh that’s right you did!” Rick shouts with the broadest I’m so happy I’m not getting on that thing but its hysterical these other idiots are smile stretching across his face. Everyone else is just stood there open mouthed. About a hundred yards away there’s a slightly older bloke with who I assume is his wife and teenage daughter, themselves making preparations to take to the sky. The bloke goes back to his car and pulls out, of all things, a medium sized dog. That worried itchy feeling explodes all the way down my back. We are going to die!
“Oh come on guys!” Raph shouts, kicking the tyres. “I’ve had my pilot’s license for two years, I’ve had no problems. Trust me ok?”
Rick lets out a sudden burst of laughter. “Yeah everyone, trust the lawyer!” Despite the sarcastic observation we start to believe Raph’s confidence. Karim and Brad look to be coming round to the idea, and we all need the lift. He’s doing us a huge favour after all. Eventually we all agree to jump on board and start loading the plane, all the time I’m making sure that Raph doesn’t spot the plane with the dog in!
So after getting as much luggage on the one-propped four-seater as is legally allowed (poor Karim has to leave maybe ninety percent of his with Rick & Jenna) we’re ready to go. Raph says his goodbyes and gets the plane started, and one by one the rest of us bid each other farewell. I wish the Shapiro’s all the luck in the world with their new kid, and they tell me to take care of myself. And then it’s time to say goodbye one last time.
“It was good seeing you again.” Rita says, before the cursory goodbye hug. “Remember what I said ok?”
“I will. Look after yourselves.” After a quick leg-hug from my namesake I turn for the plane, not looking back, not even a wave. Why spend any more time on the past?
As we start taxiing out to the runway the Shapiro’s waste no time in heading back to the main terminal to get Rita and Daniel to their larger, quieter, jet powered Amsterdam-bound plane. Raph is talking to the tower arranging exact timings for takeoff and the final route. It’s actually a little exciting, almost like we’re on a mission. Again the A-Team music starts in my head, and I start re-casting the show as some form of mental distraction. For some reason Karim is Colonel John ‘Hannibal’ Smith, Brad is BA Baracus (minus the gold jewellery but I’m willing to bet he’s got some around somewhere), I’m Templeton Peck aka ‘Face’ because, well my stand out physical feature right now is indeed my face thanks to it being one massive bruise, leaving Raphael Turner as HM Murdoch because he’s the pilot. And what did the HM stand for? Oh yeah, Howlin Mad. That’s right, he was a little nuts wasn’t he?