It would be true to say that reaching forty-four without serious incident, kidnapping or catastrophe is nothing more than a miracle for someone like me. A particular flaw, if you can call it that, is absolute trust in my fellow human to not be a pick-pocket or a con-artist, least of all a rapist or a murderer. This applies whether I am home, or at large in the wider world, and so far I’ve got away with it. Im not religious but my attitude in life has always been kind of ‘God willing’ or as they say in Yorkshire ‘It be reet’, meaning it’ll be fine, one way or another.
I am alone in my trust-bubble. Unlike me, friends, family and an adventurer Husband, who paid close attention to childhood public service broadcasts about ‘Stranger Danger’ are wary. In particular many of them harbour a firm belief that Johnny Foreigner is shifty at best, and at worst, he probably collects severed tourist heads. They are grown up when it comes to risk, and take sensible precautions to avoid disaster, and I admire that. But it’s just not in me to plan, calculate or evaluate least of all buy insurance. Any anxiety or stress is short-lived as I drift about, surrendered to fate.
Some of us battle with voices in their heads, mine is that of my Mother, her wise words of warning carriy over thousands of miles on a loop around my head: “Remember darling; there is still rabies on the continent”, (Actually, that time, I went on to get bitten by a petit chien, but miraculously escaped an agonising foaming death) or “Please avoid boarding any piratey looking boats”, and latterly, “I’ve googled it, and they have very big waves…” I’ve lost count of the time she’s reminded me to steer clear of white slave traders.
I don’t intentionally seek out adventure as a rule, but on occasion, I do blithely place myself in dicey situations with the blind optimism of a happy toddler. And in fairness, she knows me too well; I chirpily announced, aged 16; “I met this lovely French man on the train and he’s taking me boating tomorrow…’ Showing her pictures of our Capri trip; “We didn’t actually swim right INSIDE the cave because there was a massive swell and I’d forgotten Rose’s arm bands…” And I recently enjoyed showing my young New Zealand cousin the White Cliffs Of Dover, by commando-crawling on our bellies right up to the edge to get a seagull’s eye view. (She was there, helplessly advising against such folly)
The thrill comes later, with the dawning realisation of how perilously close to potential calamity I came.
I never told my poor Mother the full story of the time I thought it would be fun to visit The Cheops Pyramid, alone, when what I promised (squitzies behind my back) was to wait safely inside Cairo airport for my connecting flight.
After a dawn camel ride to the foot of the splendid Sphinx, I dismounted for a stroll. A very nice man in a white jellaba beckoned me to follow him underground to see ‘very special hieroglyphics’. I was rather glad that, stood close behind me, all he achieved was a deep inhalation of the back of my neck before I made my polite English excuses and gave him my last Egyptian pound in bakshish, marching off to find daylight. I certainly didn’t mention the bit about being dragged into a dimly lit perfumery and anointed repeatedly by the zealous proprietor and his cousin with their ‘best aphrodeeesiac’, (‘Dis one veery good, yes, it works, you like?’) But I would not have missed that one chance of seeing with my own eyes, the Giant Pyramid of Giza for anyone, least of all some dodgy Egyptian geezers.
So here’s a new travel experience for me, one that has not previously appealed in the least bit, preferring usually to take pot luck on a patchwork of self-catering villa bookings and nerve wracking flight and ferry timetables. But this time the price of An All-inclusive Spa Resort on the Cape Verde island of Sal was too good to ignore. Here at Melia Tortuga Beach Hotel & Spa, we have little choice but to obediently switch off, bask in the sun and remain safely static until the next time the keepers lay out food for us.
I experienced a certain frisson of excitement the first few times we left the restaurant without paying the bill. The ‘all-inclusive’ aspect takes some getting used to. *Note to self: don’t try this at home. But here the nearest I get to a brush with danger is idly watching the gardener handle a machete like an expert serial killer while I wrangle with the more gnarly life choices of wether to take a dip or roll over.
Yesterday a magnificent seven-foot edifice of ebony muscle and ivory teeth insisted on firmly shaking my hand in an attempt to lure me towards his blanket of carved trinkets and woven goods in the hotel Piazza. He took Rose’s hand too and flashed the same broad grin. As we came away (bead bracelets already in place, no need for a bag) she had a tangible spring in her step. “I’ve never shaken hands with a black man before” she announced, (a child of rural East Riding and forgetting her one encounter with Archbisjop John Sentamu, who smells not of danger, but of goodness and coal tar soap). I like to think that perhaps she was experiencing that first flush of excitement associated with a passed-down maternal trait.
Don’t tell mother, but I’ve booked us a half day snorkelling excursion later in the week. I’m sure it’ll be just fine!
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