Grey Florid-ale

Rain, rain, rain. Grey skies hung like ugly curtains over our motel. Looking through the window, Delphine’s face fell with the raindrops into the pool. We spread out on the large motel beds instead, flicking through channels on TV. It didn’t take long to find the Weather Channel. Tornados in Texas, flooding in Florida. My eyes widened. A full thirty seconds to become addicted.

I sighed at the screen an hour later. ‘Can you imagine if there was a weather channel for sailing. We’d never stop watching it.’

This is what sailing does. It turns you into an obsessive weather freak. Even I found myself creepily fascinated by the fact that Florida was experiencing a broad, slow-moving low pressure system that would be around for at least another week. Memorial Day was already being called a wash-out despite being over a week away. ‘The holiday that marks the beginning of summer,’ the weather presenter mourned, one eyebrow managing to twitch its way through immaculate make-up, ‘means that barbecues will need bringing inside.’ We nodded thoughtfully, imagining the barbecues toiling away in the living room.

So rain was predicted for our stay. Enthusiasm didn’t cover it. At one stage, two meteorologists brought out an old-fashioned chalk board and collectively began to draw on it. Circles, arrows. Close-ups and long shots. It started to look like strategy play for a football game. I couldn’t stop watching. I kept thinking that these should be GRIB files, sea surface charts. I could really use these TV guys.

Meanwhile Delph looked out the window. ‘It’s stopped raining. Can we go swimming now?’

Lo and behold, she was right. We left the presenters to their chalk board, dug through the suitcases and found our cozzies. I turned off the Weather Channel reluctantly. We met Henry the porter at the bottom of the stairs and I ran back to the room to get his present from Trinidad. Last time we came through, I’d brought M&S shortbread cookies for him in a red telephone box tin. Unfortunately the tin had dented significantly in the suitcase. This time, packing up Quest, I’d gone through a number of Trinidad relishes we’d bought but never opened. I was a few inches from the trash with one bottle when I thought of Henry.

‘Oh my god!’ Henry extolled straight out of I Love Lucy when he saw the bottle‘Are you trying to kill me?’ Clearly, Henry isn’t stupid. We knew that though. Last year when we first met him, Jack had no money in his wallet to tip him except a Trinidadian dollar.

‘I can’t even buy a beer with this,’ Henry said, grinning holding up the dollar. ‘There’s a Trinidadian guy here and I asked him.’

He’s worked at this motel since 1970. 1970! And when you talk to him, invariably a line of stray household cats come out of the surrounding strip mall bushes and slink towards him. It’s unnerving.

‘Everyone dumps their cats here,’ Henry said. ‘What can I do? I feed everything.. cats, lizards.’

‘Alligators?’ Lulu asked.

‘Of course!’ he shouted. ‘If I don’t feed the alligators, they eat the cats.’

‘Maybe he’ll feed the sauce to the alligators,’ I said after we waved good-bye.

Jack snorted. ‘Only if wants to kill them.’








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