Companions

September 7, 2018

Almost ten o’clock, in her nightie, propped up by pillows, my wife lost in a novel is sipping the biggest mug of tea imaginable. To her, this is heaven. It takes her back to childhood weekends when she didn’t emerge from her bedroom until mid morning with her mind filled with imagined adventures dreamt up by the greatest writers. She grew up in suburban Britain, in a widely respected Catholic family, had a secure, happy and safe home and a good education. She is unassuming yet has a sophisticated knowledge of literature, film, TV and medical knowledge. She ought to have studied literature at university, not undertaken a gruelling course of nursing and then midwifery in two old fashioned though thorough hospitals.

 

In the kitchen, at a narrow strip of wood along one wall, bear of feet and in a sarong, I have long returned from the garden where the cool autumnal air rid my bared body of sleep as I swung my arms about and breathed deeply. Refreshed, alive, I now edit my next book, (an autobiography). The second my eyes open I'm impelled to get up, sniff the outside air. It takes me back to my savage, wondrous childhood. My school education was rubbish because I looked out the window dreaming of my friends, the feared warrior tribe we lived amongst.

 

She lead a team of excellent midwives in a top London hospital where she was highly regarded by world renowned doctors. I, a wreck whose Olympic-standard athletic form was destroyed by 7 deadly tropical diseases, have spent twenty years working freelance whenever my low energies allowed me to. Although I gained awards and accolades, I was never well paid. Underpaid, working hard long days and nights in frantic hospitals for 37 years, she retired with relief and a lump sum which paid off our debts and mortgage. 

 

We met in a remote atoll where adults ran in fear from us, the first whites they had ever encountered. After a tough start, she was hailed a saint, having saved many lives where they had always died. When our boat sailed into a lagoon, a hundred or more singing and chanting women clad in colourful clothes welcomed her. One silent, solemn man in white waited for me. I was feared and scorned for introducing education where there’d been none. The simple curriculum I researched and wrote, utterly none-invasive and suited to their culture and needs, was praised by educationalists and the country’s government, but was taken as a threat by mullas, shamans and island leaders who spent an entire night casting a host of spells on me, hoping I'd die.

 

I almost did. Those 7 deadly diseases sent me off to London’s Tropical Medicine Hospital. Deeply annoying the charity employing us, she, now my wife, followed me. For years she has earned more than me and she has cared for me. Chalk and cheese, we live in harmony. I love and appreciate her more and more as they years slip past. Who would have thought we’d ever last, this lad from the wild bush, this refined woman from traditional Middle-England? Yet here we are, the envy of many far wealthier whose relationships have either been rocky, disappointing or have ended.

 

In the autumn of our days, a half naked savage escaping civility with morning rituals akin to Tai Chi and a quietly feisty Amazonian laying upon her piled pillows and dreaming of distant adventures. Ha, life, so unpredictable, so troubled, yet so bounteous!

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