Where are we going?
Ah, yes. Home of the roundabout.
Mr slats the car into a space. We have yellow shirts on, much brighter than the weather. Into the arena we take our flasks of coffee and the usual game plan. The job of a Welfare Officer is to safeguard children and vulnerable adults. The opportunity of a Welfare Officer is to bring a sense of resilience. We say: ‘Let me see… One nose, two eyes, that seems right: is that normal for you?’ They rub their bumped faces. Some giggle, some make the face of You Are Not Funny You Know. They see the fight through and get to be proud of themselves. All this I tell the new lad: he gets it. Listen to them, stay cheerful, be sensible.
‘Not much to do here then,’ he says when the adult divisions start.
‘Be nice to them too,’ I say though I have no doubts about his demeanour. ‘The thing with grown ups’ (and he is listening which is very kind of him) ‘is that there’s sometimes a background story you don't know about. Adults have to deal with a lot: divorce, job loss, bereavements, physical impairments, you just don’t know. And they put a great deal of effort and energy into their training and their competing, we should be respectful of that.’
‘So always be kind,’ he says. “Otherwise they might be discouraged.’
But luckily there isn’t so much to do and no one seems discouraged at all. (Perhaps it is because we are so very kind!)
We retire to our budget hotel, having made the motorway plod down to Weston-super-Mare. We collect the room key from a bearded man we find behind the bar. He needs to write down Mr’s card details, he says, most apologetic.
‘You’d be surprised,’ he explains, ‘the nicest looking people: shirt, tie: the nicest looking people, after six pints, well… They soil the mattress.’
We look to the clientele. They are wearing t-shirts.
‘We will try not to,’ I say and the man who has been squinting at the same news story since we came in rubs his hair.
The bar man laughs.
Mr slams his hand down, it makes them jump. ‘Okay!’ He grins. ‘I’ll do it in five!’
Now they are laughing. Budget hotels are fun.
We have an invitation for dinner and sensible website talk, which does happen. It happens like this: I sit next to Sue on the couch, we have a laptop, she shows me How To stuff. Mr follows Russ on a global tour of various local spirits and sometimes they stop for wine. Dinner is curry, thick and chickeny, with rice. And two puddings, of which we have both. There’s a flux of cats (six in total) and three daughters and four grown ups and a wood burner in the front room where we watch Doctor Who (verdict: the new one is more old school, we like, it’s not an edgy casting choice but he can act) or, mostly watch… Mr, a lapful of cats perhaps to blame, falls asleep. Russ explains that the room itself does emit sleepion particles: ah, so that’s what happened!
Back to the hotel. Mr does a fair job of walking, shortly followed by further sleeping. The light is unusual: all the lit streets outside our room and the noise of the people. I hear heels catching on tarmac, the scrape and the pitch of drunk women. I hear that heel catch, a note from a stranger’s life, a noise that sends an idea of that life, ordinary-unique as we all are. I think I could write something about your life, stranger, I could describe to you what is beautiful about it. I think about writing and dream about a soiled hotel room. In the morning we prop up on pillows and observe that no soiling has taken place. Mr is so very glad he dressed casual.
Fresh coffee goes into mugs and flasks, ready for Blackbelt training. Our turn now to move about and find out what patterns we are best at forgetting.
|(This is not us at the competition, as|
ringside photos are disallowed.
But it is how I think we look.)