I don’t remember the dream, but I’m pretty sure it was a good one. The sense of disappointment when it was shattered by my phone’s alarm was proof of that. I tried to grab at the last few tendrils of memory, but they slipped into permanent shadow. My body knew it wasn’t meant to be awake. I moved slowly.
I made it to the tube on time, but nearly missed the bus. It wasn’t where it should have been. It wasn’t immediately apparent. It was dark and damp on Baker St as I stood pounding postcodes and streets into my phone, trying to work out where I should be to grab the coach to Stansted. Bus after bus drove by, always the wrong one, each leaving a cavernous echo along the empty street. I looked over at the Sherlock Holmes museum when the correct address popped up on my phone, and ran a few streets over to where I should have been waiting in the first place. The coach was there, and waited for me as I huffed and puffed my bag into the locker.
I slept and we were there. My bag wasn’t overweight, even with a bottle of Barolo wrapped tight in a protective but otherwise superfluous beach towel. Stansted always seems unfinished to me. There was quite a lot of work going on. I bought gin for Andy and Kirsten and some breakfast for myself. My gate was called and I walked by the bar to join the queue for boarding and I quite fancied a Guinness.
I slept on the plane. Well, I kept my eyes closed anyway. We landed early and so those ridiculous Ryanair trumpets sounded. My bag popped out early and Andy was there and so we headed into Girona for lunch. Basque tapas at a restaurant near the vine-clad elevated train line. The vines that clad it looked skeletal and dead in the winter light, though they were only sleeping. The restaurant wouldn’t open for another 10 minutes and so Andy and I cracked a beer while the kids climbed about in the playground. I’m not sure we could have been more scheme-y if we’d tried. Andy took Angus to use the toilet so of course Theo fell and hurt himself. He bawled and would not be comforted. So there I was, stood by a playground, trying to comfort a screaming 5 year-old while holding a can of Estrella’s double malted beer. He was having none of it until his dad came back. I was worried about getting looks from the parents in the playground, but no one cared. There was no disapproving glance at either the screaming child nor the ever-lighter can of beer in my right hand. I nearly offered Theo a sip. Then Andy returned and Theo’s wails descended to whimpers and finally he realised it wasn’t so bad after all. Tears wiped dry, the restaurant opened and we went in for lunch.
They poured us Txacoli into beakers from a great height and then we helped ourselves to the seemingly endless tapas dishes displayed around us. It was a modern building but the interior had been done to look like an taverna. Behind the bar that displayed the food was a large cut-out barrel end, foudre size, with a tap at the bottom. I guessed the tap was dry. We ate and drank Txacoli and the boys mostly behaved and then we got more food and drank more Txacoli. I noticed on the second round that the bottle had a spigot on the end of it, to facilitate the pouring from a great height, which released a satisfying spritz.
Sated, we left in search of ice cream, but the ice cream place we wanted was closed. So we crossed the river and I got a glimpse of Girona’s strange cathedral. Asymmetrical, daunting and monolithic, it looked like something out of fantasy. Perhaps a defensive keep rather than a church.
We found a frozen yoghurt bar that did goat milk stuff and lots of toppings. The chocolate sauce was the sort that hardened, so that you had to crack it like an egg shell. It seemed strange eating something so cold in January. We ate and walked around the narrow streets in the old town.
Dessert finished, we found the car and drove to France.