Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Yet more first-world problems

From the beginning, I suspected that it was going to be a less-than-ideal and stressful summer.

I hate being right.

See, I had a four-week house-sit set up for my annual visit to Victoria, BC where I can visit Demeter daily, have plenty of elbow room, and pretend I don't live in Ottawa.

These are people for whom I've house-sat four previous times.  They have recently downsized and frankly, I was a little surprised to hear from them, as they have sworn that they have to give up their annual boat trip on the Salish Sea.  Still, I was thrilled when they suggested I house-sit, and booked my airline tickets so as to arrive early enough to get my key and marching orders, and to leave a few days after the house-sit ended, because Demeter prefers that I don't go rushing off.

One week before my departure, we had our weekly "Skype date" with Demeter, who said:  "I have bad news."

Turns out the wife of the couple had been sick for six weeks.  First I'd heard of this; first Demeter had heard of it as well -- she only picked up the news in passing at church. Apparently Ailing Wife had spent the time hoping she would improve; her doctor had no idea what the problem was, but it involved a host of unpleasant symptoms.  I'll spare you.

This put us in a bit of a bind.  I find more than a week under my mother's roof a bit suffocating (don't you ever tell her this), and to complicate things further, my cousin from California and her teenaged son were coming up for a rare-as-hen's-teeth four-day visit mid-month.  This would coincide with the Resident Fan Boy's and younger daughter's two-and-a-half weeks' stay in Victoria.  My mother has one spare room in her apartment and may sign up for the downstairs guest suite on a first-come-first-served basis, but it only provides sleeping accommodations for four people and that's only if they sleep two-a-bed.

Demeter hurried down to the guest suite and quickly signed in the required dates -- except someone had already signed up for one night.  We started discussing bed-and-breakfast (bloody expensive for more than a few nights), and a friend from church had offered us the use of her air mattress.  Ailing Wife was making noises about going away for short trips, and said their guest room was available to us at any time.  Trouble is, I hated the idea of getting under the feet of a sick Leo, especially in a downsized house.

There was nothing for it but to come out to Victoria and see what emerged.  I decided to be philosophical -- with fifteen summers of house-sits, it's a miracle that this hasn't happened more often. Besides, aside from the lack of elbow-room, the only real challenge would be five nights:  the already-booked night plus the four nights of the California cousins.

And things went well.  Ailing Wife tried a two-day boat trip, then a four-day boat trip, and found them invigorating, so they planned a five-day trip that covered the problematic nights.  We felt a bit transient, moving back and forth between Demeter's condo and the downsized house (which was charming, by the way), but we reminded ourselves that this was really a classic "first-world problem".

Speaking of first-world problems, the Californian cousins were a delight, in their dreamy, laid-back Golden-State fashion.  They drove Demeter only slightly batty by disappearing and giving no indication of when they'd be back, and puzzled us slightly by being worn out by walking, but insistent on their regimens of Tai Chi and swimming.  We took them on one of the Ghostly Walks, toured Butchart Gardens, finishing with a splendid tea, and wandered around the rocky rim of Beacon Hill Park.

The last activity took place on their final afternoon.  We returned after five pm, and discovered that somehow, they had failed to book the bus for their crossing to Vancouver -- from whence their cruise ship to Alaska was departing the very next day.  However, dreamy Californians seem to have rather more alert angels watching over them.  They managed to book a flight on one of the harbour-to-harbour water planes - I had researched those, in addition to the ferries -  and got charged only five dollars each for overweight baggage.

They even got a last-minute hotel room.

("I have bad news," said Demeter.)

It seems that Demeter, in the confusion of the all the comings and goings, had crossed out a week's worth of guest-suite reservations, but didn't discover this until an upstairs neighbour came to claim the guest-suite keys for the cousins' final night in Victoria -- fortunately there had been no one wanting the suite earlier in the week.

As the blessed cousins flew out - teenaged son thrilled by the experience of a float-plane trip; his mother less so - we set about the business of cleaning our house-sit, before scooting to an outdoor matinée performance of Twelfth Night.  We discovered on the way that we were short of money, so had to hike to a bank machine, then realized that younger daughter had left her bus pass behind.

Matinées for the Victoria Shakespeare Festival are a new idea and not particularly a good idea.  In the rush of the morning, both the Resident Fan Boy and younger daughter had forgotten to apply sunscreen, and were decidedly sunburned, younger daughter for the very first time.  I was sunscreened, sun-hatted, long-sleeved, trousered -- rather heat-exhausted by the time we struggled back to the house-sit to call a taxi and transport our bags back to Demeter's condo, where she greeted us with:  "I have bad news."

The week she'd crossed off included our Saturday night as well, and the upstairs neighbour had claimed the guest suite for her own visitors, leaving the Resident Fan Boy and me with no bed for the night.

Demeter was close to tears as the RFB and I started searching for a hotel.

"How could I have been so stupid?" she repeated.  She'd phoned the friend with an air mattress, and left a message on her voice mail.

"She'll be away for the weekend," she said dispiritedly.

"Let's see if that's really the case,"  I suggested, in the brightest tone I could manage between heat exhaustion and the realization that the angels watching over our California cousins were evidently busy trailing them to Alaska.  All hotels booked solid.

At this point, the phone rang.  Air Mattress Friend was coming to our rescue.

We took her to dinner.

The air mattress was a thing of wonder, with an plug-in pump to inflate it.  It was hell to climb into and out of.

Yet another first-world problem.

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