I am back and alive. When I arrived at my destination by boat last Sunday morning, a Turkish man who had taken a particular shine to Tom when we were there ran over to me gesturing ‘small person’ and fixing me with a quizzical gaze. I felt guilty and had to grab a translator to explain that I had not completely abandoned him. We only spent two days there, but Tom had made a big impression – people kept introducing me: “Remember that cool kid who was dancing on the bar? This is his Mum.”
It was strange being back there without him, but when I spoke to him on the phone, he was busy and happy and could visualise exactly where I was (sadly the tortoise who lives by the toilets was elusive, so I couldn’t keep my promise to say hello.) I wrote loads. I found the perfect desk in the shade in an al fresco library and the words just flowed.
On Saturday night, when I returned to the port, I had a few hours to kill before my flight. I spent some time loitering outside a tattoo parlour and chickened out, then decided I had better pick up some gifts. I heard the usual shouts of “Lady, lady” as I wandered around and paid no attention, but one shopkeeper came running after me and tapped me on the shoulder.
“Lady!” he said, catching his breath, “Where is my beautiful boy?!”
He’d let us wait in his air-conditioned shop for the boat when we were there in June and hadn’t tried to sell us anything. Tom had drawn him a picture, which, it emerged, he had hung on the wall. I had photographed the two of them, beaming and he had asked me to email him the photo to keep. I had thought it a bit strange and forgotten, but he really was completely harmless…
“Your son, you took picture with me and said you would send. Every day I check computer and it is not there. You forget?”
“Yes, I forgot. I’m really sorry.” I said, remembering the exact page his email address is scrawled on in my notebook.
“Where is he?”
“He’s with his grandmother.”
“When you see your son, please give him big kiss from me. And do not forget photograph.”
“Your son, he is very happy child, like sunshine.”
“Thank you for remembering,” I said, still shocked; he must see thousands of tourists every day.
I flew with sea water in my ear and ended up arriving back in Manchester in agony. My punishment for refusing to go to bed on the last night and swimming under the stars. Standing outside a Salford chemist where they serve you through a metal hatch, shivering, with sea-shaggy hair and black eye bags, wearing flip-flops, writhing about in the worst pain I have had since labour was a low moment. A few minutes later, I was codeine-soothed and off to sleep. When Tom came back, he insisted on bringing me a constant stream of glasses of water and cuddly toys. He really does look after me.
There’s an interesting debate over at Jenn Ashworth’s blog about blogging pitfalls. Some time ago, I was offered the chance to write a book about the back story of this blog. I toyed with the idea for a long time, feeling strange about privacy and stuff. I have finally decided I need to tell the story though and I have grasped the right way to go about it. I found the perfect point to begin while I was away and got going with it. Now I can say, with confidence (and a little nervousness) that – ahem – my book will be coming out next summer. There you go. I’ve said it now…