Keeping Up Our Holy Spirits!
Time had seemed to slow to that of the pace of an ancient sea turtle on the tropical island. Paul and Andrew had now been in The Philippines for over two months – far longer than they had planned. Their surroundings had grown so familiar and the company so familial, it felt as if the boys had spent years in the western Pacific.
Covid 19 may have imprisoned them on the remote Camotes, but it was hardly ‘Colditz.’ Although the boys did have another great escape plan up their shorts! Sadly, it did not involve a wooden horse or a motorcycle. But there was a dodgy cargo boat and a moonlight flit involved. So there was a touch of ‘The African Queen’ about it. Although that sentence should probably have been pluralised to truly describe their situation.
Paul couldn’t reveal too much of the cunning escapade, as he knew the best laid plans usually failed when laid bare. But it was to happen the following day. And as he sat early morning already perspiring relentlessly in the empty reception, he contemplated the last evening meal he would be burning over the one gas ring in their room, (which had settings ranging from cremate to Chernobyl’, he sighed.
It had certainly been an adventure.
Culinary and otherwise.
They’d made new friends, learnt new skills and so far managed not to acquire a hacking cough and a raging fever, which seemed to be the most important thing to avoid whilst not on the road!
It was all rather alarming though.
Especially if one digested CNN for breakfast. The U.S. channel’s urgent newscasters,over made up, and completely over the top, gave he and Andrew a dreadful fright each morning.
It was as if the world was going to end before the kettle had come to the boil.
Admittedly, there was the regular live press call with the American President, which at least provided some light relief, as Mr Lump chastised the assembled media for asking any questions which he didn’t like or couldn’t answer. Or both!
And occasionally there was a segment called ’thirty seconds of calm’. Although this element of the programming seemed to be reducing by the second. Paul noticed that the last calming waterfall flowed for only twenty two seconds – it seemed there was less and less tranquility on offer in the world. The world of CNN at least. He and Andrew stood it for as long as they could then switched channels. They had tried Fox News but even at Easter time on Eastern Time Paul found it most disconcerting when the host thanked the angels who had come from above to provide them with their next expert guest.
He would never expect that of Fiona Bruce!
But there wasn’t that much which was uplifting from which to choose. They were lucky to have any television at all as most of the simple island simply broadcast seeds.
One morning had Paul watched ‘An Officer And A Gentleman’, followed by ‘Terms Of Endearment’ before the eggs had been fried or scrambled. His emotions had done the same.
It certainly wasn’t the ‘Today’ programme.
He was even missing Piers Morgan!
But only slightly.
Everything was tipsy truly. Perhaps that should have read ‘Topsy Turvy’ – but with the amount of cheap rum being sunk, Paul thought the dumb predictive text app on his iPad had probably made the right prediction for once! Earlier when it had suggested, during a letter to the vice consul at the British Embassy, that he ‘eat her out’ he’d hurriedly made corrections. It had probably been the right decision – although he hadn’t yet met her in person so couldn’t be sure. Perhaps it could hurry things along. But he didn’t want to volunteer.
Not quite yet!
He sat in the reception contemplating buying a San Miguel, although it was terribly early. But he had risen at five. And it was Easter after all. He managed to restrain himself – he didn’t want to be get too high – not on Easter Monday. He thought he‘d leave that to Jesus! It was surely His day to ascend.
Paul would wait religiously until evening.
The day passed over without much happening. There were no Easter eggs to hunt and the only hot cross buns were those down on the beach. And they were going for a thong and were certainly not two a penny.
The sands were practically empty. Other than the odd stray sea dog – human and canine.
The boys had been invited to one of the local’s birthday party, the lovely Tess, who was part of their family run resort. Paul thought it so nice of her to include Andrew and himself that he went and kicked Andrew out of bed following a hefty lunch they’d just stuffed at the restaurant. They had not been remotely hungry but knew it was an honour to be invited into the family home.
It had been fun, even though they had to remain socially distant.
They had no idea it would be the last time any of them would be able to be as close. So instead of an Easter feast it turned out to be somewhat of a last supper.
It must have been the most peaceful Easter Paul and Andrew had ever enjoyed. In some ways it had been most welcome. Especially with the drama that was infecting the world’s airways and airwaves.
Spiritual almost – especially with the cheap rum on offer.
At other moments it was almost crucifyingly dull.
Paul was very glad he had a good book. He hadn’t realised he’d still be deep into his tome about ‘Cicero’s’ time in Ancient Rome after eight weeks. He should have known when the volume had been described as a trilogy. But when reading anything via one’s kindle, it was difficult to imagine just how big or heavy the book might actually be. But of course, the clue was in the title.
There were three of them.
Books that was.
And the subject of politics in Ancient Rome not exactly filled with levity! Despite brevity!
Paul was now finally nearing the end of Caesar’s reign. He thought he would be pleased when the Ides of March eventually approached, but he was beginning to wish the empire would continue for much longer, and he was cursing coming to the end.
’Et Tu Brutus you git’, he thought.
He’d now have to find something else to absorb him.
There was, of course, some new show material to write, but with the current Corona crisis, it seemed as if ‘The Lola Boys’ may never work again. So inspiration came only sporadically.
He and Andrew also had a couple of ideas for some new mock movies to try out – but they both had to be in the mood. The constant heat was stultifying. There was no let up. During the day they baked and at night they roasted. Andrew said he felt like a King Edward potato, Paul plumped for a Desiree, it seemed far more glamorous.
But they weren’t yet cooking with oil. Not creatively.
At least they had the ocean in which to par boil.
Paul was contemplating a dip in nature’s giant chip pan mainly to cleanse his sins. It was now the Thursday following Easter. And he’d imbibed enough Holy Spirit to make him a devout Roman Catholic!
Days later and he was again seated on a mock whicker chair in reception, writing his mock ‘Whicker’ reportage, when Marjorie, the ebullient manageress approached. He knew at once from her sullen expression, the news was not going to be good.
‘I have some news Sir Paul’, she insisted on calling him, ‘it’s from the coastguard.’
‘Yes Marjorie – Do tell’, replied Paul, who had now begun to talk like a colonial dowager aunt, after having been in the tropics for far too long.
He imagined he’d be looking forward to ‘the rains’ next!
He and his partner would probably still be stuck there come typhoon season after all.
Especially if the British Consulate continued with their ineptitude.
‘They inform me, Sir Paul, you cannot go into the water now. The beach is off limits. I have locked the gates. You can remain only on the premises now.’
Marjorie seemed to take it personally when she imparted bad news.which was becoming more regular by the day. It was almost as though she were going to burst into tears.
Paul assured her he would cope.
‘I’m hardly Aquaman after all’ he joshed.
She laughed far too hard, he wasn’t sure she’d caught the reference, but she was happy he had not given her any grief. Paul saw no need, what could she do? She didn’t have a direct line to King Neptune – that was obviously the coastguards’ prerogative.
They obviously knew something no-one else did.
The news had made Paul a little blue.
Perhaps Corona could swim through the ocean waves now. Paul wouldn’t put it past the blasted virus! It seemed to be in control at present. Coming wave after wave.
‘I don’t think you can go to Danao tomorrow either. You and Sir Andrew, (Paul stifled a laugh), will be put in quarantine there. You will not make your flight. I am sure. Cebu has been locked down further as there are many cases today following the Holy Week.’
Holy shit! Thought Paul. Their latest plan had just been blown out of the water which they were no longer allowed to enter.
Their hope had been to take a car, along with a special letter, hopefully provided by the Embassy. Run a couple of checkpoints and hit the airport on Lapu Lapu. (The island on which Ferdinand Magellan had met his fate – and not a place where Paul wanted to be stranded with any restless natives even in the twenty first century!).
From there they were to fly, in the opposite direction to home, to South Korea. In Seoul they were to transit, for far too many hours, and spend Andrew’s big birthday in a small departure lounge, before flying on to London.
They’d had no idea quite what they would do when they got to Heathrow, but they would have had many hours to work it at thirty six thousand feet.
Unfortunately, it transpired that ‘Holy Week’ had been a rather social event on Cebu, despite a strict quarantine being in place. A few of those under curfew had lifted it themselves and met up to partake of the Holy Spirit – apparently they’d shared more than a few bottles of the stuff! This had caused a large spike in the virus.
Nearly thirty cases just that morning.
All in one tiny area.
It did not bode well. There was no way anyone was going to allow the boys to cross through the unfolding drama that was Cebu City. Besides it was as clear as Holy water they were probably much safer where they were.
One day we’ll fly away ….
Despite having no access to hard cash, as the ‘Western Union’ had still not been resurrected, Paul and Andrew could add to their burgeoning bill at the resort in which they were jailed by credit card. Although the confinement was becoming more and more solitary, the inmates were friendly. And they were at least able to go over the wall for the essentials – cigarettes, alcohol and bottled water.
Andrew was to be fifty on Saturday.
Paul was racking his brains to make the day special. He had been going to throw him a secret party with the ten other prisoners and their charming guards – but now the new quarantine rules made that well nigh impossible.
It would have to be an intimate affair.
Paul was considering throwing a party online.
A Facebook party – live from the inside of he and Andrew’s little pink house.
Fifty was a milestone after all and if Andrew couldn’t be mid air he could at least be on air!
And with their booty from the outside – they would at least be in good spirits.
Probably, most unholy.
Easter was now, after all, just like Caesar, ancient history!
They came, they saw, they concurred – a party was just what they needed.
Even if it were just for two!