The Awakening Chapter 7: Gardening lesson & wildlife discussions

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Part I: The Awakening

Chapter 7: Gardening lesson & wildlife discussions

Between my arrival in Liverpool and Alice’s graduation party were a couple of days meant to mark my ‘initiation’ in her family’s lifestyle. She actually needed me as a full time babysitter only after a month or so had passed. She wanted me to have time to familiarize myself with everything, which meant that I’d be quite relaxed for a couple of weeks, but which also meant that I’d not sit on my rear end, but help her out in a couple of tasks which needed to be done. Of course, I knew that even before getting to Britain and it suited me just fine. Why should I mind having more time to explore, before I had to actually take up the job real seriously?

Even on my first day out there, on a Sunday, me, Mark and little James went for a walk through the neighborhood, up to an allotment-filled patch of land not far from their home. It was the first time I’d seen or heard of such a great use of city space — allotments are basically patches of green land within a city’s limits which are bought or sometimes handed out to denizens of the city in order for them to play at gardening and thus reconnect with nature. Instead of having just parks near your home (of which Britain has plenty, don’t worry), you’d have an even more greener space, more often than not with plenty of colors coming from all those flowers, vegetables and fruit trees which are usually planted in such a garden’s soil.

On that first Sunday, after breakfast,  Mark rounded me and James up for a “fun activity”, as he put it at the time. The three of us exited the house through a small door at the side of their kitchen and entered a small backyard filled with flower pots and all kinds of gardening utensils. Clearly having done that before, James jumped into a wheelbarrow lying in the middle of the backyard and awaited enthusiastically to be pushed around the neighborhood by either me or Mark. We took turns in doing just that, handling the wheelbarrow with care so it didn’t capsize and after a while we reached the said allotments. And my, they were a sight to behold!

“Mark, how come you have such a marvel within the city limits?” I asked, curiously.

“Well, the city council sells these patches of land to whomever wishes to buy them. It is not just in our city, but pretty much every other town and city in the UK. We make of them what we want, some plant vegetables, some flowers. As you can see, most of these green patches of land have something in common though: trees, as many as possible. The actual configuration of the land, the types of plants each owner has depends on personal choice and varies greatly. Some people have small sheds in which a couple of persons could actually sleep during summer days and most of them choose to built such sheds themselves, thus trying out and augmenting their build-master skills” he answered.

“Oh, that is great indeed. I’ve never heard of allotments before! And are there more areas like this in Liverpool?” I asked.

Mark said that there were plenty of them in Liverpool and the whole UK: “But for now let’s focus on ours right here in front of us. I’ve some work to do around here and you can help me, but the two of us have to keep an eye on James as well, you know. As much as I admire him for being daddy’s good boy, there are a couple of things which could go wrong around here, hurting him. You know, tools, crappy-built fences, stuff like that.”

“I’ll keep an eye on him, don’t worry! But show me what you need help with around here” I said.  ⇒⇓

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We got to work right away. The soil was real muddy as it had rained a lot before my arrival in Liverpool, but as Mark instructed us before exiting the house, the three of us had work clothes so it did not matter in the least if we got real dirty. Amongst other stuff, Mark needed me to unearth some beetroots and some carrots – which I had no experience with but managed just fine – while he worked around a small, ‘cozy’ greenhouse he had built in the middle of the allotment. In there he had some quite-funny-shaped tomatoes, but which in turn looked and smelt real ‘bio’, to express myself like some health enthusiast. After finishing our first tasks respectively, we moved on to some other tasks he needed done and which required an extra pair of hands. It sure did feel nice helping him out! All the while, James had fun with some little pebbles he kept throwing in a small pond formed between and beneath two adjoining allotments. We adults kept watch so that James did nothing perilous, but no incident occurred. Mark and I spent like two hours or so accomplishing different gardening tasks (which was more than I had ever spent in a garden before), after which we packed up our stuff and headed back towards home.

James found some orange flowers on the side of the path leading out of the allotments area and, without asking, stopped to pick some out, for his mummy, undoubtedly. Me and Mark stopped as well and chatted for a bit:

“You know, Luck, these gardens of ours help all of us to reconnect with nature, which is great, of course, but for me, as a bird-watcher kind of guy, they mean even more. All throughout the year you can spot so many types of birds that you can hardly keep track of all of them. It’s a bird watcher’s paradise, I’m tellin’ ya’! And the most beautiful thing is that down in Sheffield, where I have to commute daily to reach my work place…there I encounter, apart from the usual birds found all throughout Britain, a couple of some more rarer species of birds. It’s great for me, you know?” Mark said to me.

“Well, I’m happy to hear that you’ve got so good an opportunity to spot birds. It must help you greatly to understand their lives better. In my country, for some reason or the other, there seems to be a problem in this particular wildlife area,” I said, looking kind of upset. “Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m overreacting or not seeing the whole picture, but in the last few years I seem to have encountered less and less birds, especially the migratory ones. I could swear there were more of them a couple of years back. You know, the area in which I live ought to be great for any wild creature, so it doesn’t make any sense. It’s like they avoid us for some reason, probably pollution or stupid people acting destructive towards nature. But I can’t say that it’s near that bad. Yeah, people keep doing stupid things all across the country, but there’s still a lot of places which feel, I duno, untouched. Maybe it just appears to be so, I’m just saying…it worries me…”

“I don’t know the situation over there in your country, but what you’re saying may very well be true. We, in Britain…we kinda destroyed our environment ’cause of all that industrialization. We’re proud and all that to be the first industrial nation in the world, but the pollution caused by the stupid industrial expansion polluted a lot and up until the 70s-80s the situation was dire, very dire. It almost seemed like we found ourselves in a man-caused disaster of catastrophic proportions. By all means, we did our best to redress to situation, but even as we’re speaking not all the consequences are gone away. And it all has to do with plants and trees, everything is connected, ya’ know? The more and diverse the flora is, the more wild animals we can have. Especially birds. So you see, that’s one reason we so love these allotments of ours. We regard them as live-giving, wild life enhancing gardens, which of course, we also use as our personal farmer markets” Mark said.  ⇒⇓

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Mark continued to explain to me what exactly had been happening in Britain for the past few decades, all in order to undo the mistakes the whole populace kept doing for even more decades. The way he spoke made me smile. He spoke like some botanist-wildlife-nature-activist, passionately, but not furiously so. He understood why people acted dumb and, well, forgave them their folly. He did his best to study and help wildlife, and oh my!…those birds of his were pretty important for the whole life-chain in Britain. He explained it clearly, how everything was important, starting from the worm and the insects most people hated. Of course, he had a particular passion for birds, of all living beings. But it was not like he knew little of other species. In fact, he knew much of everything concerning wildlife, be it botanical or animal alike. That detail about him made me appreciate him more and more, the more he spoke. And it was not like I was some greenhorn when it came to wildlife, I knew quite a lot myself, but he managed to further initiate me into the subject.

James had finished producing a lovely bouquet of flowers for Alice and gave me one too: “Luck, here’s some flowers for you!” he said, handing over a little bouquet made up of orange and lilac flowers.

“Oh, thank you little chap!” I said, kissing him on his forehead. “As a matter of fact, I like lilac, purplish and violet colored flowers best…and I also enjoy the color orange pretty much, so you nailed it! Thanks, James!” I also said, not acting like I appreciated it, but actually appreciating his gesture. “I think your mummy will love your bouquet even more than I do!” I added, beaming.

We continued on along the narrow path and got to a playground bordering the allotments. After spending half an hour or so in the playground, enjoying himself, James hopped into the wheelbarrow again and we resumed our walk towards back home, all full of vegetables, flowers and, well, a lot of dirt and mud. We reached a tiny Turkish shop, which as most such shops did, had some fresh fruits on display just outside the shop window.

“Daddy, look, bananas! I want some yellowy bananas!” little James said, looking at those bananas like they were some very rare fruits he never or just very seldom had eaten before. As James told me, in fact it had been a while since they had last bought bananas, so, possibly, for such a small child that length of time must’ve felt like ages, I thought. Obviously enough, Mark bought some of those bananas and the three of us ate two of them each as we continued walking towards home.

When we reached their house, I noticed that the street’s name was ‘Druid’s-something-Road’ and that in the area there were a few more alleys, closes and gardens whose names contained ‘druid’ in some form or another. I took joy in observing that insignificant (for some) detail, as the fantasy fan inside me got himself thinking of Arthur, Merlin, the Round Table, tournaments and of course, druids of legend – druids, which apart from being part of Celtic mythology, were actual high ranking members of the Celtic people in Britain, Ireland and Gaul during the Dark Ages. The real druids had no magic powers, of course, they were no wizards as the mythology makes them look like, but they existed alright and were in fact poets, doctors or law-makers. I really delighted myself in noticing all the little details in Britain which pointed to some historic or mythological events and figures. And there are a lot of the bastards, believe you me!

We knocked on the door and Alice opened it for us. Little James handed her the flower bouquet and she was, naturally enough, charmed by her son’s thinking of bringing her flowers. “Thank you so much, darling!”

Chapter 8

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The Awakening Chapter 6: “Beatles-fever” or how Liverpool knows how to party

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Part I: The Awakening

Chapter 6: “Beatles-fever” or how Liverpool knows how to party

No Beatles fan should miss Liverpool. I don’t know how many of them there are right now in the world, I for one don’t really count among them, but from what I hear it’s still a significant, imposing-kind-of-number. The British, while they may not be all be fans of a 55-year-old-beat- music-band or the genre The Beatles pretty much created and sent swingingly in the whole wide world, they are of course familiar with the beat music and  respect The Beatles’ legacy. The beat music genre, better know as Mersey-beat to Liverpudlians (I know, I know, it sounds creepy & sooo sad…), so named after the English county of Merseyside, (just don’t expect to be able to pronounce Merseyside like the Liverpudlians do, as it’s an impossibly queer-sounding, ear-damaging kind of pronunciation), county in which Liverpool lies , is a local name for the beat music the bands around Liverpool used to sing in the 60s. And believe me, the city does nothing else but remind you of all those bands! Primarily of The Beatles, naturally, but of other bands as well. Liverpool is good at reminding the world about its music and, more ghastly, about the Titanic, the all-famous sinking-boat registered in the city.

That being said about Liverpool and its music scene (officially long dead, but somehow alive & kicking), we move over to the multicultural aspect of the city. Considering that so many Beatles fans keep visiting it, you’d think that the city was full of foreigners. But no, because while Liverpool boasts the oldest Black African community as well as the oldest Chinese community in Europe, it is nowadays nowhere near as multicultural as London is. There are a lot of tourists and around the University of Liverpool it sure does get much more multicultural than in the rest of the city, but in general Liverpool is inhabited mostly by White British citizens. I’m mentioning this because my host, Alice, took me to her graduation ceremony and the party thereafter, so I got to experience some Liverpool multiculturalism first-hand. Alice had fellow students from all over the world, not few of which were friends of her. She seemed to get along with everybody, which was to be expected, seeing as how she was a very likable person.

The final ceremony took place in the Unity Theater, not far from the University of Liverpool. It was not exactly the most imposing of theaters, but all those people who entered it, professors, students, parents and other guests alike (one of which was I) made the very spacious interior feel alive and welcoming. Even though the students and the parents came from all over the world, most of them were white with only a handful of blacks or Asians. Among them, a very proud and rich looking family of Indians stole the show, as they were all dressed up the most ceremoniously possible their exotic culture permitted them. And the Indian culture sure allows A LOT of space for experimentation when it comes to style and coloring; one could even call it unlimited space for experimentation. Something like: go as craziest as possible, as long as you attract the most attention in the building, stealing the show! In that family, it was actually the student who was the most western-looking of the bunch and even he was pretty colorful. Imagine what the other members of the family looked like! Especially the father, who, even if a little less colorful than his wife and their other teenager sons and daughters, had they most ostentatious decorations on his clothes. It was like his clothes in and of themselves were decorations, not that they were decorated.

As opposed to such foreigners, Alice dressed herself up and did her hair in one of the most extravagant-looking, but at the same time decent and full of taste British-looking festive-attires I had ever seen from up close. A red velvet dress, neither too short nor too long, accessorized by some stylish, dress-matching high heels and a small, fanciful leather hand bag. Her earrings were hard to spot from a distance because of their small dimensions, but from up close they looked great on her, resembling some tiny intertwined stars. Her apparel was overall blemishless, that much was true. 

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In the large hall of the theater the students were occupying the first rows, then came the parents and a couple of professors (most of whom were standing on the stage, not seated in the audience), after whom followed the rest of the guests, such as I, Mark and little James were. The two of them were family, but they wanted to sit more high up anyhow, and besides, they didn’t want to leave me by myself. James was, as usually, on his best behavior, with only the smallest and most insignificant of problems caused during the entire day he spent with us, around the university and in the theater. He kept asking for liquids though, either water, juice, tea or anything else his father managed to find for him at a given time in a certain location.

The students were dressed in the usual black robes with the funny hats sitting on top of their full-of-medical-terminology heads and as each of them awaited his or her turn, they further advanced down the row and were awarded diplomas and other papery stuff and were of course praised, congratulated, hugged, kissed and so on. None of them were criticized, probably mostly because the organizers did not want anyone to feel bad that day. Though some of them must’ve felt just the opposite of that, namely too ‘all-mighty’ from all those praises they kept receiving. When Alice’s turn came up, she was announced as one of the best students in the University’s recent history, which was quite an achievement, seeing as how the University of Liverpool’s Dentistry School was among the leading ones in the UK, and, on top of that, she’d just had a baby while most of the other students did not. I didn’t think that she was one of those who felt too proud of herself, though. She smiled graciously and received her award, a diploma, a bouquet of flowers and some warm, warm kisses from a couple of professors. She failed to mention to me that she was so good in her field of expertise, but she generally did not brag about her life. Actually, as she later told me, during the first year she had been a mess, detail which now gets me thinking about my own failure of a first year of college…

After all students were awarded stuff and congratulated, a Scottish professor, the dean or some other high-ranking ‘official’ of the School of Dentistry found his way on the stage. His name contained the customary Scottish Mac’ or Mc’ particle, just like Paul McCartney of The Beatles – so often used over there in the Highlands – and which sounded so, so drôle. . The actual name slips my memory, but anyhow, his funny name did match up with his general way of being and of speaking. In fact, he had such a funny accent and such a hilarious way of addressing himself towards the audience, that each of us in the audience could barely contain himself/herself from LOL’ing in our seats. The Mc’ character was the most preeminent of all dentistry professors who were present that day and everyone seemed to respect him. Soon, after clearing his voice, he started his speech, in that Scottish accent of his:

  • “Dear colleagues and students, mothers and fathers, girlfriends and boyfriends, *Bagginses and Boffins, Tooks and Brandybucks*…”( the delightful partial quote from The Lord of the Rings, namely from Bilbo’s speech during his anniversary, wowed almost everybody, apart from some confused parents who were not familiar with Tolkien’s novel)…”ahem”, he continued, “as well as any friends of yours who may have joined us today (not in matrimony, mind ya’)”, at which point everybody laughed again, “I most heartily welcome you all!!!”
  • “As you may know, we are one of the leading schools of dentistry in the country — (in fact, the best, don’t let yourselves be fooled by those ‘envious know-it-all bastards’ from other universities in our fair country) — “and”, he forged ahead, “we proudly continue to do our best in order to train and feed even more hungry minds who wish to become excellent dentists. It is not an easy job, being a dentist, as you all know, ’cause apart from being a branch of medicine (which is very complex in its entirety — and pretty messy, scary, macabre and overall too bloody-an-affair), being a dentist means working all day long in a cavernous, dark, wet and often quite disgusting environment: our pacients’ mouths!” at which point the audience burst into tears (of laughter) 🙂
  • “It is not an easy task, your children and friends do, ’cause while you may like to kiss your partners, —  note: we care only about mouth-to-mouth kisses, the other kinds are not part of our résumés! — you’d not want to do that just as much (*if at all*) if your partner were to have some crappy teeth. Our job and only care in the world is to make sure your love life is more enjoyable, and of course, on the side, no strings attached, to help you get rid of that excruciating teeth pain. From time to time we might even help you get a new job ’cause of that cute smile and refreshing breath you so hard worked your asses off to pay for, but we won’t hold you to it! It’s our job and we’re proud if it! We’ll take most of your money, you get to kiss one another! Great deal, ain’t that right?” at which point hardly anyone was not finding it difficult not to laugh like some maniac.
  • He solemnly continued: “People still haven’t completely understood why and how to properly clean said teeth, so now I’m gonna do yet another part of my job description (part which comes close to resembling one of those innervating TV ads) and tell you to start caring more about your teeth! Care for them like they were your own! Indubitable, you doing just that, caring about your dental health, might mean us honorable-dentists loosing our good-paying jobs, but I am confident we’d find something else to fill our time with, such as knitting kilts or riding unicorns! Such is the ‘official animal’ of my home-country, Scotland, and, as stupid as it may sound, I’ve believed in them for most of my childhood, just as some ‘scientists‘, ahem, ‘geniuses‘ still believe the Loch Ness monster actually exists!” he said, in a tone as if he was preaching to people the no-unicorn, no-Nessie religion. Imagine how I felt when I realized that the Scotts wrongfully worship unicorns!”
  • Awkwardly awesome speech, for a grown-up of his reputation! He knew how to entice the audience, he knew that a boring speech was not what some parents traveled for so long a distance to hear. But I guess he got his reputation by actually being a good dentist and a good professor, not by word-power alone! Anyhow, he ended his speech with the following: “Enjoy this graduation day, go to the party and don’t eat too much candies! Cheers!” 🙂

During that speech of his he had been in a continuous state of smiling, and, after he was done, he went in a hurry to freshen up with some tea or something. The audience burst into applause,  not solely because of his ‘useful & precious’ ‘advice’, but also because of his accent and the charismatic way in which he spoke, like a true Scott. He wore no kilt though, to everybody’s disappointment!  (Crocodile-tears all around the place) :))

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The whole after-party which took place in a huge hall in one of the buildings of the university was, miraculously enough, the 60s & The Beatles themed. Who would have guessed that in Liverpool such a party could ever take place??? It was nice enough even for the ones who were not into The Beatles and the whole Mersey-beat stuff, but it was clearly a bit boring for little James, who was into some other kind of music, of which we’ll talk some other time. There was a lot of stuff to eat and drink, meant to fit everyone’s tastes, a couple of beverages never before seen or heard of by me and an even longer list of bonkers food items. The speakers resounded in all that 60’s music and the people, curiously enough, managed to understand each other in that noise.

Some of the students were clearly ‘initiates’ of the beat music and kept showing off in front of all the others, not privy to those, well, in fact not so complex moves. The atmosphere was great, even for one such as myself, not quite a party-person and a complete stranger in that university crowd. Alice, dressed, of course, in the distinguished garb I’d previously mentioned (which, by the way, was 60’s themed), did her job well and introduced me to some friends of her, so after that I’ve chatted up a bit I soon ceased feeling like a total stranger. I began feeling like a simple stranger, not a total one 🙂 Why is it that I should’ve felt like that, since I got an invitation from one of the most acclaimed students of that year’s promotion, hm?

In the evening, for all the professors and the parents, as well for anyone else who felt rather like listening to some classical music instead of all those 60’s beats, took place a George Frideric Händel concert. Baroque music suited me just fine, as when I was of James’ age I kept hearing two kinds of music in my parent’s house: classical music, which of course included Händel and all the other big names, and disco-pop music of the 80’s, with the likes of Modern Talking, Bad Boys Blue, Fancy or C.C.Catch. I would’ve loved a 80’s themed party instead of a beat music themed one, but I had to make the most of what I had. At least the second ‘party’, the Händel concert, was more to my liking.

Mark and James accompanied me, while Alice stayed with her friends for some more chatting. We went to the Opera and, for an hour and a half or so, we listened to some great orchestra playing two concerts by Händel. I could not say which ones those were, as I’ve always been more into actual listening, rather than keeping track of thousands upon thousands of vaguely named compositions of an extensive list of composers.

The day ended with us three taking a cab home. I have no idea when Alice got home that night or if it could technically still be called ‘that day’. It was more probably the next day at some point around sunrise. The whole day went exactly as I expected it to go, seeing as how we were in Liverpool. I pretty much guessed beforehand that there would be some kind of Beatles-tribute, even though I did not know how it would materialize itself. But what I did not suspect was that it would be quite fun for someone like me, that such a professor would speak and that there will also be a classical concert.

I told Mark that never before had I previously encountered such a professor and wondered if Alice had him as her teacher for some classes. Mark said:

“Yeah, he is something, but you should’ve seen one of my professors. You know, studyin’ and talkin’ about birds all the time may make you…well…aerial, dreamy, I dunno, in any case, willy-nilly not in your right minds. I hope I don’t get to be so when I get older! And yeah, Alice had him as her professor and she kept talking about him on many occasions.”

“I’m pretty sure you won’t, Mark, you seem like a down-to-earth kind of guy. Those drolly professors might be entertaining enough, that much is true, but they must be a little crazy in order to get such as they are,” I said.

“Eh, maybe we all need a little bit of nutsy-bits inside us, so we don’t get too boring, ya’ know?”

“Yeah, I do. But we’re not boring, right?” I asked.

“Nah, we’re nowhere near that, I think,” he answered, smilingly.

Anyhow, thank God that day finally ended, as I was so tired after such a long and eventful day…and besides, those feet of mine were having a hard time not bursting into tears. If they could cry, that is. I wonder how Alice felt when she got home. Probably much worse than me. Each and every day something else much too alluring for me to refuse kept coming up. I kept accepting each challenge which popped up, knowing that my feet, which stood little chance of healing, were less important at the moment. Experiencing new stuff was more important. Period.

Chapter 7

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The Awakening Chapter 5: Of teddy-bears & nursery rhymes

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Part I: The Awakening

Chapter 5: Of teddy-bears & nursery rhymes

It was Sunday morning around 10 o’clock when I woke up from my slumber. I found myself in a neat, warm-looking room, certainly spacious enough for my needs. I slept in a superposed bed, but not of the usual kind, where two people can sleep, each on a different level. This one had just the top level and beneath me there was a desk I could use for writing. I had never before seen such a contraption and I really liked it.

I woke up not of my own volition, but because I heard some noise coming from somewhere around my bed. As I raised my head from underneath the sheets and looked down, there he stood, little James. He was playing with some toy soldiers and made little perceivable noise while at it. Fact is, I was the one to blame for my waking-up, not him, as I was hypersensitive to any noises, no matter how insignificant.

James’ hair was a bright, gold resembling blond. With his blue, shiny eyes of his, you’d think he was adopted and that his parents were some blue-eyed Scandinavians. His hair was short, but extremely fluffy and soft to the touch, a real delight to one’s hand. He had a red spot on his forehead, above his left-eye, which seemed like an Indian symbol or something. Alice later on told me that James was born with it and that it really made his granny proud seeing such a symbol on her son’s offspring, as it somewhat pointed out to her distant family’s heritage and religion.

He was of average height for his age. I could not appreciate what his height was in neither the metric, nor the imperial measuring system, as I was never good with calculations of that sort. But he did not look chubby and he was certainly not skinny. Actually, he looked pretty strong for a three-and-a-half-year-old. I know it is not customary to think of such a small child as, well, strong and muscular, but as I came to find out, this was in fact a trait of his which helped him to rapidly gather all his toys and put them in their different boxes and containers.

He was extremely well behaved and he never made a mess in the house. His mother told me as much when we discussed him over the Internet, but I did not imagine his abilities to be quite so…perfect. Even now, after years have passed, it still amazes me when I think of him. Probably the good behavior lessons which his mother taught him were the reasoning behind his tiny-man-muscles. But muscles all the same they were! If one keeps gathering toys daily, some of which quite heavy, well, one might become fit. Ahem, I imagine he won’t need to visit a fitness club any time soon!

James had seen my mug beforehand and had been told that he will meet me at some point or another That is why when he saw me get out of bed with that sleepy mug of mine it did not startle him in the least. Brave kid! Confidently, James asked me:

“Do you know where mine green-eyed teddy-bear is?”

“I’m afraid not, but we’ll search for it together, if you will!” I answered.

“Oh, I cannot find it. Help me. Maybe you can. Are you my new babysitter?” he asked.

“Yes, indeed I am. Glad to see that you recognize me from the pictures your mother showed you!”

“Yeah, mummy told me a nice person is coming and I always listen to mine mummy. If you are nice, than I…help me find mine teddy, please!” James said, pronouncing some words incorrectly or over-accentuating them, along with some bad grammar.

It did not matter though, as his way of speaking was truly charming. He spoke and understood what other told him well enough for such a tiny soul, even too much so. I wondered how it was possible to be so bright at such a young age. “Genius or child prodigy, that must be it,” I though.

“Come on, little guy, let’s find your teddy!” I said, after which we left the room.
Next door was the parents’ dormitory, which, as I soon came to realize, was really huge compared to any of the other rooms of the house. As I climbed down the stairs, I stumbled upon a bookcase incorporated into the wall of some kind of break-level between the ground floor and the first floor. On that break-level, the stairs made a u-turn and continued further down in the other direction as that from which they started up on the first floor.

The said bookcase provided the staircase with a nice touch and as it was partially filled with travel books I soon familiarized myself with it. I was really into travel, geography, culture, stuff like that. The other half of it was made up of cooking books, which Alice often attentively browsed when she needed inspiration for one of her culinary experiments. Which proved to be great each and every time, by the way!

In the kitchen we found Alice, preparing some breakfast for the two of us, me and James. James, because he felt a little hungry and did not want to wait a couple of more minutes for his food to be ready, opened the fridge, took a sweet pepper and began crunching it. I was raddled by the sight of this happening, you know, because of the intensive talk of all those children who would not eat vegetables or fruits even if they were the last food items in the house. They would have rather starved to death than poison themselves with that stuff! But James was different, in every conceivable aspect. So he ate a lot of fruits and vegetables, of his own accord.

“Hello, my sweet sunny pie! Who have you brought to me, James? Your new friend, perhaps? Come to mummy to give you a kiss!” Alice said, pleased to see me up and about.

“Good morning, Alice!” I said.

“Mornin’, Luck, hope you’ve slept well!”

“How could I have not?” I asked.

“I don’t know, there’s any number of things which might’ve made you uncomfortable in that room, in that bed, in this house. I dunno…one never knows what to expect, people are so different, you know!”

“Nah, everything was and is more than ok & now I’m ship-shape again! Well, not quite, if I’m to think it over some more. I’ve had a hard time getting down the stairs, you know, I told you, my feet are done-in from all that criss-cross of London in sandals. Dumb stuff, dumb choice, dumb consequences!” I said, staring down rather discontentedly at my pitifully-looking feet.

“Poor you, lemme’ see if I can find some patches for ya’. Be right back!” Alice said, leaving the kitchen in hurry, clearly caring about my well-being as a guest of hers. On the kitchen table lain a nursery book with a green-eyed bear drawn upon its cover. I picked it up, glancing at the bear and thinking that James mentioned a similar-looking toy. James approached me and said, pointing out at the book:

“Luck, see, this is how mine teddy-bear looks like. It came by the book.”

“We’ll find it soon enough, I’m sure we will,” I replied.

“Could you please read something from the book for me, Luck?” James asked.

“Well, I’ll try, even if I’m not good at singing and all that.”

“No matter, mine father can’t sing as well. That’s why I tell you to read.”

“Ok then, you bright one — making suppositions like that,” I replied, under-toning the second part of the phrase and laughing my ass off from seeing as how James seemed to generalize the fact that men can’t properly sing. We stood there for some time, on the kitchen table, me reading and James listening, and that is how Alice found us when she finally came in with some patches for “mine feet”, as James would’ve put it. She was smiling at the two of us, clearly enjoying the fact that we got along so fine.

Chapter 6

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