Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house, not a creature was stirring with the possible exception of Sabina, her 4 kids and a box of baubles.
Unsetup as I was for any form of festive celebration, suddenly and without warning, Sabina and the kids arrived with a small but perfectly shaped Christmas tree and a box of tinsel and balls. Beneath the tree she placed a mat of fake grass and a nativity scene. Then the guerrillas of festive cheer were gone. One of the kids, unseen and Santa-Ninja-like, decorated my bed with tinsel.
I was still smiling at the sudden onset of Christmas when, perhaps an hour later, my phone door ring thingy rang. Each apartment has a buzzer down at the main door and I can talk to potential visitors with a phone and, powerful man that I am, I can even decide to allow them access to the building with a button. The person outside on this chilly Alpine Christmas Eve was was woman, heavily accented, with a voice quite unknown to me.
"I am looking for someone in this building who speaks English," the heavily accented Christmas Eve woman said.
"I speak English," I said.
"I am looking for someone to take a bag."
"I'll be right down."
And I was, too. Good to my word, in no time at all I was down the stairs and opening the building's main door. There was nobody there. I ventured out and looked up and down the road, across to the pub and beyond to the camp site. The air was cold and misty and completely undisturbed by people. By the door was a white plastic bag.
It was tied in a knot so I untied it and peeked inside.
The bag contained something large, and a card addressed to "Tyson's Owner."
Back in the apartment the something large turned out to be a very fancy box of biscuits with a candy cane stick and a bow decorating the lid. Inside were, unsurprisingly, fancy biscuits, but also a pot of home-made jam with a label written in English. "Home made blueberry jam, from Pokljuka Forests."
The card said Merry Christmas and contained a note from "...a neighbour who's silly, enjoying much really, while tries to be nice."
I don't know who sent the biscuits, the jam from the forests of Pokljuka, the beguiling note. A month or so ago I had a similar package. It sat outside my apartment door, inside the building and beyond the defences of the buzzer-controlled main door, and was from "a neighbour." The English was perfect, and I mean perfect, and the package was a Slovenian-style apple pie. The card was addressed to Tyson's Owner and it referred only to how sad it was that Tyson had died. I was touched by the thought.
I don't know who the neighbour is, but if they read this blog, then thank you.
My love and thoughts go out to my brother and his family. You are doing an incredible job.
My love and thoughts go out to my family as they battle with the awful situation that faces them. My brother's son Patrick is still missing after 10 days.
Visit the facebook page:
I should be there. TV reports show my brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, out with posters and clipboards asking questions of the public, and I feel I should be helping.
Yesterday I spoke to my brother for the first time since Pat went missing. He said the amount of use I'd be would be small compared to the effort involved in travelling and having to find transport and accommodation. He's right. Also, his daughter Zoe has been incredible in her perseverance, tenacity and technical skill. She has caused the police investigation to proceed faster than it otherwise would. The investigation would not benefit greatly by my involvement.
But at times like these, just being there feels like the thing to do. Humans gather together in times of crisis: we coalesce, mercury-like, forming something stronger than the sum of its parts. Seeing my family on camera acting as a unified group made me proud. I'm sure I was the only one who wondered why I wasn't there too.
I've been immobile for a week with influenza , incapable of walking to the local shops and wrestling with an almost permanent fever. Antibiotics have finally got to grips with it and yesterday I began to feel human again. I would have been more a liability than an asset, even if I'd made it there in the first place.
In the end, I get a glimpse of what it must be like over there at the moment: Frustration at wanting to do something that will have some magic result, while knowing that there is no wand that can be waved -- wanting to be in the right place, and not knowing where that place is. Endless hope and the belief that there will be a happy ending is what drives them all to keep looking and, for my part, I can at least be involved in that. I'm thinking positive thoughts, and I've made a donation to the fund that's helping them stay in the area and keep Patrick fresh in people's minds.
I shall be heading to England soon. Let's shake off the flu and let the dust settle on Christmas and New Year, then transport and accommodation might be easier.
I have kids too. And Grandchildren. This situation has made me think about my long-term goals and I think my globe-trotting days are over. Time to go back to England and see the family more often. I have taken on the apartment for 2015, and during next near I shall make my plans to get back from my 16 years of exile. I don't know how yet, but I think that writing and selling books is where is should begin.
Here's to a new year.
Moving with my dog to Slovenia.