Greg looked around at the old holiday huts “It’s like we’re in a time warp.”
I laughed, hoped I didn’t sound nervous. “Told you it was something else.”
“Yeah, but…” Greg shook his head. “You weren’t kidding, were you?”
“It’s a chance to get away from it all. Just…just relax and forget about everyday stuff for a while.”
* * *
The doctors said his blood pressure was through the roof, and he was constantly angry—with work, with ‘idiots on the road’, and especially with the news. He needed to get away for a while. I thought this would be ideal.
He moaned about the basic accommodation, cringed at the shower block. He said the old clothes I’d bought him were uncomfortable, even though I’d told him to treat this place like a theme-holiday, like he was acting a part. Of course, I couldn’t tell him the truth.
“There’s no signal!” he said as we walked down to the pontoon.
I grabbed for his phone, glancing around to check nobody was watching. Luckily, it was still early—the beds were something else he’d complained about. “I told you to leave that thing at home!”
He snorted. “Might as well have done. But I need to check up on stuff, yeah? How about we pop into town later, use whatever free wi-fi they’ve got. Assuming the town’s not as backward as this place.”
I shook my head. “You agreed—digital detox.”
“So I momentarily forgot.”
“Just put it away.”
He did, begrudgingly. “Don’t know why I agreed to this. It’s like a prison camp.”
I looked around, at the rows of wooden buildings, and could understand where he was coming from. But it never seemed that way to me. The exact opposite, in fact.
“Just enjoy the peace and quiet. And the air.” I took a deep, exaggerated breath. “No pollution. And no road noise.”
“Bloody middle of nowhere.”
“But the steam train coming in wasn’t too bad, was it?”
That got a hint of a smile. “Uncomfortable, but it was different, I’ll grant you that.”
* * *
We kept a low profile throughout the day. In the canteen we sat in the corner while he made references to school meals and moaned about the lack of choice. I had to shut him up when he started talking about different food. Yes, the stuff he mentioned might not be unknown to anyone eavesdropping, but it wouldn’t be common. We didn’t want to make a scene.
I suggested a swim, but when I mentioned that the pool was outside, and unheated, he laughed, called the place retarded. Instead, we stayed in the little room, reading the old paperbacks I’d found, with their pricing in shillings and pence and their covers in muted colours. But he’d always been keen on reading, so this kept him quiet.
At least it took his mind off things back home.
We ventured out a couple of times, taking quiet routes I’d found before, avoiding people as much as we could, tipping our hats to those we passed.
Then we had an early night. I always slept well here, and even though the sun had barely set, I was out as soon as my head hit the pillow.
* * *
The morning was misty, but that would burn off soon enough. I was up early, Greg snoring loudly in the other bed. He didn’t even wake when I prodded him, so I reckoned it was safe to pop outside on my own for a while. The room was musty, and I needed fresh air.
They were waiting for me at the end of our row. I recognised them immediately—sombre suits and knowing expressions. Of course, I went with them. But I was relieved that one of the three remained to watch over Greg.
* * *
“You realise how serious this is?”
“Of course. But…I didn’t know he’d gone out.”
“You didn’t smell the alcohol on him this morning?”
“The room was stuffy…”
“He wasn’t authorised either.”
“I know, but…”
“…you didn’t see any harm. You said. But his actions in the pub were unacceptable. You know that. Talk of Trump and Brexit and terrorists.”
I tried to brush this aside. “But they wouldn’t know anything about that…”
“Which meant he came across as drunk and incoherent. Thankfully, we were able to isolate him until he retired. But it’s still a breach. You understand that, surely.”
Of course I did. I hung my head.
“And then there’s this.”
The suit placed a phone on the table. Greg’s.
I felt sick.
“Fortunately, we were able to remove it before it was revealed to others. But you know the rules, so why did he have it?”
“I…I told him, but he…”
“You told him?”
I nodded. They both stared at me. I swallowed.
“This is extremely serious.”
* * *
They let us return. I suppose it was easier than keeping us secure. But they took away my privileges. I can’t slip again, even as a guest.
I’m not sure how I’ll cope. Holidays in the now aren’t the same—always connected, never totally free. Okay, things are never perfect in the past, but for a week or so those times are less complicated. They’re ideal for escaping the chaos of today.
See, that’s what I wanted for Greg—a chance to escape all the politics and hatred and confusion. A few days’ detox in a decades-ago holiday camp. All he had to do was follow a few simple rules—no technology, old clothes, and no talk of current affairs.
But I was stupid. I see that now. Only a few of us can really switch off like that.
And now that pleasure’s been taken from me.
I’m trapped here, like everyone else.
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