After a night of glorious thunderstorms I wake too late and have to combine my 6am and 8am medications with breakfast in order to make an 8.30 start on the treatments. It’s the same rituals as yesterday but fortunately the acupuncture’s at the end instead of the beginning and I’m fairly relaxed when it comes round.
The woman on the adjacent slab introduces herself as Lesley, one of the two other ‘English’ guests, although she actually lives in Holland. She’s outgoing and funny, and chatting to her takes my mind off the needling. At lunch she introduces me to the other one, Andrew, on first impression an unreconstructed old-colonial club type of stentorian voice who during the fifteen minutes he talks at me from the adjacent table doesn’t ask me a single question about myself. I must be a ‘good listener’ because at least I don’t allow my glazed expression to transmit to him, but for a man who’s lived in Borneo, Argentina and New York, not to mention travelled to places like North Korea and Mongolia, he’s surprisingly unforthcoming, although he did warm up on subsequent meetings and turned out to be amazingly well-connected.
In continuation of the new year holiday, this afternoon is the staff sports day and they gather, with their copious offspring, to play the sort of games which would have graced a summer fete in England in the sixties. Perhaps in rural villages it still does, but it’s rare and charming to see children queue willingly to be blindfolded to play ‘put the eye on the Elephant’ (work it out) whilst their fathers have an adult version where also blindfolded they have to hit with a big stick one of three crocks of coconut water suspended on a wire. At the edge of the sea they’ve rigged up a log on two cross timber supports and opponents sit astride it with a hand tied behind their back to swing a rag-filled bag at each other and see who’s knocked off first to loud cheering.
The kids compete to drink Fanta from a baby’s bottle, there’s a raucous three-team race to transfer water in cupped hands from a bucket to a bottle, musical chairs, a beauty contest and a fancy dress competition. Everyone joins in with such innocent good humour that in sharp contrast I’m reminded of ghastly hierarchical company picnics at Barclays, or terrifying office Christmas parties with dire food and gut-wrenching cheap wine and 63-year old Tina the Cleaner getting her tits out. Here, there’s no alcohol, or smoking, but a good time is definitely had by all.
My masseur brings his two small sons to shake hands, and makes them speak a few words of English which is brave of them and nice of him: the boys are carefully turned out in their ‘best’ shirts and pressed jeans and their mother has a sparkly sari swathing her ample frame. I’m reminded that in this culture to be larger and rounder is desirable for married ladies, they seem a happy family as the boys each hold dad’s hand and steer him to the next entertainment.
There’s a table laden with parcels wrapped in yellow paper and it seems ‘all have won and all must have prizes’ as Alice was told after the Caucus Race in Through the Looking Glass – again it’s a credit to this family business that not only all the children but all the adults receive something with which they seem to be pleased.
Either I’ve become acclimatised very quickly, or it’s much less humid today and typing this on the terrace of my little cottage (more about the accommodation tomorrow) just after sunset with the breeze from the pitch black ocean, it’s really not unpleasant.
Talking of which, it must be time for some more medicine.