If New York is the city which never sleeps, Marsby is the town which never wakes up. I was glad to hear that Steph has given notice on the flat, not because I want rid of her, particularly, but because otherwise I might wonder where she had got to. She wants to move into Zhuzhkov, because Marsby is just dead.
She grew up the other side of the Eagle’s Nest, in Alexanderplatz. Her mum still lives there. When she married, she moved over to this side, which is (very slightly) posher. She then had two children, who are now 25 and 23. Her husband divorced her, though she did nothing wrong; he went off and had the affair. He’s been remarried two years. I did not ask whether the drinking might be “something wrong,” but she tells me she is only drinking at weekends now. Her children tell her she sounds as if she had been drinking, but that is the stroke, last October. She was in hospital five days, and still cannot carry a mug of coffee with her left hand. Her daughter is getting married soon, and she worries about the top table, because they hate each other. Possibly if they sat at opposite ends.
-You are the mother, I say, but do not reassure her. I wonder if that is because she fears her daughter will prefer the new wife, or her father.
Have you been on holiday? She and her mother had a week at the Aquadrome in April, sharing a caravan. It’s only twenty miles away, but it is a change of scene. They took the food and cooked in the caravan. There’s lots of takeaways and a funfair. Her husband went abroad, but she finds flying too stressful. With the kids they would run off in the airport.
When she was last in Zhuzhkov the flat above and the flat opposite held drug dealers. I don’t know where the drug dealers are in Eagle’s Nest, at least I have not seen needles lying in the gutter.
After we successfully confronted the cows, we saw the main attraction: the Llama. It is 18, there used to be four of them, but this is the only one left, and it is old for a llama. Ben takes photos of it, and I got chatting by offering to photograph him with it- but it ran off.
He tells me he was a postman for thirty years from 1970. He has a scoliosis, because they had no trolleys then, and could not use a second bag unless the first weighed 35lbs. You reach in to a side opening with your left hand, which holds the mail for you to post it with your right hand. From seeing his back, the consultant correctly told him the bag went on his right shoulder, but though the risk was clearly well known no left-handed bags were available. Instead they retired at 60, as men over sixty had too much time off sick. Long after, he saw a twenty year old girl who gave him two things for inside his shoes, which relieved the pain almost immediately.
He told this at great length, and we were in the village. “Look, that car’s window is open,” I said. “Trusting folk round here”. He ploughed on with his story, and I interrupted occasionally: “Car window open!” “Parked car!” “Trusting!” To no discernible effect.
The beautiful local stone is formed of the desert sands of Pangaea.