The Trip Down:
A slight delay in boarding and therefore departure plants a babbling worm of anxiety in my head. Rufus, it natters. You'll miss Rufus. Tess will miss Rufus, too, because you've got the tickets and you won't get there in time. (You do have the tickets, don't you?) The plane takes off a whole ten minutes late.
I am lucky enough to be sitting next to a woman who does not grasp (despite repeated warnings and explanations prior to and during take-off), that the TV screens are a paid service and not free. Surely the credit-card swiper beside every TV screen is a giveaway, you say, but that would be underestimating the power of BOGAN STUPIDITY. I pass the time preparing a diatribe on the appalling lack of educational standards in our schools and society which can produce a woman who thinks an airline would make you pay for food and beverages but provide free TV. Sadly, she does not ask my opinion of the circumstances, and my stirring and ego-destroying rant dies unvoiced.
Turbulence on descent is the next problem. I've never liked turbulence, and every plane flight only serves to reinforce this. These days, it induces a blinding, armrest-clutching panic which has concerned fellow passengers telling me that holding my breath so very diligently may soon result in a broken rib and probably a punctured lung. I do not answer them. I am not being rude: I am funnelling all my concentration into being brave in the face of turbulence.
I land on time and without much in the way of bruising, and manage to find Tess, who is taller than I remembered, but no less Tess.
Tess has the prettiest bookshelves in the world. I am not kidding. It's a bold claim, I'll grant you, but unless you've seen her bookshelves there is no way you'll ever be able to understand the blinding and silencing power of all the pretty colours and unmarked covers and unmarred spines. SHINY.
One of the first things Tess does is hand me a small paper bag and say, "I bought this in Japan for you, because it is wrong, on so many levels."
I stop with my hand halfway in the teeny bag and look at her in horror. "It's not a cute testicle, is it?"
(Oh, come on. Like you wouldn't immediately jump to the same conclusion. The Japanese are entirely capable of attempting to mass-produce cute plastic testicles. To be fair, they are probably the only people on the face of this earth who could possibly succeed in such an endeavour.)
With due trepidation, I draw out a small white plastic sphere with a cute and happy face.
Dear Lord, I think, it IS a cute testicle…
Then I realise it has fins and a tail and is a baby seal. With an electrical circuit which, when activated, causes it to flash and glow and strobe in a truly demonic progression of hallucinogenic colours. (Which NEVER STOPS. That's part of the charm.)
I've named him Chibi.
Secretly, I am not convinced he is not a cute testicle made to look, at the last minute, like a seal. I like him anyway.