What to do at Grand Central Station (Rousse)

At Grand Central Station in New York we would regroup for the next leg of our journey. In the meantime I scattered my business cards in the hope of widening my network of work contacts. I then returned to my failed attempts at frightening my younger female relations.

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The Emperor of China, Tom Forrest, an absent wife, and a widower (Rousse)

Ancient tradition in China required the donning of a long black robe (similar to an academic gown) whenever the emperor visited. Every day during my imprisonment I was on standby for this eventuality. Meanwhile I joined in with the activities as best I could despite my inability to speak a word of the language of my ‘hosts’. I soon became very adept at sign language.

On the day that the emperor came calling I rushed upstairs to the newly-painted black and green bedroom to root out my robe. I knew I would be in big trouble if I were not appropriately dressed. Seated on the bed, AF watched me. I then returned back downstairs again to greet the honoured guest. He didn’t actually speak to me. Instead I explained to one of his minders by means of hand gestures that I had travelled far to visit this ancient land.

Later I somehow managed to escape the compound of the house. I wandered along the edge of a lake where I came across some other foreigners who had decided that they actually wanted to visit China.

Further along my route it became obvious that I had breached the border. Here there were many more westerners, and all the signage was in English. I noticed a banner for a talk on fishing by Tom Forrest. This confused me: did they mean the Archers actor Bob Arnold, who played Tom Forrest? If so, wasn’t he dead?

Of course, by now, all I really wanted was to be reunited with my darling TPR. I wandered the streets and bars looking for him. Eventually I saw him come into a restaurant. He’d put on a bit of weight during my absence, but this was definitely him in his chinos and blue shirt.

When he sat down at a table I did the same opposite him. He looked so sad on his own, and I couldn’t understand why he was not delighted to see me. It was only then that I realised that my long time away had rendered me invisible. From now on although I would be able to see TPR, he would have no idea of my presence. We would never spend any time together as a couple again. Effectively I had disappeared from his life and he was now a widower, left to face the rest of his life on his own.

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Ducks and drowning risk in city centre (Rousse)

I’d craved a sea view for years and now I had one – almost.

When we woke at 05:00am to the blast of morning television from the flat upstairs TPR and I had no option but to get up and dressed, and investigate.

While I inspected the internal conduits of sound, such as our airing cupboard beneath their kitchen, TPR checked the garden. There he discovered that we now had a river flowing past our back door, already colonised by a family of mallard ducks. TPR called me out to see our new water feature.

I admired the view, then grew increasingly concerned for the safety of the children in the neighbourhood who might fall into the water and drown.

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Phil Collins’ Ghostbusters dance (Rousse)

Phil Collins danced with joy as I watched Ghostbusters on a decrepit VHS tape.

Afterwards I took the dog into town to find TPR’s abandoned bike.

When I returned home to the White House I annoyed my sister J. She refused my request to photograph the mist over the garden at dawn from her bedroom window.

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Love strikes in the City of London (Belle)

My advanced tea-making skills had attracted the attention of a handsome young suitor but I knew this was not enough to ensure our long-term compatibility.  I was more interested in the older gentleman I had met in the exquisite and newly excavated chapel near Cannon Street Station.  As he drove me around the city in his car, we exchanged teasing banter.  I was in love!

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Cheese throwing with Billy Connolly (Rousse)

Although the purpose of the exercise was unclear, I enjoyed an afternoon of ‘cheese chucking’ with Billy Connolly and BP. The concept was simple. All you had to do was throw lumps of cheese up onto a high shelf. I soon found that the small cellophane-wrapped samples were easy enough to toss, but I cursed the person who had added a huge breeze block sized brick of cheap coloured cheddar to the game. This was impossible to lift, let alone propel through the air.

Afterwards BP challenged E’s decision to make poverty a main theme of her PhD thesis. ‘How could she possibly speak about this with authority at a viva?’ he asked. ‘There simply isn’t time for her to complete all the necessary reading.’

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Arthur Lowe and the Penis Olympics (Belle)

It seemed I had – at last – achieved my lifetime goal.  I was the passenger in a sweet, vintage car and it was the 1970s.  Arthur Lowe was taking me to the shops in Catford, having proposed to me earlier on that day.  He lifted up my hand and licked the inside of my wrist.  I thought, “That wasn’t too awful”.

Later I settled down to watch the Penis Olympics on TV.  Broadcasting live from a remote south American jungle, two competing villages were wearing their distinctive red or blue wooden  ‘gourd’ uniforms and displaying their muscly lower halves.  When the whistle went, each villager sat down with an opponent and the competitors began to discuss whose penis was best.  A winner emerged from each bout by mutual agreement.  The Reds won!

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