Assembly

Alec rings the doorbell. At sixty-one years of age he looks youthful, though the hair is greying. I introduce him to Julia, and we all head to the pub. Inevitably, he and I revisit a lot of old ground.

On a cool and drizzly summer morning we drive to East Midlands Airport where I open a conversation with a man whose luggage bears tags that read “New Zealand Cricket”. He tells me his name is Bashir, and he’s waiting for Sir Richard Hadlee who has just gone to park the car! Some chauffeur!

Martin arrives a few minutes later, resplendent in light-coloured linen jacket. He makes me feel under-dressed. We shake hands and launch into the verbal joshing that good fellows instinctively adopt, to the eternal bemusement of women. He is London-born, ex-Royal Navy, and not long retired from Derbyshire Fire Brigade. Alec and I sidestep his jocular suggestion of an East Midlands breakfast as soon as we find it consists of four pints of lager.

Easyjet sets us down in Geneva in a temperature of twenty-eight degrees, and we toil on foot to our hotel. There Bill greets us, camera in hand. He’s a big lad, valiantly fighting the effects of forty-four hours’ travelling and nine hours’ jetlag.

The hotel receptionist points out contradictions in our booking and wants to charge for three rooms. Martin shakes hands, smiles a lot, produces letters and emails, blames the booking agency, and generally bamboozles her into accepting that we are not to blame. She tries a different tack, showing us much better rooms in a penthouse. We pronounce ourselves satisfied and move our bags in, so she asks us to pay more. Martin goes into barrow-boy mode, and inside two minutes we’ve paid the originally agreed price for two standard rooms whilst enjoying superior luxury and convenience.

In a dark bar we quickly get our hands on quatre grandes blondes, and contentment wraps itself around us.

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