I invited my neighbour Inge to see my garden before the adjoining fence got replaced. We sat down among the rubbish and debris to enjoy a glass of freshly squeezed orange and mango juice at sunset.
It had been more than six months since I last visited her. I wanted to tell her about our adventures in Spain, Belgium, and our forthcoming trips to Paris and Crete. As we recalled fondly the garden concert of June 2001, “Summer Solstice” and July 2002, “Spanish Summer Soiree,” Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers appeared.
“Bring your guitar down,” I begged.
“I’m still practising upstairs,” he protested.
“But it’s so nice out here,” I pleaded. “Give us a concert!”
He went indoors and brought out a bottle of beer instead of a guitar.
“Aren’t you going to play something?” I asked.
“First I’m going to take a break.”
He had boldly gone to the Great British Beer Festival the night before, which he regarded as the highlight of his working holiday week in London. I had brought him to London to inspect my Victorian cottage and fix anything that I couldn’t fix. [“Which,” exclaimed the guitarist, “is everything you can find.”]
Complaining that he did not have the proper tools, he asked me to hire a builder to repair the outside pipes, remove and replace the garden fences, and replace the kitchen drains. Between numerous minor chores, he tried to find time to practise while I fretted about the paperwork.
Inge interjected. “Let him have his beer, Anne. I should be going soon.”
“Don’t go yet,” I said. “I want to hear what his guitar sounds like out here. How often do you get to see across to my neighbour’s garden?”
With my mobile phone, I recorded Robert Bekkers playing Tarrega’s famous Requerdos d’Alhambra. It was the last time I’d enjoy my garden with live music this year.
The two builders returned the next morning to finish installing the adjoining hard-wood fence, a luxury beyond my imagination. These fences were unlike any other in this quaint neighbourhood of Victorian cottages.
With very little time left, Robert fixed the laundry lines in parallel while I cleaned the mahogany parquet floors. There was hardly enough time to pack and rush for the airport. The walk to the nearest Piccadilly tube station was compromised by having to pull an overweight suitcase containing two 4-packs of English West Country ciders, numerous second-hand sheet music and travel guides to Italy. And that was how we missed our flight back to Amsterdam.