‘This is the life! To be swept off to the Swiss Alps in the middle of a working week. Just like that. And everything organised– including check-in at the airport and taxis at our destination’. Peirene sighs happily, as she sips her café crème sitting in the Piazza Collegiata. It’s Monday morning 11am. ‘And if you hadn’t insisted that James and I help with the Salon on Saturday we could have come earlier.’ She can’t resist giving me an accusing glance over the brim of her sunglasses.
We, that is James, the Nymph, breach author Annie Holmes and I are attending the international literature festival babel hosted in the Swiss town of Bellinzona. Annie and I presented breach on Sunday in the main theatre in town. We discussed the UK refugee crisis in Calais and the challenge of writing commissioned fiction. In the evening we had dinner with a group of other UK writers, including Don Patterson, Nadifa Muhammed and Chloe Aridjis. No wonder, the Nymph is content.
Although, I can’t help feeling that she might be suffering from a little hangover. I went back to the hotel at midnight, while she decided to stay on. As I got up from the table she ordered herself another cognac. For a moment I was tempted to say something but then I decided against. This morning I knocked on her door at 8am. We had agreed to go for a run. After the third knock she finally opened the door. ‘You have to go on your own. I forgot my trainers,’ she said, blinking sleepily into the light.
I’m pleased she has now risen from her bed. I already had visions of having to prop her up on our way back to Milan airport later in the day.
‘How about buying you some trainers?,’ I now suggest. ‘We still have the entire afternoon. A walk in the beautiful mountains will do you good.’
‘I-‘ the Nymph stutters, her cheeks blushing. ‘I … found the trainers after all,’ she then admits. ‘They were at the bottom of my bag.’
‘Ah! Well good!’ I pretend to be surprised. ‘We can save the money.’
I pay for our coffees. As we are walking towards the restaurant to meet the others for lunch, she suddenly says: ‘Since we didn’t need to buy new trainers but you were willing to spend the money, perhaps I could undertake some retail therapy this afternoon – instead of climbing mountains? You, Annie and James will reach the top of the mountain much faster without me.’ She smiles at me sweetly. But I’m firm. If you’re lucky enough to visit the Swiss Alps on a Monday, the least you can do is appreciate the scenery.
By Meike Ziervogel
Image by Annie Holmes of me admiring the Alps in Bellinzona.
This blog was originally published as part of Peirene Press‘s series Things Syntactical. The Pain and Passion of a Small Publisher on 20 September 2016.