Where Do I Fit In?
by Andrew Foote
Throughout this story real organisations and real people are mentioned by name. Their place in the tale is in the author's imagination. No thoughts, words or deeds attributed to those people or organisations are real, nor have they ever happened. This is a story! It's fiction. The people and organisations, even when they interact with the characters, are presented in an entirely imagined and fictitious manner, and no discourtesy is intended to them by the author nor by the web site.
The afternoon organised activity was a trip out into the lagoon in a glass bottomed boat then following that, for those who wished to do so was the opportunity to go jet-skiing.
The boat trip was altogether fascinating. We were taken out close to the reef where the water was around twenty feet deep but crystal clear. So many fish! There must've been thousands of them, their colours were amazing to see but then there were also water snakes, eels and scary looking crabs so when the time came, I decided against the jet-ski idea.
Although harmless, there were Manta Rays and Basking Sharks dotted around which also put me off the idea even more but most of our group weren't so easily spooked.
Lorain was the only other person who shared my reservations so we sat out under a beach umbrella to watch the action.
"I don't know Andy. There's a part of me that wanted to give it a go and I'll probably regret being such a total wimp but seeing those creatures swimming around down there, beautiful as they are, still gave me the shivers."
"Yes and then there was all the talk of poisonous fish, razor-sharp corals and so on. Sorry but I prefer to swim in waters where I can be pretty sure nothing else lives in and is chlorinated!"
"It must be safe enough otherwise they wouldn't allow us to do it I suppose. I know what I would like to try and that's paragliding or those wind buggy things. Now they do look like fun!"
"I'm with you on the wind buggies but get the paragliding wrong and you'd still end up in the water. I'll keep my feet firmly at ground level thanks!"
"Except for your diving huh? Talking of which, how did it go this morning?"
"Awesome! Like Paul mentioned, the facilities were first class. They've got the highest dive table in the world there. Amazing experience!"
"How high is it?"
"Seventy-five feet, close to twice the normal height."
"Weren't you nervous?"
"Umm……..not nervous exactly, it's difficult to explain. We're used to heights doing what we do. We know the water's deep enough so there's no real danger so I think that while we were both a bit apprehensive at first, once we'd done our first dive that apprehension turned into like an adrenalin rush of sorts."
"Will it be up on your website?"
"Oh good! I'll look forward to seeing it then! It's a shame that Basketball isn't much of a spectator sport like yours."
"Oh I don't know? I'm not much of a footie fan or Rugby come to that but I can still get a buzz out of watching real quality play? Basketball is a hellish fast game so to watch and appreciate the agile play and ball control not to mention the way team member's mark and respond to each other makes it every bit a spectator event."
"Talking of a spectator event, Lucas has just fallen off! See him over there on the yellow machine?"
"Oh yeah! Well he's got back on and seems none the worse for his spill at least. That was my big fear. If that had been me falling off, I'd have been apoplectic!"
Making our way to the dining room, we were joined in the elevator by Peter.
"So how was your afternoon?"
"Brilliant. That glass-bottomed boat was really good! How was yours?"
"Not as much fun. I've still got this problem regarding those two boys from Worcester. God knows I'm trying to get them a replacement for Alf Saunders but so far nothing."
"Was he their track and field coach?"
"No. General fitness, gym work and so on."
"Well it's just that I had an idea but whether it would work in practice, I don't know."
"Right now Andy, I'll listen to any ideas so fire away."
"Okay. How far is Gloucester from Worcester? Twenty miles? Why don't they train alongside us? Alec lives in Bromsgrove so if he was prepared to do a few extra miles, he could detour and pick them up. He comes straight past Worcester on the motorway anyway."
"Why hadn't I thought of that? It could be the answer but it would still leave us with the problem on Saturdays when Alec has a day off."
"Not necessarily. We're moving into a much larger house in a month or so and Lucas and I will be sharing what was the Granny flat. Dan and Gary could crash with us as we'd planned on getting one of those bed-settees for the living room. Alec brings them down on the Friday evening then delivers them back Sunday evening. Job sorted."
"Bit of an imposition for you? Would you really be happy to do that and of course you'd have to get your parents blessing?"
"My folks will be fine about it, after all it isn't as if it's putting them to any inconvenience plus they're nice guys so why not? They've already said that this flat would mean we could entertain our friends without disturbing them."
"Well if you're sure you wouldn't mind then I'll leave it with you to talk to the boys. There's always the possibility that they might not be happy about it. Let me know how it goes will you?"
That evening following supper we all walked the grounds where I put my idea to the boys.
"So that's about it in a nutshell, what do you think about it? You know all of us so there'll be no awkwardness and plus you get a couple of nights each week where you can relax with each other. We'll be upstairs in the bedroom and you can pull out the bed-settee so as you're on your own together."
"It sounds too good to be true! It would be great for us all to train together and those nights at yours would be like heaven on earth. What about your parents? Wouldn't they object?"
"Wouldn't have thought so but I'll put it to them tonight when I email them."
"What about track and field training? Is there a suitable coach near you?"
"I'd thought about this and whilst we've no one training for those sort of disciplines in our County, we do have Tony Rogers our school head of sports. The winter type games like Rugby, hockey and football he generally leaves to his deputy but then come the summer and athletics and stuff, he takes over. He's already told us that he'd like to have a more specialist roll to play so I reckon he'd be more than happy to do it. He's also a really nice man, you'll like him but perhaps that's something for you to talk about with Peter."
The first week away had been all about settling in and acclimatising to the time difference and climate but then come week two our tutor appeared on the scene and we had to do some school-type work. One tutor to thirty-two students sounds reasonable had we all been the same age but we weren't so I wondered how this was going to work.
Following on from breakfast, we all met in one of the conference rooms and were issued with laptops. The entire thing was internet based with different instructors depending on our age who were based somewhere in the UK. Academic subjects were easily covered this way but my mind went back to Paul's comments about sciences and the practical aspects of learning them but in the event he needn't have worried.
The way it worked was, each group according to their year group were led by a teacher in a lab. The experiment was explained to us and we had to collectively decide how to proceed and the teacher would do the experiment according to our instructions. If we screwed up then we'd be given the opportunity to rethink and rerun it until we got it right. This really was learning by our mistakes and it kind of cemented the information in our heads in such a way that we wouldn't forget it.
This method of learning had been pioneered in the remoter parts of Australia where kids couldn't get to school and did their work using radio transmitters then latterly the internet. It was fun and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
This we did Monday to Friday from eight-thirty in the morning until eleven-thirty then an early lunch, training, organised trips or free time for the remainder of the day.
Our training was mixed and matched sometimes and we were encouraged to try out other peoples disciplines. This wasn't forced on us so if we had reservations then fine. Lucas and I went for broke and had a go at some track and field, Badminton, Basketball and skiing. Some but by no means all, had a go at diving although not formation work as it was deemed too risky. Needless to say, none of them ventured up to the top table!
I'd had a reply from my Dad regarding Gary and Dan staying over with us some weekends and all he said was that it was our space to pretty much do with as we wished and if we were happy to do that then he'd not object. The survey hadn't flagged up anything serious so contracts had been drawn up, deposits paid and Dad hoped that these contracts could be exchanged in around ten days' time meaning we could probably move a week after we got home.
Two evenings before we were due to fly home, we were treated to what was perhaps the most memorable event of the trip.
A large open decked restaurant boat had been chartered to take us on a sunset cruise and meal. We set off in broad daylight but out in the lagoon and following the meal so the sun began to dip and as it sank over the horizon so the sky turned, gradually giving up its light blue to deeper blues and purples then to just about every shade of yellow through gold, oranges and ever-deeper shades of red. The sun burnt bright red and appeared to be at least three times as big as it does at home in midsummer and all this spectacular scene was perfectly reflected on a calm sea. I don't care who you are or how often you might witness such a scene because it was breath-taking and no matter how hardened you might be, no one could help but be deeply moved. Certainly the only reason you'd need Photoshop was to perhaps dumb down the colours rather than enhance them! As the sun finally disappeared below the horizon the entire boat fell silent as if we were in the presence of God himself.
The day that followed was declared a free day so we could go shopping for keepsakes or just do whatever we wanted. Lucas and I had permission to make a final visit to the diving pool and made good use of the high table for an hour before heading into town to buy little gifts for our families. It's difficult to decide what to get under those circumstances as everything was so different from stuff you could get in England so I opted to buy tee shirts specifically of the island. Happy with my choices, I was just about to go to the cash desk when I spotted another one which I just had to get for myself! I picked it up and checked the size. Bugger! It was XL and would've swamped me! The shop owner, obviously seeing my disappointment, came over.
"If you give me ten minutes son, I'll print one off in ya size. Neat aint they!!"
"It's just so cool! Would you do that for me?"
"Sure thing buddy. What colour do y'all want?"
"Got to be white lettering on a black shirt!"
"Okay. Be back with you shortly."
Lucas came over to see what I was up to.
"What are you buying?"
"I need one of these! Not want, Need! Take a look."
"Ah shit! That's awesome! 'Guam. Just another shitty day in paradise.' I love it!"
"Why don't you buy one?"
"What? And steel your thunder? No way! I've bought me the loudest and tackiest pair of board shorts known to mankind. You think Paul's were awful? Wait until you see these, they'll make his look like formal-wear!!"
"Oh shit Lucas? They're hideous! I don't think I've ever seen such a clash of colours. How much did you throw away on those?"
"I know! Great aint they? Ten dollars but I got a deal. They were up for sixteen and when I asked how long he'd had them on stock he said like 'forever'. I offered him ten and he nearly bit my hand off at the elbow!"
"If you said he'd paid you to take them off his hands I wouldn't have been surprised! They make me want to chuck just looking at them!"
"You know back in Texas they called a good chuck a technicolour yawn? That's what these reminded me of. Totally sick-making! Love 'em to bits!"
"You going to show the others?"
"Damn straight I am! Paul and Lor said to meet them at the big pool for drinks at half four. I don't know if they mentioned it to Benny or the boys, they might be otherwise occupied but anyway, I asked Paul to wear his. Lor told him not to but I won! What's the time now?"
"Four. Let me get my shorts on then we'd better make tracks."
As we approached the pool we noticed that all of our crowd were there plus most if not all of the others. Seemed like some sort of unofficial party was going on. Paul noticed us and asked what we were drinking.
"Shiraz for both of us please mate"
I turned to Lor.
"See your man's got his glad rags on then?"
"Don't go there Andy. I hate those bloody things!"
Paul came back with our drinks and once he'd set them down I asked him and Lucas to step up to the front of our gathering and called for their attention.
"Just a moment of your time guys? You see before you Mr Paul Radcliffe who up until now has held the title of the King of Bad Taste and looking at those God-awful swimming shorts, I'm sure you'll all agree that here is a guy worthy of that title. However, he has a rival, a boy who has taken it upon himself to topple this Monarch and so ensuring a new era of hideousness and complete lack of colour coordination and style. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, the heir-apparent, Mr Lucas Carmichael!"
There was a burst of applause and some giggles but as Lucas was still wearing his trackie bottoms, the reason for my introduction wasn't clear so I continued to play the crowd.
"I must warn you, this isn't a sight that people of a nervous disposition or a delicate tummy really want to see so I would urge those of you suffering with such afflictions to look away now. Drop the kegs Lucas!"
He did his best at doing a sexy disrobe but then kicked off his flip-flops together with his trackies.
Gales of laughter, pointing and all sorts of comments I couldn't quite make out ensued but then Paul held up his hands in mock surrender.
"Ladies and gentlemen. What can I say? What can anybody say? In the finest traditions of any sport, it is as well to accept defeat and victory in the same spirit so I hereby relinquish my crown to a worthy and altogether disgustingly attired opponent! Please be upstanding and raise your glass. I give you and pay homage to, KING LUCAS. LORD OF ALL THINGS DISTASTEFUL!!"
A Shout went up fit to wake the dead.
"KING LUCAS. LORD OF ALL THINGS DISTASTEFUL!"
Just then, Liam, Peter and some other coaches appeared with Peter clutching a video camera.
"Oh God that was soo funny! We only came down to watch you all relaxing but that was just priceless! I've got the lot on tape and with good sound quality so we all think it should be on your websites showing how you've all bonded together as a cohesive team. Does anyone object?"
There were no dissenters.
"Absolutely brilliant! I'll email it tonight! Carry on but please? Don't get too pissed before supper?"
The highlight of the journey home was once again the stop-over at Narita and a chance to indulge my passion for Japanese cuisine but this time some of us decided to try something different. We wandered around the food hall in search of something that took our fancy until Benny spotted a restaurant that specialised in something called Shabu-Shabu so not having a clue what it was, we looked at the window display.
One of the benefits of Japanese restaurants was that even though most of the food and even how you were supposed to eat it was alien, they all displayed plastic mock-up's of the various dishes but this place had gone one step further in as much as they had placed a computer monitor in the window showing a slideshow of people dining. The idea was that you ordered what you wanted from a selection of meats and vegetables and salads, all of which were uncooked then using chopsticks, picked what you wanted and boiled it in a large bowel of water. Lucas thought this was something of a cop-out.
"So not only do you have to pay for this junk, you have to cook it yourself! How can that be right?"
Standing close to us was a Japanese business man and his wife who apologised for interfering but then went on to explain a few things to us.
"The idea is that you cook it to suit your pallet. At the beginning the food tastes a bit bland but the more you eat so the water absorbs all the flavours so each time you try something so it tastes completely different. It is a good experience. You should try."
We decided to run with it and on entering the restaurant we were shown to a table by a waiter who spoke passable English. The smell of the food was intoxicating but we didn't know what to order so our waiter made some suggestions which we went along with.
The food was delicious even at the start of our meal. It was light and full of natural flavours as there were no sauces to corrupt it but as the meal progressed even Lucas was impressed as he selected yet another lettuce leaf, dunked it in the water until it wilted and shoved it in his mouth.
"Oh wow! Lettuce is normally pretty tasteless but doing it this way it isn't! I could get used to this!"
By the time we'd stuffed ourselves, the bill came to thirty thousand Yen or around £120 or £12 per head which we thought was bloody good value, the added bonus being that you never, ever tip in Japan as it's seen as disrespectful. Why can't it be like that at home?
The flight from Narita to Heathrow was tedious. We took off and broke through the clouds which apart from thinning a few times giving a glimpse of the sea below, never seemed to leave us. No Siberia and no views of the Japanese countryside but I did get to finish my book moments before we landed.
Again we were whisked through baggage collection, immigration control and customs and once in the arrival lounge we were reunited with our parents. No tears this time, just hugs.
Damn the English weather! It was pissing freezing! I wasn't missing Guam but I was their weather but exciting times lay ahead and all the time Mum and Dad were keen to hear about our break, all I wanted to talk about was what progress had been made regarding our new house. Dad did a good job at being patient with me.
"Look if I tell you about the house, will you please tell us about Guam?"
"Yes I promise. When can we…….."
"Andrew? Shut up will you? The conveyancing has gone very well. Our solicitors had worked with the vendors people in the past so they really did pull out all the stops. The vendors wanted early completion as the sale of the property was standing in the way of probate following the death of the previous owner. Our mortgage has been approved and the money is with our solicitors. In answer to your unasked question, contracts will be exchanged this coming Thursday and we've arranged for the removal people on Friday. One other thing. Mr Fairbairn doesn't want you back at school until you're thoroughly rested and over your jetlag so we've suggested to him that you go back next Monday which will allow you guys to help. Now will you tell us about Guam??"
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