‘I think I may have stolen some books,’ Cathy said to herself in horror.
Aborting the unpacking, she went looking for her husband, and found him in the kitchen where he was trying to rustle up a quick dinner from the contents of their almost empty ‘fridge. Neither of them had the energy or the wherewithal to go to the shops. The take-away fish supper they had planned earlier was unimaginable in this blistering heat.
‘Dan, I think we have sunk to a new low,’ she said, thrusting the two beautifully bound editions of the criminal goods at him. ‘We seem to have stolen books from the hotel’.
His expression was a comical mirror of her own, angst and mirth vying with each other, as she struggled to understand what had happened.
They had just returned from a week away at the Cotswolds. A well-deserved vacation after almost two years. And they seemed to have timed it with the one week of Indian summer that the United Kingdom had been blessed with. Scorching summer. Wall-to wall sunshine with temperatures in the thirties. The Scottish couple had not been prepared for the blast of heat that welcomed them as they stepped out of their airconditioned car.
The beauty and the elegance of the English countryside, the magnificent opulence of the hotel, the friendly personalised greeting from the red-faced receptionist, everything had been diminished by this feeling of being wrapped up in a damp heated duvet. It was like being back in Dubai, except this hotel was definitely not airconditioned.
Cathy had gasped as they entered the large room they had been given, the four-poster bed and windows overlooking immaculate gardens on either side. But all they could think of was the damned sunshine gate-crashing into their room through said windows, leaving everything hot to touch. Abandoning their cases, they left the inferno and went in search of somewhere cooler.
This hotel, the Karma Salford Hall, was a luxurious, state of the art, establishment. As members of the Karma Group, they had used a bulk of their accumulated RCI points for this much anticipated holiday. It had been converted into a hotel from a heritage Tudor Abbey, and was definitely one of the best they had been in. If only their discomfort had not distracted them from being more impressed.
The search for a cooler venue had proved futile, there seemed to be thick carpeting, old oak panelling and velvet curtains everywhere. Early bird guests had commandeered the few patches of shade in the pretty beer garden, and they had no option other than to drink copious quantities of cool drinks from the bar. Rose for her, and of course beer for him.
‘Too hot for red wine,’ they had said simultaneously to the bemused but equally distressed young bar tender.
They did acclimatise to the heat over the next few days and had a wonderful time exploring the quaint villages in the area. There was Broadway the first day, Bourton-on-the-Water, the next. And of course, the mandatory trip to Stratford to pay homage to the Bard. Cathy had studied English literature at university and said it would be a sacrilege if they didn’t pop in and say hello.
Dan had grumbled of course, but went along with her plans good naturedly. Because all they seemed to do wherever they went, was to find small cafes or bistros, seeking out the ones with air-conditioning or a cool beer garden. The local ice cream helped. The two of them indulged in a lot of the famous Cotswolds’ best.
Their room had its own little library, a cosy little nook with a wonderous array of beautifully presented books. Under normal circumstances, just this would have been enough to enchant Cathy into staying long hours indoors, but all she could do was mutter about how grand it would all be if they returned at Christmas time.
‘Imagine spending hours curled up with the books on that fat sofa in front of the fire?’ she had said to Dan. Because, you guessed it, the room had the largest fireplace, but alas, no fan. The little portable toy fan they had been given as a courtesy by the hotel doesn’t merit a sentence of its own in this story.
And thus, it was, they had returned home to Glasgow, where she found two of these books while unpacking their case.
Which she now held up accusingly to Dan, who was beginning to look strangely sheepish. He had done the packing, after all, whilst she had gone downstairs to the restaurant to fill their thermos with ice water.
‘I thought they were yours Cath,’ he said. ‘I honestly did.’
A non-reader himself, did he truly think that every book in the universe belonged to her? If only, she fantasised.
‘It’s ok,’ she laughed, ‘but now I have to phone them tomorrow and confess. Otherwise, imagine if our membership file had a big stamp across it, with the word Kleptomaniac.’
I like you would love it if every book in the world belonged to me. And like you have an other half who does think this and have come home with a couple of books from trips away in my time.