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Daylight picnic

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on January 17, 2018 Published on July 22, 2016

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Last week, while Bins is away visiting friends, my sister and I drive from Hartford to Elsewhere. Of course, she does all the driving: I continue to be a non-driving peasant who must be transported from place to place like a large, talkative parcel.

I know I should feel extremely guilty for accepting a two-and-a-half-hour ride home from my sister who already has piles of other cares and responsibilities. But eight years of convent schooling left me with a lifelong immunity against guilt, shame, remorse, what-have-you. Whenever an opportunity arises for feeling bad, I feel instead delighted to be alive and grateful for all the gifts that have come my way through Christ, Our Lord, amen.

The drive is very pleasant, and at the end of it, we dump our bags in my tiny apartment, then run straight out again, to watch a movie! We had researched the situation before starting out from Hartford. Even though Elsewhere has only one cinema, it just so happens to be within walking distance from where I live. Of course, we have to sprint: show-time is 4.30 and it’s exactly 4.25 pm as we leave the house. It takes us twelve minutes to trot up the main street, past little pubs and shops, across a modest park and thence to the theatre entrance. The ticket booth is a glassed-in compartment that juts out onto the pavement. The curly-haired young man in there smiles as we draw up, puffing and panting. “The main feature hasn’t started yet!” he says. We grab our tickets and sail in just as the opening credits are rolling.

It’s a small hall of the old-fashioned kind, pitch-dark inside. It takes a full-five minutes for our eyes to adjust. Fortunately, there are plenty of empty seats. The movie’s called Our Kind of Traitor, based on a John le Carré novel. It stars Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgard, Damian Lewis and Naomie Harris (the current Ms Moneypenny of the Bond movies). After the film, the evening sky outside is still bright and we stroll along the promenade, enjoying the seagulls wheeling against the westering sun, the summer tourists, the sailing boats bobbing in the harbour. For dinner we choose a restaurant called the Gas Lamp Grille, mainly because my sister wants fried fish and chips. I have a lobster bisque, we both share bread pudding for dessert and we dissect the movie while tucking in: how predictable it is, how tired the spy genre has become but so what? We enjoy it nevertheless.

The sky is still light by the time we walk slowly home. Now, finally, fatigue has caught up with both sisters. There’s barely time to have showers and brush teeth before we fall into bed and don’t wake up till seven the next morning. We have a relaxed cuppa, dress, go out for pancakes and omelette at a nearby eatery called The Hungry Monkey. Then it’s time for her to leave. It’s been five years since I moved to Elsewhere, yet this is my sister’s very first ever night-spend at MY house! It feels great. Like a midnight picnic in Malory Towers, without fear of punishment.

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, in this weekly column

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Published on July 22, 2016
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