Easy, get down off the boat’s slippery gangplank, only have to raise my right foot a bit higher and be careful in the rain. There we are, now, ready to start the climb up the stone steps to the island. Done this sort of thing a million times before, but usually alone, so that I can get the angle right, the exact tip needed. If I don’t quite make it first time with the foot-lift, I can have another go, while others behind me surge amicably past making friendly, reassuring noises.

Not this time. Thinking to be polite, and needing a bit of help with balance, I solicit the help of the friendly bloke clad in the regulation fluorescent jacket, on hand to offer assistance. Believing it needful, he pulls me forward, as if I am like a child and he can hoist me up. Except that, at this new angle, lifting right foot high enough to reach the step becomes impossible. I fall before I get started, and am heaved upright by two or three very willing persons. For me, an ageing, gentrified lady of fifty, the whole experience is exasperatingly familiar.

I hope you didn’t hurt yourself when you fell? Thank you, I am fine, and don’t feel in the least put out that I was effectively pulled off my feet and then raised up like a heavy lump. Being a heavy lump is scarcely a consolation, and if I let it, it could become the latest abject humiliation. Instead, I let the whole thing slide off me and disappear. Result! I have another blog post in the bag.

Except, – Oh God!- there are no handrails on either of the stairways up to the old and dignified room that remains intact amidst the general, geriatric ruination of this castle. So I stumble up and around the spiral staircase doing the landlubbers equivalent of the doggy paddle. Then all of a sudden, as if he knew exactly what I would like the most, a lovely young man appears at my side and offers, “Here, you can lean on me” and we proceed together, happily upright, me moved more than I care to admit. In the general mishmash of emotions bubbling away, it would take only a little something to start me crying. Oh, God, that is lovely music, where is my hankie? There are times when I just want someone to lean on.

Going down is the familiar story in reverse and even less dignified, filled with eddies of fear and uncertainty, while I work out what to do with my elbow crutch – it is dangerous, inflexible and in the way, so eventually I throw it down the stairs ahead of me, just to be rid of it – and then the rest is easier.

Is this yours? asks another helpful lady.

Yes, it is mine. Would you like it?

Brodowski - Portrait of a woman
Brodowski – Portrait of a woman

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