I withdrew to the appropriately named Cockpit Bar, waiting for yet another delayed plane for my flight to Australia (notice that I do not use the word ‘return’).

Drinking a glass of white wine that, coincidentally, has the name of my never-to-be-consummated love – Catarina.

An elderly couple come in. She is painted like a totem pole and for reasons to become clear I will call Her Majesty.

Her short, stooped husband, probably in his late 80s, followed dragging THREE wheeled suitcases. They sat at the table next to me. She immediately asked her husband to unzip one of the suitcases for something she wanted. It looks as though he has early Parkinson’s disease as he shakily unzips the suitcase; he shuffles amongst the clothing to find what she wants.

Having done that and handed it to Her Majesty he shakily rezips the suitcase. As he unzips another suitcase she says (my translation), “Your toasted sandwich is getting cold!”. He continues unzipping staggeringly. It is clear that for him to do otherwise could bring the wrath of much more than that of any god. The toasted ham-and-cheese sandwich grows colder by the minute .  .  .

This whole process is repeated six times, on the three suitcases as she asks for other items. He goes through the process never questioning, always obeying. THEN, on the second last time he gives Her Majesty a plastic bag full of bottles of pills. She takes out six or more pills and swallows them with her glass of wine.

Geoff, the irreverent Australian, says in Spanish, “Estaría más barato para ti mourir que tomar tantos capsules!” (“It would be cheaper for you to die than to take so many capsules!”). She laughs then mutters something about her illness (I am not sure what language she spoke).

A few more openings of suitcases afterwards her husband raises his eyes to the sky or god (roof of the bar) in a clear expression of exasperation! Geoff, still being in extroversion travelling mode, risks a bit more of cross-cultural humour and says to him, “Quieres que la mata?” (“Do you want me to kill her?”)

His sad, wrinkly face illuminates as he laughs with barely hidden glee!

Soon after that Her Majesty paid the bill and left … leaving her husband to struggle after her dragging the three wheeled suitcases (with no assistance from Her Majesty)  . . .

[This is a factually accurate story.]

*Dr Geoff Holloway, was State Secretary of the United Tasmania Group (UTG) 1974-77 and again since revival of UTG two years ago. Geoff has a PhD (sociology), specialising in social movements, health and research methods; poet (4 books published); climber; traveller – two years in Chilean & Argentinean Patagonia, but also Colombia, Ecuador and Brasil, twice recently to Cabo Verde and Lisbon, fluent in Spanish, understands written Portuguese; focus over past 20 years on children with disabilities, child protection and youth justice issues.