Roast Beef, Wine, and a Great Big Sign

Roast beef dinner high angle viewThe owner of the wine shop pointed us toward a section of reds from Argentina. “They are quite popular now and will accompany any traditional English meal.” My eyes glanced across a few of the labels, but I couldn’t concentrate. I spotted a bottle of Spanish Rioja. I pulled it off the shelf and showed it to Donna. She held up her hand then walked in the opposite direction. “Not now, Jeffery.”

We’d agreed not to let the bombings in ruin our last day in Salisbury. Donna was leaning toward going to Spain as planned, especially since Marit had already booked the tickets home from Barcelona. I was leaning the other direction so we agreed to disagree and spend the day strolling around the city. Donna is good at re-focusing. I’m not. All day long, the images I’d seen on TV that morning kept popping into my head.

The kids didn’t seem to care much about the bombings. I thought for sure Alex would try and use it as an excuse to go home. Instead he seemed giddy and happy all day. He’d called Laura that morning from the phone booth across near the Inn. I guess they had a good talk. I was glad to see his optimism.

***

Mrs. M brought platter after platter from her kitchen – sliced roast beef, potatoes, and carrots. “What’s this?” Jill asked, pointing to little popovers covered with gravy. “Yorkshire Pudding.” Mrs. M declared with a smile. It seemed like forever since we’d enjoyed a home cooked dinner like this.

Mr. M. joined us as well. He was a friendly, stout-hearted man that made his living in construction. He uncorked the bottle of wine we’d brought and handed it to his wife. She filled our glasses – even the kid’s. “They’ll sleep well” she assured.

Their English accents, the aroma of the food, the simple formality of the dining room. It was all so comforting, and boy how I needed it.

They passed around an architectural magazine with pages of photos highlighting a building Mr. M. had restored. I got the impression his work was quite revered. He described his challenges of updating buildings that were built before electricity and indoor plumbing were invented. The kids were mesmerized by the stories he told about growing up in Salisbury – especially during World War II when the US military was based here. He told us he and his friends loved the American soldiers because they always shared candy with them.

“By the way,” Mrs. M. interjected. “Did you figure out my clue?”

The kids shook their heads.

“You’ll know if the knight died at home if there is a dog at his feet.”

“No way we’d have figured that one out.” Jill said.

“Glad you saw the Cathedral.” Mr M. explained how many of the cities around them had been destroyed by German bombs, but not Salisbury – because of the Cathedral. “Hitler was using the spire as point of reference to bomb the nearby naval harbor of Portsmouth.”

“It was leveled. But not us.” Mrs. M added. It seemed so odd to hear these nice people discussing such a thing. I wondered how they lived with all that horror around them.

Mr. M added: “Unfortunate about that bombing in Spain today.”

Donna and I looked at each other. “Yeah.”

“Heard that two hundred might be dead.”  Mr. M. shook his head and took a sip of wine. “Dreadful, isn’t it?”

“Yes, we had plans to visit Spain in a few weeks.” I said.

He put down his glass and looked at me. “So, visit Spain.” His tone was incidental, as if I was resisting the clotted cream.

“Do you think it’s safe?” I asked

“No place is entirely safe” he said, lifting a fork full of beef from his plate. “But don’t let that stop you. Let’s face it – when your number’s up, your numbers up.”

His words were simple – yet suddenly I had my answer. There was no doubt in my mind that we would go to Spain. Not because we had to prove anything to the terrorists, or anybody else for that matter. We’d planned to go there and nothing should scare us away. That was that.

I felt relieved and oddly – at peace.

***

After such a delightful dinner, it was hard to start packing. We’d known such warmth and security at this place. I pulled open one of drawers and started stuffing clothes into my pack. Donna sat at the desk studying our itinerary. I walked over and rubbed her shoulders.

“Are we being irresponsible?”

She exhaled. “No.”

I kept rubbing.

“Jeffery, think about what the kids have already lived through at home – earthquakes, fires and our own terrorist threats. What do we teach them by running away?”

Chris suddenly burst through the door, unnerving the hell out of both of us. “It’s snowing!” he yelled. He ran back to his room where the other two were already getting bundled up. They headed for the stairs.

“Not too loud” I said as they flew by our door.

From our window we watched them make snowballs from the blanket of white layering the car hoods in the parking lot. They dodged each other, barely keeping their balance on the slippery asphalt. They didn’t seem to have a care in the world and their faces looked so joyful. I watched hundreds of flakes falling by the amber street light beyond. It was a beautiful sight. Donna squeezed my hand. I looked up into the sky. Thanks.

RECIPE for Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding on MWDI Facebook

NEXT: Don’t Blow My Cover

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