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Two ships passing...
And the ever-present sadness of being.
The elevator doors opened on the 2nd floor of the Chichester Travelodge and a solitary lady about the same age as my mum bent over to start collecting six or seven pieces of luggage and large bags, which filled the small space. I was on my way to collect pizza from round the corner. She seemed to me a strong lady, dressed nicely in a warm, white coat and hat and the luggage was good leather.
“Let me help you.”
“Oh no, it’s fine” she said, in an accent.
“Well, let me wait here with these while you take them to your room?”
“Yes, ok.” came the reply as she collected two of them and walked down the corridor checking the room numbers. I picked up two and followed her, plonking them down outside her room and went back for the others.
“I also do a lot of travelling.” I offered in an attempt to iron out any uncertainties about me. She seemed interested and we exchanged information about our respective journeys. This smart, bright-eyed, mature woman was a war refugee.
Having witnessed the death of my step-father in Chesterfield hospital just over a week ago, whilst on our Xmas visit from South of France, I’m now visiting relatives in the South of England and about to do a 180 North-South-North switcheroo as we return for an unexpected funeral and to give my mum some company.
“You’ll have to come and visit Ukraine when the war is over.” she said, loading the last bag through her door.
I didn’t hesitate, “Soon, I hope".” and raising a fist, “Slava Ukraini.”
With a brief nod and a reply I didn’t quite catch, in that moment her eyes told a deeply sad story.
We parted ways.
Out in the street, I no longer wondered why many people seemed introspective and sad.