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I  (along with The Man In My Life) was invited to a friend’s cottage this week. It was to be one-day, one night visit. Three other couples had also been invited. My friend lured us with the promise of a lovely dinner, some swimming, sitting on the deck overlooking the lake, sipping (or guzzling) wine for the duration.

Proving once again that things never go as planned, the dinner hour was switched to lunchtime since one of the couples had to leave before dark to get to their home while they could still see — a plight many of us have as we age. I don’t blame them: to reach their island retreat, they had to, of course, take a boat.  I don’t know why, but the voyage across the River Styx popped into my mind. Not a pleasant thought if you add the cover of darkness — and their dog acting as navigator and nautical figurehead on the bow.

The day proved more suited to indoor activities than outdoor. The wind was a northerly one and blowing across the lake, it proved too brisk for deck sitting or swimming (certainly for a bunch of seniors more accustomed to the comforts of an 82 degree pool). So we ate and drank. And that’s what I love about drinking — it can be adapted to so many venues: patio, deck, swim-up bar, picnic in the park, book club get-togethers, yummy mummy daycare play dates, romantic evenings. Unlike sports, anyone can participate, not a lot of equipment is required, and things can easily be moved indoors.

So, when the noon hour was pronounced the start of ‘happy hour’ (well, it’s dinnertime somewhere), we happily settled in to chat, admiring the lake view through the picture windows. We then had a three-hour lunch that devolved into hilarious tales about our recent travels, kids, pets, politics, world events. After lunch, the women and men separated. The women went for a brisk walk (more talking than walking happened) and the men settled into the Barca Loungers and cushiony sofas to discuss the world’s problems. Happy news: by the time the women returned, the men announced confidently that all the world’s issues were solved. Personally, I think the women accomplished more on the walk — at least we got some exercise! Suspiciously, the men didn’t seem inclined to share their solutions for saving the world…I guess they’re waiting to return home to text Mr. Obama et al their ideas…

Late in the afternoon, the couple with the island retreat made moves to leave. I hadn’t realized that, for the entire afternoon, they had left their lovely, old black lab cross dog tied up on the front porch. She was happy — it was shady, she had access to water and she was content to sleep. Good thing I hadn’t known of her existence — I would have been tempted to ask the hostess to set an extra plate at the table for her (which probably explains why I wasn’t told of her existence)  or I might have joined her on the porch so she wouldn’t feel excluded.

As we said our goodbyes, her ‘daddy’ tried to remove her leash from the porch. But it was part chain link and was caught in the very narrow spaces between the planks of the floor. We all took turns pulling, twisting, maneuvering the chain…but it would not budge. Tools were needed. Out came a set of different-tipped screwdrivers. Someone mentioned the possible need for a crowbar. There came a suggestion of crawling underneath the porch to loosen the chain from below. Then “perhaps we could remove one of the planks from the floor…it shouldn’t be too difficult”. For a group of men who are all former professors or doctors, handy with their hands and generally know a lot about home repairs and such, they were quickly escalating this chore into a re-construction project. I think I even heard some mathematical equations being thrown around for good measure. Mention was made of cutting the chain with bolt cutters. Everyone gave a blank look and admitted that, darn it, they didn’t happen to have bolt cutters in their handbags/ picnic coolers. Doesn’t everyone carry such implements with them?

As the screwdrivers were put into action, chips went flying from the edge of the wooden planks. A few gouges here, the odd splinter there. Imagine seven people huddled around one individual gouging the plank  with a screwdriver, chips flying, the chain no closer to coming free, the dog (now loose) wandering the yard sniffing the flowers , totally oblivious to the plight her chain has caused.

Finally, miraculously, it came loose. A cheer went up! The handymen were vindicated, their dignity restored. This was truly the first time I’d ever heard of a guest having to be freed from chains in order to leave a party. We trooped back into the house after the couple had left to have a restorative glass of wine and discuss the ‘merits’ of the latest ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ movie…speaking of chains. Who says seniors don’t know how to have fun??!!

I know that Gill has had some interesting vacations with her friends recently, but I challenge her to top this…

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