Colin Payn Writer The Carousel
The story of the Carousel came about on a hot, sunny morning watching happy people enjoying the ride at Honfleur in France.
Contemplating life in general, and the butter-soaked barrel of a croissant on my plate in particular, the idea of a second chance at life became an optimistic story.
The grandchildren wanted to go on the carousel again, they’d been both days so far and Bob could see why. It was a wonderful machine, rising up to a second storey through a grand staircase, and full of prancing horses and fairy ice cream cup-cake seats. Its setting was singular, in a special boarded circular walkway with lamp standards and the background of the magical harbour at Honfleur.
It was not unusual for adults to be on the ride and, as he had sat at the café drinking his first café crème, he had noticed a woman of about his age take two rides on the carousel each morning.
But he was still surprised to find the woman climbing, side saddle, onto the black horse beside him. Close up he guessed she was in her early 60’s, well dressed and with only a hint of makeup.
Seeing him look at her she smiled back, a real smile not just the politeness he expected. His horse started to rise, just as hers went down, the steam organ music cranked into a noisy march and his grandchildren called to him to bounce up and down as though he was riding a real horse. He obliged, and his efforts were rewarded by peals of laughter from children all round him.
‘You certainly seem to have the knack of amusing children.’ The voice was gentle but clear, with no hint of sarcasm, a reaction he sometimes had from his ex.
The carousel had now got into its stride, not fast but flowing the scenery behind her as he turned to answer, a figure now below him with the yacht masts and ropes woven into her background.
‘Making a fool of yourself is children’s language wherever they come from. And I find it gets easier as I get older.’
He hadn’t expected his reply to be so frank, and to have been speaking to someone moving up and down before him. The red canopies of the jostling harbour bars and restaurants streamed past her head, somehow urging him to keep going. ‘I know this is going to sound odd, but I noticed you a couple of times on here, and you always have two rides, would it be a cheek to ask why?’
Twice more the masts appeared and went before she replied, ‘I came here with my husband, just before he died. He knew he was going but this carousel gave him so much pleasure that he made a joke of it, and life. He said, “Once is not enough".’
The carousel was slowing. The horses stilled and he slid off the saddle, turning to say goodbye. But she held out her hand for him to help her down. He frowned. ‘What about the second ride?’
Her hand moved only slightly in his, but it was enough for both.
‘I think I would like to take my chances on the bigger carousel.’
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