Easter under a palm tree and every cousin in the world. Whitehall having given uncle’s regiment more time but who knows for how long. Could be in Hong Kong next or up the Yukon. Better to go now.
A house bigger than anyone has in Wales and servants just to open and close the doors. Paper chains in pretty colors wrapped around the banisters all the way up to the nursery on the top floor. A week sitting in the back garden making them in shifts, but it just wouldn’t be Easter otherwise.
Good Friday and nothing to do after church. Everyone else at work. Mostly Muslim and their own holidays. Not like January, the governess said. The opposite with days slept away and noise every night once darkness fell.
But an outing to see the Pyramids. Hot and everything too tall to climb. But a picnic with Grandmama in the shade below the Sphinx’s right ear and a nap before the little train comes back.
Off to the Anglican cathedral in the morning and then a gymkhana at the royal governor’s mansion. Home and then sleep.
So many cousins there is an Easter basket behind every curtain. All morning to hunt for eggs in the sand. . . .enough memories of warmth to last an entire British misted in life long . . .
Wintering at the Cecil Hotel in Alexandria. Not Cairo but less. Papa’s money mostly gone in the last panic and a need to economize.
But warm and young men to meet at every ball and tea. Soldiers who guarded the canal. Young men making their way from India to Britain putting off heading for Oxford. Spring better, they said. Sun then. Better to winter anywhere else. Better yet to never go home but no choice. Colonials and having to be schooled somewhere. No way to get picked to go back out and have your own residency anywhere or a summer place in Kashmir or where the Red Sea meets the sky.
Money enough from Grandmama for a tea dress. A dance at Shepheard’s every Saturday and one at the Windsor every Wednesday. Tea with so many gentleman friends that the chaperones get pouty. Not wanting to work that hard, it must be. Easier in England, they say. All the balls in London and that only for a few. But dances in Cairo for nearly everyone. Four young men for every girl and all the fun in the world with half as many old ladies on little gilt chairs.
But one nicer than the rest. El Giza in the little train and a donkey to the Sphinx. Fizzy drinks, sandwiches, and biscuits in the shade under an umbrella and a rest.
A small pyramid and then a big one. The donkey men to help one climb up and one’s young man helping too. Easier it would be in a schoolroom dress with its hem that hits the top of one’s boots but no. Everyone knowing that young ladies in the schoolroom are not to be danced with let alone courted. Better to be pulled and pushed up and feel like an ant playing in one of the block buildings in the nursery that the boy cousins loved to make.
The way down not to be thought of. Sunset long after and the train back . . .better that. . . .one little slip and who knows. . . . the men above on the way up and down going the other way . . . .someone to land on . . .a winter that may never end and a warmth that will never go away . . . . out in the sand forever at least in one’s mind . . . .