“Marta’s coming for the weekend,” Ana said.
She didn’t say, “Marta’s booked a room for the weekend.” She said “Marta’s coming for the weekend.”
I was perplexed.
Marta and Ana have been friends since primary school. Marta is an aspiring opera singer, short and round, and by turns breezy and melancholic.
“She’s going through a bad patch,” Ana said. “She got turned down for Carmen.”
I could see in my mind’s eye, amid discarded castanets, the possibility of melancholia.
“But there isn’t a room,” I said. “They’re all taken!” We had full house – a wedding party arriving, nuptuals scheduled for the south terrace at four on Saturday afternoon.
“She can sleep in ours,” Ana said. “We’ll take the sitting room.”
I was momentarily speechless. Then, lamely: “Why are we taking the sitting room and not Marta?”
“Because she needs peace and quiet. She has to re-charge her batteries.”
“Can’t she re-charge her batteries in the sitting-room?”
Dino came in from the kitchen. “I need help,” he said.
Who among us doesn’t? I thought, a tad sulkily.
“What’s the matter?” Ana asked.
“Potatoes,” he replied.
Ana looked at me.
And so, having been evicted from the bedroom, I was consigned to the kitchen, there to help peel potatoes. Such is the lot of the independent hotelier.
I was still peeling when Marta arrived. She came in and bounded over to where I sat. When she smiles she looks like a sort of pleased pumpkin. She leaned forward and gave me a big kiss. “Ana says you are angry, David, and I told her I must sleep in the sitting room.”
She has known me for years but still calls me “Dah-veed”. It’s quite endearing.
“Of course not!” I lied. “You are more than welcome to our room!”
She looked at me as though she’d just been told the first choice for Carmen had come down with Spanish flu. “I am grateful,” she said. “I yearn for the peace and the quiet!”
No more than five minutes later the peace and the quiet were rather dramatically disturbed by strange sounds emanating from our (now Marta’s) bedroom. Marta appeared to be screaming.
“What on earth . . .” I began as Ana came in from Reception.
“Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District,” Ana said.
I struggled to compute.
“She didn’t get Carmen in Sarajevo but she got Lady Macbeth in Bucharest.”
“And this is it?” I asked, nodding my head in the direction of the strangulated high pitched sounds from above.
“This is it. She has to practise. It calms her.”
We did a roaring trade in the bar on Friday evening though at one point Ana came down and asked if I could do anything about the decibels as Marta was trying to sleep. Apparently the very same Marta who had introduced a large party of affable but not (in any obvious way) modern-opera-loving guests to the atonal intricacies of the Shostakovich ouvre. Ana appeared to find the paradox elusive.
Marta was at it again first thing on Saturday morning.
“You’d better go and help Dino,” Ana said as I came into the kitchen listening (along with everyone else) to the nearby shriek of Katerina Izmailova’s celebrated “drainpipe aria”.
Dino was on the terrace standing amid a sea of tangled wire and four very large loudspeakers.
“Won’t work,” he said.
“The band can only play over there.” He pointed to the dining area in the shade of the pension.
“That’s where they’re supposed to play.”
“But the wedding’s here” he said. We were on the edge of the terrace, where the surrounding mountains frame a glorious panorama of meadows and wooded hills. A little dais had been set in place for the exchange of vows. Seats for fifty had been placed in front of it.
“But you don’t need speakers here,” I said. “There’s no music.”
“The Wedding March!” Dino said, baffled, apparently, by my slowness of grasp.
“Ah,” I replied, and then, to my own and Dinos’s surprise, I added, “I think I have a solution!”
The bride and groom were sent off on their honeymoon around eight and the last revelers abandoned the bar in the small hours, wishing copious and convivial goodnights.
It was a wedding to remember – not just the picture-perfect ceremony against an Alpine backdrop or the banquet afterwards under the stars, but also the Schumann lieder to which the bride walked down the aisle, rendered with consummate virtuosity by the talented Marta, soon to be Lady Macbeth in Bucharest.
Things do work out, even when you have been evicted from your bedroom to accommodate a friend in need.