It takes two to quarrel. That is a truism it has taken me a long time to learn and to learn the hard way. Sometimes a quarrel might be necessary, sometimes it might be fun; but nowadays I decide If, When Where and How. Bonnie still had this to learn.

Bonnie was puzzled. After her intemperate outburst on discovering my cyber-friendship with Gisela, her immediate reaction was to give me the silent treatment and avoid me. Unfortunately, I found this to be quite restful and thanked her for her consideration. Foiled, Bonnie, who was a lot more intelligent than I had initially given her credit for, changed tactics. Now she haunted my every waking moment. I didn’t mind that either; strangely enough, I liked having her around, providing she didn’t prove too much of a distraction.

‘I suppose you are chatting with that Gisela person?’ She said after sitting silently at my elbow for the past half hour.

‘No, see for yourself. Here is some information on castles on the Rhine.’

I always find it best to take all such questions absolutely literally when they are spoken in that tone of voice. I’m sure that, in the feminine meta-language that women so easily employ, she was really saying You are talking to that other woman, That is WRONG, that is an insult to me, You do not love me. Sometimes it pays to be deaf.

By this time we were meandering through Germany and heading North. It was early spring and except for the mountain tops, the snow was gone. The thaw had provided rushing streams and spectacular waterfalls. I have always been an indoors person and was surprised to find out how exciting such things could be. Everywhere, early spring flowers were blooming, buds were forming pink tipped on trees. There seemed to be an air of excitement everywhere; some of it even rubbed off on me.

‘Just look at these tiny flowers, Bonnie,’ I said, and I brushed back the new short grass to reveal some miniature white flowers, as perfectly formed as a newborn’s fingernails. “Just look.’

We were well wrapped up. I had bought us both a Lodenmantel, a very warm cloak-like garment with a hood. They were made of closely woven goat’s wool and were a grey-blue colour. Ski pants, sweaters, stout boots, gloves and ear-muffs completed our ensemble and we were each armed with a strong ash walking stick.

Walking sticks are made for walking but they don’t do it by themselves. In my new enthusiasm for the healthy life, I insisted on us getting up at dawn and walking for one hour before breakfast.

‘You were the one who said exercise would be good for me.’ I told a grumbling Bonnie. ‘You should be pleased we are doing it.’ But I fear Bonnie is a city girl at heart. Her idea of exercise is to be part of a gyrating pack of females doing aerobics, a pseudo-scientific name for PE. Admittedly, she looks cute in a leotard, but I abhor militarism in any form, and the sight of a load of puppets having their strings pulled by a leader is a turn-off.

‘Come on girl, Breathe that country air and step lively, we should walk a good five k before breakfast. It will give you an appetite!’

I had already played havoc with Bonnie’s carefully planned itineraries and now I threw her a bombshell.

‘Next weekend, we have been invited to Schloss Eisenberg. It is a historic castle on the Rhine. All turrets and amazing scenery; vineyards, Rhine Riesling and all that stuff. The Baroness is a friend of mine.

‘By the way, she has sent you an e-mail. It is in German. I told her you speak it fluently. I have printed it out on the bubble-jet. I promise I haven’t tried to translate it. She says it is for you, and “Privat”, I can guess that one.’

I handed over the sheet of paper and turned back to the computer.

A pensive, but happy Bonnie came and sat next to me. She had a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

‘Well,’ she said. ‘Don’t you want to know what is in the letter?’

‘I asked her to give you all the details, so you could arrange travel and stuff.’

‘No, that will be in the next letter, when I accept the invitation. This one was personal. Would you like me to read you some of it.’

‘If you like,’ I said, dragging my attention away from the screen.

‘”My dear Bonnie,”‘ she began. ‘”I thought it time to write to you about this strange man of yours”‘

I looked up, startled.

‘”He speaks very highly of you in an odd backhanded way. It is always ‘Bonnie this’ and ‘Bonnie that’ and I am sure he would be lost without you.

‘”By the way, please do not be jealous of my cyber-friendship with him. I will tell you a secret that he does not yet know, the poor naive fellow. Since I hope that we shall meet soon, you may now tell him that I am, in fact, seventy years of age. Tell him also that only a dummkopf believes anything he finds on the net!” Well, Charlie, what do you think of that?’

My visions of a golden Rhine Maiden collapsed into that of a silver Rhine Grandmother, but after all, she was still a Baroness!

‘What else did it say?’ I asked.

‘Never you mind. It was just girl talk. Can I send a reply? I’d like to sort out the travel arrangements.”

I showed her what to do, and stood back proudly. Really, Bonnie was learning computers very fast. I was surprised at discovering Gisela’s age, she has such a young cyber-voice, but I am glad that I had asked her to write to Bonnie.

It just seemed Good Sense.


by Harry St. Vincent Beechey

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