CHAPTER TWO: Arrival in Austria
Somehow the nine of them squeezed into the hire car waiting patiently at Salzburg Airport, their luggage safely handed over to a company who would drive it directly to Achensee, presumably arriving about the same time. Rob was at the wheel, Sir Humphrey beside him with a blanket of maps over his knees. Lindy, Nathaniel and Aoife were piled over the luckily generous spread of the back seat, little Serena sitting alternately on her mother’s lap and the lap of her ‘first cousin once removed’, to quote Blaise. Finally the two girls and Daniel inhabited the back seat, and Blaise’s excited antics nearly drove the other two to distraction. Apollo had the whole boot to himself, there being no luggage, and did not seem to possess the capacity to accustom himself to the dull throbbing motion of the car.
“Are we there yet?” whined Nathaniel for the fiftieth time, in true comedy style.
“We must be nearly there! I feel like I’ve been sitting here for years!” Blaise commented in a bored voice, though it was plain to her better-informed siblings that she was thoroughly enjoying the novelty of a complaint after an hour or so of monotonous chugging.
“I’m bored,” moaned Delia, adding to the general distress.
“Why do I have to be here?” grumbled Daniel. “I should be at hockey club this moment practising for Thursday’s match.”
When this conversation had been going on for some minutes, elaborated on in various ways and completed by a steady low growling from Apollo in the boot, and infecting Serena, who had the potential to be worse than the lot of them if she were allowed to begin, Aoife took a hand.
“Alright, you lot in the back! Shut up for a moment, will you, and let Rob concentrate on the driving. You are here and now, and here and now you will be, and nothing’s going to change that, so stop moaning and whining and goodness knows what else or I’ll go insane, and you’ll really hear all about it!”
All this was said in good humour, and the three in the backseat laughed appreciatively, but for all that they stopped voicing their woes and Aoife kept them occupied for at least twenty minutes with pointing out marks of interest. Blaise got her and Delia’s camera out, and began to take some pictures, but all too soon it got rowdy again and Aoife had to calm them down.
“For goodness’ sake, you people in the back – especially Blaise! Put that camera away, please, and I challenge you to sit still and silently for ten minutes! I’ll give you 50p each for every ten minutes you sit quietly.”
Blaise was captured straight away with the temptation of such a vast sum, and tried honestly to be good, but after just seven minutes she became bored once more, and began to fidget in a most disturbing way. Soon Delia, who was yawning by this time, and Daniel, who, at thirteen, had lost – or banished – a good deal of his youthful energy, were also willing their tempestuous sister to ‘stop squirming and just be’!
“Are we there yet?” Nathaniel began his plaintive wail again.
Blaise gave a most frantic wriggle.
“Will you please stop that!” snapped Daniel.
“But it’s so boring, just sitting here.”
“Then find a way to amuse yourself.”
“That’s what I’m doing!”
“Are we there yet?”
“I need the toilet!”
“Oh, please, won’t you…?!”
“Children!” cried Aoife. “Lay off! If you can’t hold on for just four minutes, I will personally throw each of you out of the car and leave you to die by the roadside! That is your final warning, and you know that I always keep my word. Someone shut that dog up – thanks, Dan. Now, stay calm and quiet and still for just four minutes. It really isn’t that long.”
Knowing well that Aoife always did keep her word, the back-seaters subsided with sighs, frowns and infrequent growls from Daniel’s stomach.
Sure enough, four minutes saw the car climbing a wide sunny road – then all of a sudden the road flattened and emerged on a perfect level with the lake.