We had a big weekend planned, but it kept growing and growing. Every moment was gorgeous, joyous, and filled with mental sunshine.
Friday he popped into Brizzle to pick me up. I would have been happy to cycle, but I needed to bring all the bits and bobs to make me beautiful for the ball on Saturday night, and I couldn't carry everything I needed on my own. I got out of work, threw the last few things in my bags (I began packing 3 days early), and waited downstairs. I had just sat down on the steps and opened my book when I heard his car horn outside. We listened to The Now Show on Radio 4 and laughed ourselves all the way to his place. (Marcus Brigstock is GOD.)
I had a nice dinner planned, so when we arrived at HMS Lovenest (as the Pirate's home shall henceforth be known) I immediately hit the galley. "It's been raining for a month and the grass has grown a foot. I'm going to go out back and destroy the garden while you're burning the sausages," he said. He donned the Yard Work Shoes (old trainers with holes that were once employed in the service of a Rocky Horror costume and spray-painted metallic gold), and I slipped into an apron. It was such a picture of domesticity even I couldn't help but laugh. We've properly turned into June and Ward Cleaver. I listened to the venison sausages sizzle and the lanwmower hum outside, and smiled.
Saturday was an early start. Pirate and I had to drive to some place south of London to check out a classic Aston Martin he's thinking about buying. We were out the door at 7:30. Ouch.
The drive was pleasant and we enjoyed the first sunshine we'd seen in weeks. The directions were complicated but detailed (I always get nervous when directions include items like "turn left by the high hedgerow"), and we found the place with no difficulty. If only the broker selling the car was as thorough with his automobiles as he is with his directions. I believed him when he said "I really believed the car was in operating condidtion. If I'd known it wasn't I would have phoned you and told you not to come," but if he'd bothered to get the thing out of the back of the garadge a day or two early and dust it off he would have known that it barely started and only engaged 4 of the 6 cylinders. We had to abandon the test drive after less than 100 yards. Trip wasted. Understandably, Pirate was not in a good mood. His bitterness at the waste of time was amplified by the let-down. After years of searching he thought he'd finally come across the model he wanted with the features he wanted in his price rance. Alas, it was not to be. We got back in his Skoda Dinghy and left.
On the way to the car place we'd spotted a PYO berry farm advertising ripe raspberries, the Pirate's second-fav fruit (blackberries being the first). We decided to make a spontaneous detour and pick some berries. This had the triple beneficial effect of 1, making the trip seem slightly less futile; 2, extending the break between outward and return drives; and 3, giving us an excuse to get out and enjoy the sunshine.
And enjoy it, we did. I was wearing a cute little sundress and frolicked, yes, frolicked, around the fields. They had far more than just raspberries -- they had loganberries and tayeberries as well. I'd never heard of either of the latter. P had heard of loganberries but had never tried them. We sampled a few plump specimines of each and became immediately enamoured, me with the loganberries and P with the tayeberries. We grabbed our baskets and began picking. An hour later we had more berries than we could carry, and had to make several trips from the fields to the car. I put my nose right down to one of the larger punnetts I'd picked and inhaled deeply. The fruit was warm and gave off a thick, intoxicating smell. Some things smell of summer because you associate them with summer (sunblock, burgers grilling, etc.). I had never smelled this smell in my life, but somewhere deep in my DNA I knew that this was the smell of summer.
Back on the road again we passed a sign that said "British Wildlife Centre." Que spontaneous detour numero dos. The place was much larger and more extensive (and expensive) that I would have guessed from the inauspiscous signage. In addition to the Scotish Wildcat breeding program, the herds of red and roe deer, the stoats, foxes, otters (Lutra lutra), bees, birds, and butterflies, there was a barn owl who slept on a perch in the visitors' center and danced in his sleep when you stroked his feathers (which were the softest thing I've ever touched), a tiny harvest mouse who clambered up and down the blades of grass in his cage, and a wild male pheasant who kept trying to break in to the pheasant enclosure to romance the hens therein. Hehehe.
Before we got to the water vole exhibit I could feel my shoulders getting hot. By the time we'd made it 'round to the eagle owl I knew I was toasting, and badly. I told the Pirate I needed to get under cover, and soon.
We'd seen pretty much everything, and needed to be getting back to the HMS Lovenest anyway so I would have ample time to bee-ootify myself for the evening's festivities: a formal ball. Back in the car, and this time no more procrastinating. We hit the highway and made tracks west.
At Reading P needed a short break and a nap in order to continue driving safely, so we pulled into a service center. I could already feel the burn coming up on my shoulders and decided to go inside to buy some aftersun. The first horrible thing about this stop was that when I got out of the car I left a significant portion of the skin from the back of my legs attached to the vinyl seat. That hurt like a bitch. The second horrible thing was that at a huge service center situated directly next door to a Travelodge there was no place to buy a toothbrush or any other toiletry basics, never mind a simple bottle of lotion. I got back in the car and put my feet up on the dashboard to prevent my thighs from coming into any further contact with the seat.
"Why are you sitting like that?" asked the Pirate.
"Is the seat OK?"
I have not the words.
We arrived back that the L.N. at 5 pm with a freshly aquired bottle of after sun aloe gel, courtesy of the local supermarket. Time to get in the shower and begin preparing for the Big Event!
Stay tuned for Part 2, where our heroine addresses issues like
- trying to create a hairstyle that doesn't say "a diseased rodent died on my head"
- coping with sunburn and tan lines while wearing a new, sexy, backless ball gown
- being dumped by one's date, who suddenly decides he prefers the company of another... !