Over the holidays (by which I mean the school holidays – I work in a school – keep up) I spent a happy day meeting up with two old chums I see far too little of these days. One of them lives in Bury St Edmunds and faces some particular physical challenges in travelling long distances so our contact is mainly via email. The other (I am ashamed to say) lives less than 10 miles away but she also has two kids and a mad dog and a demanding job that involves frequent travel so, if we are lucky, we see each other for a coffee about once every six months.
So we decided that we would all meet between Bury and Surrey and chose Lakeside Shopping Centre as the venue – plenty of parking, places to eat and a bit of retail therapy thrown in – what could be better? And it all went swimmingly. I collected friend 1 on the way and popped in to view her (very lovely) new home. The traffic was pants but, as friend 2 was late also, it didn't cause any problems and we met up and had a delicious lunch at Wagamama and caught up on our lives, our mutual friends, our various siblings’ activities and all those things that women of our age like to natter about.
But. There’s always a but, isn’t there? I mean, it wouldn’t be my blog if there weren’t a but in it and, after all, if I finished up with “and then we went our separate ways and had a lovely, traffic-free trip round the M25” that would be damn boring ne c’est pas?
So – we were strolling through the shopping centre after lunch and friend 1 says casually that she wouldn’t mind popping into Charles Tyrwhitt to see if she can find a nice shirt for her husband as their wedding anniversary is coming up. “Yeah, why not?” I say casually. “By the way – when is your anniversary?” “Oh, it’s a week today,” she replies cheerily. “It’s exactly a week after yours – remember?”
No I feckin’ didn’t remember. Bugger. I felt as if a bucket of cold water had just been poured down my back. The Shah and I are absolutely rubbish at this anniversary thing – and we’ve had 21 of them so it’s not like we need the practice. He is actually better than me and this was the crux of my anxiety because he is somewhat Machiavellian by nature and has been known to hide cards, gifts etc around the house for me to discover when he has left for work and it’s too late for me to rescue the situation.
So, with rapid heartbeat, I phoned him. He was, as it turns out, on his way to a meeting in London and was in full work mode*.
Me: Hello – it’s me. Can you talk?
Shah: (sounding distracted and not in the least interested): Umm, okay...
Me (biting the bullet): Is it our anniversary today?
Shah (Loudly) Oh BOLLOCKS!
A sigh of relief. Well in our defence, there are too many things to remember in August. There’s my birthday, my mum’s birthday, his mum’s birthday, his nephew’s birthday, er Madonna’s birthday, er, the Queen Mother turning 122 or, um, something *voice tails off feebly as she flails about grasping at straws*
To be honest, we’re not the sort of family that go berserk on fulsome gifts, flowers etc for every occasion but we are given to buying the odd card and maybe going out for a meal. Unfortunately, my ginormous portion of chicken raisukaree at Wagamama had rendered me a dead ringer for Mrs Creosote so going out for another meal in the evening was out of the question. I mean, it's not as if our house rings to sounds like this:-
So, all in all, it was a bit of a damp squib. A couple of nights later we had a late celebration and went to see The Inbetweeners choosing the local independent cinema - not just because there is a bar and you can take drinks in with you, honest – because the kids all go to the local multiplex and eschew the local place because it doesn’t have fancy seats and mega-surround-sound etc etc. Needless to say both children are disgusted that we find The Inbetweeners funny and would rather have plucked out their own eyes than been seen there with us. We were worried we were going to be the oldest people there but there was a white-haired old codger a few rows in front who left looking somewhat shell-shocked at the end.
We wondered if he had got confused with The Tweenies?
*Work mode - once the Shah gets to work, all other thoughts leave his (pitifully tiny) mind. He has been known to phone his son as follows:-
Shah: "Hello - this the Shah speaking."
Son & heir: "Dad? Are you ****ing barking mad?
Shah: Oh, er sorry....