Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Tales of Love # 6


Hair of gold
Falls in curls
Over amber skin
In perfect compliment
Like ripened corn
In a summer field


She said she felt so helplessly alone
Like a lonely candle flickering in the dark
Then on the day when I came into her life
She said there was a discernable spark
And as if by a kind of magic, hey presto
We were instantly two candles in the dark


So quiet
A perfect angel
So calm and serene

Soft eyes,
A gentle smile
As if from a dream

But beneath
The façade, things
Are not as they seem

So quiet
The perfect angel
She secretly aspires

Soft eyes,
A gentle smile
Mask her desires

But beneath
The façade, a little
Sinning is required


In a quiet passing time
I look back on yesterday,
and wonder why it is
That I am so lonely today


You were my one and only
My hearts song and melody
Now music has been banished
And I must suffer silently


You are my Angel
In the moonlight
Draped in lunar white
Where upon I steal
A midnight kiss
And I am in heaven


I am not special
I have no fortune
I am average
I have no high station
I am ordinary
I am not an Adonis
But for some reason
I have won your heart


Since we’ve been apart
My wounded heart
Still bleeds for you
And I pray you’d love me too


I never meant to do it
But I did it with ease
In fact it was so simple
It was actually a breeze
So now can you fall?
In love with me please


I first saw you
As you were advancing
I smiled at you
As your eyes were glancing
And all at once
My heart was dancing
And in a moment
We were both romancing

True Nature # 1


Beneath the forest canopy
In the Emerald darkness
Of the ancient wood
It was refreshingly cool
But shadow soon gave way
To the dappled shade
Where the sun pierced
The leafy veil
Littering the floor
With Golden discs of light
And when the forest thinned
We came upon a Deer
Grazing in a forest glade


In the dew fresh meadow
I watch the dawn’s first rays
Appear to evaporate the mist
In the majesty of Autumn days


Stung by hail and rain
And colds numbing bite
And cut through like a knife
By the east-wind’s spite


The sun burns bright above the blue
From above the clouds up high
Shining brightly through the rain
Painting rainbows across the sky


Moonlight glints
On the silent vales
Dressed crisply
In winters cloak
Lying like rippled silk
On the frozen land


The wondrous beauty
Of your pale white skin,
That seductive landscape
Pure as exotic silk
Fresh as winter snow
And as cold as your heart


The wind whistles
The frozen rain bites
And the chill runs deep
And we must escape
To shelter safe inside
Where the barn owls sleep


The Heathers cloak the hillside
And Buttercups dot the meadow
The Bluebells carpet the woods
And Orchids pepper the hedgerow
In an understatement of radiance
Where the wild flowers grow


Little bird bring to us
Your sweet song
Bring it cheerily
With the spring
To the woodland
And to the meadow
And with your
Sweet melody
Usher in another
Blessed summer


The savage natural scene
In the winter meadow
Where the Falcon feeds
His talons red in the snow


Beneath the leafy canopy
Moonlight pierced the darkness
And shafts of lunar light
Like a brilliant laser show
Illuminated the forest floor


The Sun rules in daylight hours
Shining light across the shadow
The Moon rules over the tides
In their perpetual ebb and flow
But God rules in the heavens
In benevolence over all below


Tiger, Tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night
Poachers perform their rite
And leave a bloody sight


Winter maiden
Draped afresh
In a pure white
Unsullied cloak
Hugging her contours
In its perfect purity
Her Pristine draperies
Like crisp white linen
Lying undisturbed
Natures maiden
In her winter coat


Sally was laying beneath the duvet and through the wall she could hear him in the shower.
And she envied every droplet of water as it ran over his naked skin.
She had loved him since she was eleven years old and now she was almost twenty she wanted him with every fibre of her being.

“He” was Danny, the elder brother of Sally’s best friend Erin who at the age of 18 had, to all intents and purposes, become the father of his 11 year old sister.
Their parents were killed in a car crash on the M6 and all his hopes and dreams for the future died with them.
His plans to go to University and what that might have led to were set aside in order for him to raise his little sister.
The early years of his enforced parenthood he was consumed by his new responsibilities, running the home, nurturing Erin and holding down a job.
The only saving grace from being weighed down by responsibility’s at such a young age was that he was a stronger person for the experience and Erin was everything their parents would have wished her to be.
And he was proud of the result.
His sacrifice had allowed her to follow her dreams and she was now at University with Sally.

In the warmth of her bed she felt aroused as she listened to the water washing over him.
Her flesh tingled and the hairs on the back of her neck stood up and her nipples erected as she felt that tell-tale feeling as the warmth build within her

The water stopped and the foot fall told her he had stepped out of the shower and she pictured his naked form as he did so.
Just a thin stud wall separated her eager want from the object of her desire.
She could see in her mind’s eye each droplet of water dripping from his torso and her hand travelled purposely across her belly and slipped inside her shorts where her finger went quickly between her moist lips and she was as wet as he.

The door suddenly opened and she heard herself gasp as he walked into the room but her finger lingered between her greasy lips.
She clenched her buttocks tightly and grasped her thighs firmly around her hand
But as she watched him across the room her slender digits moved involuntarily and she continued to stroke herself.

Danny began picking up the laundry that had been discarded in and around the wash bin.
There was always plenty of it when Erin was back from Uni and even more whenever Sally slept over.
Sally and Erin had been best friend since forever and over the years she had been a regular house guest.
They’d been back from University for a week and the washing had already built up and this was the first opportunity he’d had to get to grips with it.
But as it was Saturday and the girls had gone to a party the night before and had stayed over at another friends place he thought he should make a start on the washing.
As he went through the assorted jeans, T-shirts and lingerie, he thought how quickly time passed by and how quickly his sister and her best friend had grown up.
He smiled to himself as he remembered Erin’s first Bra, it was a purely cosmetic device of course when she was twelve.
Then as she grew she went through various stages of padded enhancements and eventually to the full cupped and underwired contraptions she wore today.
It was the same with her pants in the early days they were childishly embellished with flowers or colourful characters, then progressed through to practical pants and onto more sophisticated items before progressing on to the skimpy things of lace and bows.
His little sister was a grown woman now.

She watched as he stood across the room in the half light, his upper body still damp, a towel wrapped around the lower.
He was standing sorting laundry into baskets of light and dark and as he held a pair of pink knickers she recognised them as her own and she wished she was wearing them at that moment and her arousal deepened.

He held the pink panties briefly in his hand before dropping them into the appropriate pile.
Then a red pair, then pale blue silk and followed by black lace.

Sally watched as he handled her knickers one pair after another and she bit her lip, she had never been so turned on.
Her finger was still engaged between her juicy lips, she knew she should stop but she just couldn’t.

As Danny was methodically sorting the mountain of dirty washing.
He had no idea she was laying there in the gloom or what she was doing there beneath the duvet, she and Erin were supposed to be sleeping over at Karen’s some 20 miles away.
Had he known she was there he would not have entered the room especially wearing nothing but a towel, he would have been too self-conscious.
He had known her since she was an awkward clumsy eleven year old girl who seemed to spend her entire time either falling over or picking herself up and showing off her floral knickers in the process.
But she was a young woman now and Sally was a far cry from the klutzy eleven year old in flowered briefs.
She had grown up to become a swan.
He could never tell her that though, nor could he tell his sister how he felt about her.

God how she wanted to finish herself off right there, but she couldn’t with him standing there.
But she didn’t want him to leave, touching herself with him so close was so exciting,
She had never felt so hot as at that moment.

Danny fished out the last item from the bottom of the bin and turned to leave the room when Sally let out an involuntary moan and he turned around.
“Is that you Sal?” he asked
Sally bit hard on her lip after her exclamation but was still unable to halt her fingering
“Yes” she replied through clenched teeth
He walked to the window and opened one curtain, spilling weak winter light into the room.
It lit across the rumpled screwed up duvet and a shapeless bulge beneath it.
“I thought you and Erin were staying over at Karen’s” Danny said
“Erin did” she gasped “but I didn’t fancy it”
Each word was spoken through gritted teeth and were slow and laboured and she was squirming beneath the duvet.
He took a hand full of duvet and through it aside revealing Sally’s lustful pose.
Her nipples were standing proud through her pyjama top and her right hand was still inside her shorts.
Instead of feeling embarrassment, Sally’s exposure before the object of her lust merely turned her on even more and her finger still lingered between her lips.
It was there that his is eyes were drawn, that place were the fabric of her shorts moved to rhythm of her busy fingers frigging herself before him.
As he stood there he felt a passion welling up in him, a passion he had suppressed over the last two years which he dare not have hoped to have acted upon until that moment.
He watched her and she reached out her left hand and tugged at the towel wrapped around him until it fell away.
Then the want that had simmered for so long between them finally came to the boil.

Waiting For God In Frinton

I’m in my fifties now and I started drinking when I was 15, which was in the early 1970’s.
I always looked older than my age, though not old enough to pass for 18 when I was three years younger but it was the 70s and landlords pretty much turned a blind eye to 15 and 16 year olds drinking as long as they didn’t look to out of place.
My first ever pint was in a pub called the Man in the Moon and it cost me 17 pence.
And the first sip of that foaming brew set me on the road to oblivion.

I didn’t drink everyday but when I drank I didn’t hold back and I didn’t know when to stop.
On one occasion, a Friday, I left work at 5.30pm and went straight to the pub, with that weeks pay packet in hand, in those days we got paid weekly in cash, I woke up the next morning in a bus shelter with 3 pence in my pocket, I had pissed away a weeks wages in one night.
On A works beano one year we went on a day trip to France the more serious drinkers among our party drank nonstop for 26 hours and very nearly drank ourselves sober, one or two of the group had to be carried but the hardened drinkers walked back to the ferry.

On another occasion after a friend’s house party I woke up on the bedroom floor, having no idea how I got there.
It was only later when I spoke to my friends that I found out the whole story of what I had done and that they had carried/dragged me home.
They were good friends, who through my behaviour, I gradually alienated one by one until there was no one left to get me home.
So I woke up in gardens, subways and gutters, I even woke up once in a skip with a kebab stuck to my face.
In the end I was disowned by my family and my only friends were fellow drunks.

Despite my drunken binges I still managed to hold down a decent job so when
I was in my late twenties I moved to Woking to take up a very well paid job which served to fund my benders very well indeed.
On one particular weekend in September I had been drinking since breakfast and kept it up all day, but by midnight all the pubs were shut.
But a serious drunk always knows where to find a drink so I took a cab to Casper’s, a members only an all-night drinker.
It was there that I met Angela who would become my salvation.
She was a good looking woman, around about my age, who was also a drunk.
Although the drink hadn’t yet diminished her looks.

The next morning I woke up in the passenger seat of a car on the sea front in Frinton with Angela sleeping slumped over the steering wheel.
I had absolutely no recollection of how we got there, or how we got there.
I got out of the car to stretch my legs and the bracing sea breeze almost knocked me off my feet.
I walked along the sea front, trying desperately to clear my head but things were no clearer 20 minutes later when I returned to the car.
Which by some miracle was parallel parked to perfection, and I marveled at how we had got from Woking to Frinton and lived to tell the tale.

Then a sense of doom came over me as I looked at the bright blue Chrysler in front of me because although we had got to Frinton unscathed the car had not.
The front of the car carried all the hallmarks of a serious front end collision.

I roused Angela from her drunken slumber and got her out of the car and walked her up and down until the sea breeze had blown the cobwebs away.
“How the hell did we get here?” I asked
“Get where?” she mumbled
“Frinton” I replied
“Where the hell is Frinton?” Angela asked
I walked her further along the seafront until we reached a café that was actually open at 6.00am on a Sunday and several coffees later I got some sense out of her
“The last thing I remember we were in Casper’s and you said “I haven’t been to the coast for ages”” She said slowly “so we finished our drinks and got in my car”
“And?” I pressed
“And then you woke me up” she said, head in hands
“Do you remember hitting anything?” I whispered
“No, like what?” Angela queried
“I don’t know” I replied “but whatever it was, you hit it hard”

It was after nine when we stood up to leave.
A small group of fishermen were coming in as we were going out.
“All I know is old Joe was walking the dog when he got hit” one of them said
“And he’s dead?” asked another
“Yes, and the driver didn’t stop” the first one replied
What little colour had returned to Angela’s face while we were in the café instantly drained away as the realization of what she had done dawned on her as well.

We returned to the car but Angela was too distraught to drive, I was suddenly stone cold sober so I got behind the wheel and chose a route that took us back to Woking via a circuitous route.

After That September Sunday all those years ago when some poor resident soul in Gods waiting room lost there life at our hands I lost my taste for booze.
I still see Angela from time to time she still lives in Woking but she never came to terms with what we had done that day and surrendered completely to the demon in the bottle.
I see her around about town with the other winos and I believe she sleeps under the canal bridge.

I wonder if she sleeps any sounder than I.


Grace’s life changed forever on that rainy Friday afternoon in May when Harry walked into her bookshop.
He led her from the lonely secluded world of her musty, dusty domain and into the sunlight.
It was a bit of a culture shock at first, because although they had both lost their parents years before, Grace came from a family of one while Harry’s kin were apparently infinite.
But despite that and the fact that he was 10 years her senior he navigated her passage through all the pitfalls and hazards inherent in family occasions until they loved her as much as he did.

Christmas had always been a cold and lonely season for her, a time for locking herself away from all the poor deluded fools who thought their lives would be enhanced just by indiscriminately saying merry Christmas to all and sundry.
But Harry dragged her kicking and screaming into the folly and illuminated Christmas for her until she loved it as much as everyone else.

And when he married her she was so happy she had to pinch herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming but it was not just a special day for her and Harry it was also the most joyous occasion the family had ever known.
He made her so happy he was her sun and her moon and he called her the star in his sky.
Since that first day 12 years had passed and now so had he.

Grace sat in the lounge of the house they made together and her eyes moved around the room from object to object.
Each one possessed with a memory that stabbed her like a knife.
His armchair by the fire where he sat and read to her beneath the hideous standard lamp he loved so much.
The Stelio Mola figurines they bought on their honeymoon in Sardinia.
The Glass fronted cabinet housing the numerous crystal ornaments he'd bought for her, birthdays, Christmases and anniversary’s, each one holding a separate special memory.
And as she looked at them each one wounded her afresh.
Her eyes settled on the book shelf, each shelf crammed with the books they loved so much and the tears fell, slowly at first, appearing from the corner of her eye like a solitary jewel before cascading down her cheek, then another followed, then another.

She didn’t know how she would continue without him.
Harry had lead her from the gloom of O’Brien’s bookshop and into the light and now darkness had returned to her world.
Whenever she was sad Harry would comfort her and dry her eyes.
Who would comfort her now who would wipe away her tears now?

Harry was a strong man and was strong in his faith, He was a lifelong believer and he lived his life by Gods rules.
Through all the years of her solitude her faith had been placed on hold but with his love it had been rekindled.
Now with his passing it was cooling again and she was angry with God.
Even though on his death bed he made her promise to temper her anger and under no circumstances was she to return herself to the shelf.
That might be difficult as the musty bookshop she came from was no more as it was now a ghastly coffee shop.
But were it not, she would not have returned there, there was but one place she wanted to be now.

The funeral was every bit as agonizing as she had anticipated,
Harry’s family had done their best to support and comfort her but they were grieving for him also.
But somehow she got through it but it was with great relief that she said goodbye to the last guest, Charles Braithwaite, one of the partners from Harry’s law firm but just before he left he gave Grace a memory stick.
“Harry made a video” he said as he handed to her “A living will if you wish”
She wore a puzzled expression as she stared at it sitting in the palm of her hand.
“He requested that you watch it after the funeral, when you were alone” Charles continued.

Grace poured herself a large glass of wine and drank half of it before she plugged the memory stick into the USB port on the TV.
She sat in Harry’s armchair and took a deep breath and then he appeared.
“Hey Hon” he said and she gasped when she saw his lovely smiling face
“I hope you saw me off in style” he added with false bravado, “I wish I could have been there” he frowned
“No, no” he corrected himself “I wish I was still there with you”
He paused to compose himself
“I love you so much and you’ve made me so so happy”
He paused again
“I love you too Harry” Grace said through the tears
“I’m sorry darling for hurting you, and for leaving you alone.
Part of me thinks that if only I had walked into Waterston’s all those years ago instead of O’Brien’s, I would have spared you all this pain.
But the selfish part of me would not have missed our time together no matter what the price”
“Now I’ve gone and my life is over, but yours is not”
And then Harry put on a sterner expression as he stared down the lens and said
“And don’t even think of coming after me even though I love you so very, very much I don’t want to see you again for a very long time”
His voice faltered towards the end of the sentence and then there was a break in the recording before he reappeared recomposed.
“Now just remember when things get tough the family are there for you, they’re your family now and they love you and they will help you”
Harry paused and took a drink of water
“Ok darling listen very carefully because this is important, keep your faith and don’t go blaming God for this” he said wagging his finger and
Grace laughed as she always did when he put on his stern face.
There was another break in the recording and when he return he said
“You are still a young woman….”
“Pah” she exclaimed
“And don’t think I can’t hear you contradicting me, you still have a life ahead of you and I want you to live it.
I don’t want my well-loved book returned to the shelf, to be forgotten and left unloved.
You must keep the book open and keep the pages turning”
“I have to go now darling” he said and smiled
“No, no, not yet” Grace begged “Don’t go yet”
“I love you darling and I’ll love you forever” and he was gone and Grace broke down completely.
But she heeded his words she allowed herself to be absorbed into the Edwards family and supported them as much as they supported her and she didn’t return the book to the shelf.
She kept the book open and the pages turning and although she never loved anyone as she did Harry she did have a happy life.


Grace Rawlins had worked in the same bookshop for twenty years, but not one of those trendy impersonal places, O’Brien’s was a proper old fashioned shop full of dusty well-loved second hand books.
She started there straight from school and now it was hers.
It wasn’t her chosen path, she wanted college and university and to write books of her own.
But on the eve of her bright future, life got in the way of her plans when firstly her father was killed aboard the RFA Sir Galahad during the Falklands War when she was 15 and then on the day of her 16th birthday her mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

In the beginning Grace worked part time at the shop in between grieving for her dead father and caring for her mum and also limping her way through two years of college.
She had no siblings to share the burden and no Cousins or Aunts and Uncles to turn to she had to cope with it all on her own.
Then in 1984 when she finished college she watched all her friends go off to Uni and she went full time at O’Brien’s.

With each passing year, of days spent in the shop and evenings and weekends caring for her mother drained the very life from her and by the time her mum finally succumbed Grace was as dry as the pages of the books she tended.
After the funeral, in order to fill the void, Grace gave herself totally to the shop, which is why five years later on her death Maureen O’Brien left the shop to Grace.
Year by year her life consisted of the shop, book auctions and house clearances other than that she had no human interactions outside the bookshop so as a result, at the age of thirty six Grace was a cold grey dowdy frump.
She was not an unattractive woman behind the spectacles and the tweed suit if anyone chose to look that closely, but they didn’t.
When she first took over the running of it the shop was struggling to stay afloat in a sea of apathy in which the world seemingly fell out of love with quality literature.
She did make one concession to the modern publication by giving over one window and a corner of the shop to new titles.
Also, over the years she developed the internet side of the business, which she rather liked as she didn’t have to face human beings.
It wasn’t so much that she wasn’t a people person it was just they were a constant reminder of what life might have been.

One rainy Friday afternoon in May a rather tall gaunt looking middle-aged man in an ill-fitting rain coat entered the shop and stood dripping on the doormat for several minutes before he ventured further, although it was 2002 the place felt much older.
Harry Edwards took no more than three steps and then stopped, he looked around at the rows of shelves full of old musty tomes and sighed with resignation at the enormity of the task ahead.
“Oh hell” he muttered
“Can I help?” Grace said flatly with a weak smile
“I do hope so” Harry replied brightly
“I’m looking for a leather bound copy of “The Coral Island” by R M. Ballantyne”
“We have several copies of that” She said “Did you have any particular date of publication in mind?”
“Anything from the 19th century” He replied
“I have a nice clean late Victorian copy that might suit” Grace said and went off to retrieve it
“Here we are 1890, red leather binding, very good condition”
“Excellent” he said handling the book “How much?”
“£150” She said without emotion
He thought she was probably overcharging him but it was exactly what he was looking for and it was well within his means.
And it was his Uncle’s birthday the very next day and he didn’t fancy going in search of another bookshop in the foul weather.
Also there was something about her that he liked behind the mannish spectacles and frumpy tweeds, he wasn’t sure what it was but there was more to her than the cover suggested.
“Great I’ll take it” he said

Harry Edwards had lived and worked in Brassington all his life and after getting his Law degree he started working at his Uncle Henrys firm of solicitors where he was now a partner.
It was fairly unexciting work involving quite a lot of conveyancing but he liked it.
Incidentally Barrowman, Clarke, Braithwaite and Edwards were the executors of Maureen O’Brien’s will.
Not that that has any relevance to the story but it adds a certain symmetry.
Harry was forty five years old and had himself suffered tragedy in his life, his father died suddenly when he was at University, his mother was struck with early onset Alzheimer’s and was now in a care home and the previous year he had lost m his wife Celia to breast cancer, but unlike Grace he didn’t lock himself away from the world but then he did have a network of family and friends to draw comfort from.

On the Monday morning after a big family weekend to celebrate Uncle Henrys seventieth birthday Harry was feeling a little jaded and in truth was almost relieved to get back to work for a rest.
By lunchtime however he was feeling a little more with it so as it was a bright warm spring day and as his office was only a ten minute walk from O’Brien’s the notion popped into his head to pop in and tell the proprietor how delighted his uncle had been with his gift.
He wasn’t quite sure why the notion entered his head nor where it came from but he still thought it a good idea.

The shop door opened and sunlight spilled deep into the shop, Grace was at the back cataloguing some new acquisitions while Karen and Iris, students from Brassington Uni, were putting the new stock on the appropriate shelves.
She relied heavily on students to staff the shop as there was only her and Graham in the shop on a permanent basis.
She had inherited Graham from Maureen’s time but now he was slowly cutting down his hours as he headed towards retirement, while she was cataloguing Graham was out the back packing some books for delivery.

She looked up from what she was doing and briefly studied the new arrival.
Grace recognized the man instantly as the man who paid over the odds for a copy of “The Coral Island”
The ill-fitting (borrowed) raincoat of Friday had gone and he was now sporting a well-tailored double breasted blue suit.
She had thought about him a lot over the weekend and had felt more than a little guilty at fleecing the dripping wet untidy looking man but now she saw him in his handmade suit that guilt melted away.
“He’s quite a handsome man though” she thought to herself, shaking her head at such an unaccustomed thought.

He walked further into the shop and was surprised at just how big it was, it had seemed much smaller in the gloom of Friday afternoon.
He could see there were three or four other customers milling around and a couple of young girls stacking shelves and then he caught sight of the young frumpy woman at the back of the shop and strode off towards her.

“Oh God he’s coming this way” she thought to herself. “He’s going to complain about the book”
She hurriedly replaced the book she was holding and tried to slip away but she had inadvertently trapped her foot and as she tried to extricate herself he was on her.

“Hello again” he said
“Oh hello” she said abandoning her escape attempt.
“I just wanted to say my Uncle loved the book” he said
“Well that’s what we do” she responded flippantly and then inexplicably giggled
“In fact he was so impressed with it, he has a request” Harry said fishing in his jacket pocket and removing a piece of note paper which he handed to Grace.
“My Uncle collects book from his past, they are like special memories to him”
On the paper was written The Pathfinder by James Fenimore Cooper. (Third book of the Leatherstocking Tales pentalogy)
“That shouldn’t be too much of a problem” she said “I know we don’t have one in stock but if you come back tomorrow I should have it”
“Excellent” Harry replied “I’ll see you tomorrow then”
“What name should I reserve it under?” Grace asked
“Harry Edwards” he replied “Miss…?”
“Rawlins” she replied “Grace Rawlins”

After he left the shop she chastised herself for lying, she knew very well that she had a copy of “The Pathfinder”, and it would definitely have suited.
Why on earth had she lied, what on earth had gotten into her.

As Harry walked back to the office he had an unaccountable spring in his step and he was actually glad she didn’t have that book in stock as it meant he didn’t have to make an excuse to go back the next day.

On Tuesday he found the morning passed by interminably slowly in fact at one point he thought the clock had stopped.
But eventually the morning passed and the moment the clock struck twelve he was out the door.
“I’m taking an early lunch” he said
“Ok Mr. Edwards” his PA said
He walked briskly along the street towards O’Brien’s and was surprised by the presence of butterflies in his stomach.
“How ridiculous” he muttered to himself

Grace had been kept very busy all morning as she was alone in the shop on a Tuesday morning but she was well aware that lunchtime was approaching.
She had her back to the door and when she heard it open she took a deep breath and turned around with a smile.
“What are you looking so pleased about?” Graham asked
“Oh no reason” Grace replied “it’s just such a lovely day”
“You don’t normally smile when the sun shine’s” Graham said “come to think of it you don’t normally smile”
“I smile” Grace said defensively
“Not often” he answered as he went to the back of the shop
“I do smile” she said to herself crossly as she turned and watched him
“I know” Harry said

Grace was speechless when she turned around and saw Harry standing there and for a moment felt like she was fifteen again.
Before she stuttered and stammered her way through a sentence.
Harry laughed at her discomfiture before saying
“I’m sorry if I startled you”
“No its fine, really” she said

Harry left the shop half an hour later minus the book that he’d gone in for but he didn’t care he was just pleased to have seen her again.
It was the first time since his wife’s death that he had even noticed another woman and as he enjoyed the spring sunshine he was blissfully unaware just how significant that was.

Grace had told him the book wouldn’t be in until the next day and didn’t even feel guilty for lying to him this time as it meant she would see him again.
Then she realized she’d have to give him the book eventually or he’d stop coming anyway.

For Harry the rest of the afternoon was spent very unproductively as he tried to reason in his mind why he was so drawn to a dowdy young bookworm.
“Well younger than me” he said out loud
She wasn’t even his type at all and she had cheated him on that copy of “The Coral Island”.

The next day Harry couldn’t make it to the shop as he was at the magistrate’s courts in the morning and had two funerals in the afternoon.
Grace however was unaware of the reason for his failure to appear and thought herself a fool and chastised herself for lowering her guard, she didn’t smile at all that day.

On Thursday morning Harry left his office about 10 o’clock and ran through the rain in his borrowed ill-fitting raincoat to the shop.
He had not mentioned his movements the last time he was in the shop and had no reason to think his absence would be noticed.
But strangely it meant something to him that he had missed seeing her.

At O’Brien’s Karen, Iris and Graham were bemoaning the return of the unsmiling Grace who had awoken that morning with fresh resolve to return her life back to its previous unadventurous course and not allow herself to be disappointed again.

Having reached the shop Harry just stood outside and stared at the rain streaked windows wondering what the hell he was thinking.
Why would this young woman see him as anything more than just another customer?
“You’re being ridiculous” he said to himself and turned around and started back towards work.
But he only took a few faces before he stopped and returned to the shop.
He stood again looking at the shop and taking a deep breath he said
“Nothing ventured nothing gained” and pushed open the door

Grace was feeling wretched and made everyone’s morning miserable.
She had placed the copy of “The Pathfinder” by the till and resolved that should he come in again she would give him the book and that would be an end to it, after all he was just another customer.

Grace sighed and headed towards the back of the shop, Karen and Iris kept their heads down as she passed them and when Graham appeared from the store room and saw her coming his way he performed an immediate u-turn.
Then she heard the door open behind her and she sighed again and prepared to deliver a withering look upon the person responsible for the intrusion.

“Harry” she said when she saw him and instantly her sternness melted away “er Mr. Edwards I mean”
“No please Harry is fine” he replied and returned her smile
“I have your book” Grace said producing it like an exhibit in a court case.
“Oh great” he said “I’m only sorry I couldn’t come in for it yesterday Miss Rawlins”
“Please call me Grace,” she said coyly
He then went on to explain in depth all the ins and outs of his previous day and why he hadn’t come to the shop.
All this was done in her inner sanctum over a mug of coffee.
“She’s never had a guest in her office before” Iris whispered as she and Karen listened through the door.
“And she’s laughing” Karen said in disbelief

An hour after he arrived he left the shop and walked back towards his office with the book tucked under his arm and more importantly than that a date with Grace for the following evening.

So it was on a bright Friday evening just one week after his first rain soaked visit that he walked into O’Brien’s bookshop and found the dusty tome that was Grace Rawlins had been rebound and the dowdy bookish young woman was transformed.
Harry took her hand and led her from the shop.
And she stepped out from the narrow confines of her stale and musty domain and rejoined the world of infinite possibilities with her heart full of hope and not a little trepidation.
It was now her turn to live life rather than reading about other peoples.

Life With Dorcas (Part Eleven) Christmas Getaway (Part Two)

Having made the decision to usurp our parents and have a quiet wedding of our own, on our own terms.
First thing the next morning we went to the British embassy to get the relevant forms required to marry in Germany, which was surprisingly easy.
After we left the embassy we went to a variety of bureaucratic offices and queed up to sit in front of a variety of bureaucrats until in true German style every forms had all the relative stamps and seals.
However when we went to the registry office we came up against a brick wall.
“You must wait for 6 weeks” the registrar said
“But we’ll be back in England in six weeks” I retorted
“I’m sorry” he said “but it’s the rule”
“but we’ve spent most of the day queuing in dreary offices getting seemingly endless forms endorsed with many and varied stamps and seals and none of the faceless bureaucrats once mentioned a six week rule” Dorcas stated angrily
“I really am sorry” he repeated “but I can’t help you”
Dorcas was about to go again but I intervened
“Thank you anyway” I said and guided an unhappy Dorcas towards the door
“However” the registrar called “I know someone who could possible help”
“Oh?” Dorcas exclaimed
“It would be conditional” he continued
“On what” I asked
“On you being Christians” he replied

Claus, The registrar, directed us to St Georges Anglican Episcopal Church in Westend and we were soon in a cab driving along Bismarkstrasse through Charlottenburg in the direction of Spandau.
It was a very pretty little church, modern looking with a high sloping tiled roof.
We looked at each other and both nodded our approval simultaneously and walked up the path to the doors.
Claus, had phoned ahead and made us an appointment with Pastor James Morgan, who turned out to be a very jovial Welshman not at all dissimilar to the late Harry Seacombe.
“Welcome, welcome” he said when we walked through the doors,
“You must be Ben and Dorcas?”
If we were impressed with the outside then we were doubly so with the interior.
It was light and modern but in a traditional way and was as far removed from St Lucy’s in Bushy Down as it was possible to get.
After the introductions were made we sat in the pews and the Pastor said
“Well I’m not sure I can be of any more help than Claus was, it’s just a bit short notice”
We went on to explain why we had come to the decision that we had and the pressures of the big family wedding that had built and built and finally led us to take the course of action we were proposing.
“We haven’t made our decision lightly”
Dorcas said
“Oh I’m not questioning your motives” he said “but it’s just not something we do,
It’s Thursday now and I understand you’re going home on Sunday, It’s just such terribly short notice”
Dorcas and I were both crestfallen.
“Come on both of you let’s have a coffee” he said

We were sitting in his office drinking a very decent coffee when he asked
“Where is home anyway?”
“We live in Bushy Down, it’s a small…..” I began
“Oh I know Bushy Down” the pastor said with delight “and St Lucy’s”
“Really?” I said “I normally have to explain where it’s near”
“I’ve been there many times, the Reverend Oliver was my Verger for five years before she got St Lucy’s” he said “we remained friends until the end”
“She was well loved” I said “and very much missed”
Katie Oliver had passed away earlier that year.
“So sad” he said with melancholy
“She was such a lovely person, I was in the Village for the funeral” He paused in order to gather himself
“Listen why don’t you both stay and have dinner with me and my wife Clair? She’s from Finchbotton by the way” he said his joviality fully restored
“So am I” Dorcas chipped in
“Excellent” he said “you’ll have lots to talk about then, let’s go and surprise her then”

We had a marvelous evening with the Morgan’s, good company, excellent food and a liberal amount of alcohol thrown in for good measure.
We were fair steaming by the time we got in the taxi.
But amidst the friendly banter, reminiscence and over indulgence Pastor Morgan agreed to marry us on Saturday morning.

When we woke up the next morning the realization of what we had done suddenly dawned on us as we lay cuddled beneath the duvet.
“We’re really doing it aren’t we?” Dorcas said as she hugged me
“Yes I think we are” I replied
“Cool” she said
After a few minutes she suddenly went rigid.
“What about witnesses?” she said with real alarm in her voice “or a bridesmaid?”
“Well…..” I began but she was already making a call and heading for the bathroom.
“Helen!” she said

After half an hour sitting in the bathroom with the door shut talking to Helen, Dorcas emerged and was much calmer.
“Helen was a great help” she said “I feel much better now but we need to go shopping”

So I took her to the Europa Centre where I sat watching the Water Clock as I drank a pint of Guinness.
I watched the glass bowls empty over and over again while she was buying a dress for the wedding which I wasn’t allowed to see and then she chose me a suit which I wasn’t allowed an opinion on.

On Saturday morning we were up early and got downstairs for breakfast as soon as they started serving.
And all the time we were there breakfasting Dorcas kept fidgeting and looking at her watch or fiddling with her phone.
She hardly ate a thing in fact I ate most of hers as well.
I guessed it was just pre wedding nerves so I didn’t say anything I just enjoyed the extra helping.
We had been in the breakfast room for about an hour and I had just poured myself another coffee when all of a sudden Dorcas leapt up and said
“Come along, things to do”
“What?” I replied “I haven’t finished my coffee”
“No time for that” she insisted “Let’s go”
Well, a lesser man may have thought that if that was a sample of what was to come he might be making a mistake, but not me, I just attributed her demeanour and tone to the same nerves that provided me with two breakfasts so I trotted out after the excitable little minx.
When I caught up with her in the reception I was just about to make myself comfortable on a luxurious sofa when my sister Helen and my best friend Gary came bustling through the front doors.
Dorcas squealed and ran to embrace Helen.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you”
She screamed as she kissed and hugged my sister
In the mean time I went over to Gary and asked
“What are you doing here? How did you….”
Then it dawned on me, Yesterdays long conversation in the bathroom between Dorcas and Helen.
They had obviously hatched this plan.
“We couldn’t miss it mate” Gary said accompanied by a man hug
“I even suffered the budget air redeye just to be here”
And much to his chagrin he would be returning that night by the same mode.
With all the squealing and giggling from Dorcas and Helen we had attracted the attention of Christophe, the hotel manager, who we had come to know quite well over the previous week.
I caught his eye and he had that look on his face that all Hotel Managers wear when something has occurred that he was not expecting.
So I spent the next five minutes explaining the circumstances of how we came to be in his reception and causing a commotion.
“You are getting married today?” he asked and vigorously shook my hand and then kissed Dorcas on both cheeks
“That is wonderful news”
Then he repeated the process with Helen and Gary, he couldn’t have been happier if we had been his own kin.
I went on to explain that my sister and my friend had only flown in that morning and would be returning to England that evening.
“Ach so” he exclaimed and raised a finger “Ein moment” and went over to the desk.
After a few moments converse with the receptionist he returned to us brandishing a key card.
“The groom must not see the bride before the Church, I think” he stated “So the gentlemen may use this room as a dressing room”
“Thank you so much Christophe” Dorcas said and kissed his cheek like he was a kindly uncle.

Gary and I left the hotel at 11.30am in one of the two cabs Christophe had secured on our behalf and made our way to St Georges Church in Westend.
When we walked in to the Church it was as I expected, largely empty.
Pastor Morgan and his wife Clair were standing by the alter, and there was an elderly man, who I presumed was the organist as he was seated at the organ, other than that there was only Gary and I.
I stopped suddenly and said
“Rings? I haven’t got any rings”
“Don’t panic” Gary said “I’ve got them, Helen picked them up from your house last night”
I relaxed again and we continued up to the alter where James and Clair welcomed us.
A tall gangly young man then came to join us
“Ah Sebastian” The pastor said “come and meet the groom and best man”
Then he turned to me and said accompanied by an inclination of the head
“Sebastian is going to video the service so you have something to show your parents”

By the time the organ started playing the bridal march a small congregation had assembled and I recognized a handful of familiar faces among them as being from the Hotel, one of them was Christophe.
Even the registrar Claus was there.
But my eyes were quickly drawn to my bride to be. Dorcas, and she looked absolutely stunning.
The ceremony itself seemed to pass by in an instant but at the moment we said I do I felt complete.

After wedding breakfast in the Hotel restaurant Helen and Gary had to leave for the airport which despite the fact we would be home the next day was a tearful farewell.
We returned to the bar for another drink before we retired and when we reached the reception desk Christophe was there waiting for us and said
“Mr. and Mrs. Overton, please accept with our compliments an upgrade to one of our deluxe suites for your wedding night, I have already taken the liberty of having your personal belongings transferred from your old room” and handed me a key card
“Oh wow” Dorcas said and planted another kiss on the cheek of the “kindly uncle”
before we went upstairs to consummate our union in a luxury suite.

I awoke first in the pale winter light of dawn with Dorcas cuddled into me with her head on my chest.
And when she stirred I said
“Good morning Mrs. Overton”
“Oh I like how that sounds” she said and kissed my chest
“It doesn’t sound as classy as Fox-Martin” I suggested
“No” she agreed “but I like it a lot”
“I love you Dorcas” I said
“I love you too” she replied
And we made love in the half light.

Later we reluctantly had to leave our luxurious suite and the comfort of our duvet and begin our journey home as Mr. and Mrs. Overton and break the news to our respective parents that there will be other things to talk about for the foreseeable future.
It was all going to make for a very interesting Christmas dinner at my mums.
Definitely worth it though.

Life With Dorcas (Part Ten) Christmas Getaway (Part One)

We had been living together for just over a month and I found it difficult to remember the time I lived alone.
The only blot on the landscape was “The Wedding” and I don’t mean by that that I didn’t want to get married to her, I did, very much so, it was just the subject of “The Wedding” that was getting us down.
It had become all consuming, we thought we had been quite canny, leaving it in the hands of our parents but they were driving us mad.
And the wedding had taken on a life of its own, and it was not a life form that we recognized.

We were constantly being pressed for a date and being told that the plans couldn’t proceed any further without knowing the date.
We thought once we got into December their focus would shift from the wedding to Christmas but no it seemed to get worse if anything and it was only the 1st day of the month.

We were both sitting in the lounge at home having both come off the phone with our respective parents engulfed by gloom.
“Why don’t we get away?” I said
“Get away?” Dorcas replied
“Yes, let’s get away for a week and escape the harassment”
Get away?” Dorcas repeated
“We’ll be back in time for Christmas” I continued “but until Then we can avoid all the talk of wedding plans”
Dorcas just sat looking thoughtful so I pressed on
“We’ve both got to holiday to use up”
She said nothing for a full minute and then suddenly she excitedly said
“Let’s go on line and see what’s available”
I switched on the laptop and she sat next to me as I opened the browser
“Do you want sun?” I asked
“No I’m not fussed about the sun” she said
“Ok, do you want activity?”
“No to America and nowhere that’s more than two hours flying time” she said decisively
“So Europe then” I said
“I think so”
“So how about Natural beauty?”
“Well present company accepted”
“You’re so sweet” She said and kissed me
“City break then”
“Oh yes a city break” she said excitedly “but it must be a city I’ve not been to before”
“How about….” I pondered I knew she had been to the usual places, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels etc. so I cast my net a bit further.
“Berlin” I suggested
“Berlin?” she repeated “Oooh I haven’t been there”
“It has history, romance and a Christmas market to boot” I added
“Oooh a Christmas market” she said enthusiastically
“Ok then Berlin it is” I said
“Let’s find somewhere to stay” Dorcas added
An hour later we had a 9 night booking at the Regent Hotel and flights booked for the following Friday, St Nichols Day, 6th December.
And a return flight on the 15th, which would give us a full week to do all the last minute stuff and enjoy the run in to our first Christmas together.

So on the Monday morning we put in our holiday forms to our respective employers and the wheels were set in motion.
We did however have a minor panic when Dorcas couldn’t find her passport.
She thought she had it last when she lived in Finchbottom but after an extensive search of our house and her unpacked boxes proved fruitless the realization that it must be at her parents’ house dawned on us.
The simple thing would have been to ask her mum but that would have alerted her to our plans and would have led to increased wedding questions that would have to be answered before we departed and we didn’t plan on telling anyone we were going away until the last minute.
So she had to leave it until Wednesday afternoon, when she knew her mum would be at the Women’s Institute, when she could sneak into the house and search unmolested.
But all the sneaky subterfuge and stealth paid off and she phoned me from the house to say she had it.
That evening we asked John and Carole from next door to pop in and feed Pandora while we were away and then we were all set.
At that stage they were the only two, outside of work colleagues, that knew we were going away.
So we were feeling very pleased with ourselves when we reached the airport on Friday morning and we had shown the family a clean pair of heels.
But once we got through passport control we phoned Helen to let her know.
“Good for you” she said “I wouldn’t blame you if you got married while you’re away” she said “Have a great time”

We flew into Tegel Airport just after 11.00am and we arrived at the Hotel Regent about an hour and a half later and we were not disappointed by our choice.
It was absolutely beautiful, very luxurious.
We had a beautiful room and from the main window there was a wonderful view of the imposing dome of, what we found out later was the French Cathedral.
We were so very pleased with our lovely room that we didn’t leave it all afternoon.
In fact we only left it in order to go and eat then we went back to the room and had an early night.

We began our holiday proper on Saturday morning after an early breakfast we crammed in a lot on our first day.
We took full advantage of the unseasonably mild weather and did the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate, the Checkpoint Charlie Museum and the Glienicke Bridge in the morning and the Christmas Market at Charlottenburg Palace after lunch and into the evening.
When we woke up on Sunday morning we were exhausted after packing so much into our first day, so we decided that we should perhaps have a more relaxing day beginning with breakfast to be followed by church.
After speaking to the waiter we took his advice and got a taxi to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church on the Kurfürstendamm.
And when the driver turned onto the very broad, long boulevard full of shops, houses, hotels and restaurants he said proudly
“This is the Champs-Élysées of Berlin”
“Oh look” Dorcas said excitedly as we pulled up outside the beautiful blue church “they have a Christmas market here too”
As I handed the driver his money he said
“They have Christmas markets everywhere”
“Oh goody” she responded and he laughed
The service was lovely and the new part of the Church with the blue glass was spectacular with the winter sun shining through.
Afterwards we ate lunch of Frickadellen with fries and mayo from a “Schnellie” at the roadside.
After lunch we went to Wannsee and walked around the lakes in the sunshine enjoying the scenery until the evening fell and so did the temperature.

From Monday onwards there was very little sun to speak of and it was bitterly cold but we really didn’t mind as for the rest of the week we got to spend lots of time hugging.
it was an action packed first few days, we shopped at Potsdamer Platz, spent hours at Museums Island, had lunch at the rotating restaurant at the TV tower on Alexanderplatz.
Climbed the victory column in the Tiergarten, visited the Berlin Zoo, went Christmas shopping at the big department store, KaDeWe, and a attended a liberal sprinkling of Chrismas markets, in fact you name it we did it.
It was when we were at the Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market that life got interesting.
It was an incredibly cold afternoon and we had both over indulged on Gluwein when her phone rang.
Dorcas looked at the phone and pulled a face, it was not the first call that week to have caused that reaction.
“My mum just doesn’t give up” she said and rejected the call.
“I suppose that’s the price we have to pay” I said “if we want to get married and have the big wedding”
“But I don’t want to” she retorted
“You don’t want to get married?” I asked alarmed
“Of course I want to marry you hon” she said reassuringly
“But I don’t want a big wedding” Dorcas said
“I just want me and you” and then she kissed me
“Let’s do it then” I suggested “let’s do it today, right now”
“What about the family?” she mused “Oooh my Mum will be so mad”
“And mine” I said “But what are they going to do? Ground us?”
Dorcas looked thoughtful as she drank another Gluwein
“And we can have a blessing at St Lucy’s later for family and friends” I added
“Ok let’s do it” Dorcas said and hugged me
“Are you sure?” I asked
“Well I’m sure that I love you,” she said in reply “and I’m sure that you love me, so yes I’m sure”

Life With Dorcas (Part Nine) Mouse About The House

In just a few short months my cozy little life had been turned upside down.
From the moment Dorcas breezed into my life on a bright June day when she almost sent me into the afterlife from behind the wheel of her car.
It was the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me, and that changed everything in a heartbeat.
Once I plucked up the courage to ask her out the next step was to fall in love with her which took no effort at all.
Then I needed to summon the courage to propose, which I did and almost put my mother into a coma in the process.
So far so good, meet pretty young brunette, woo pretty young brunette, fall in love with pretty young brunette, propose to pretty young brunette and finally move in with pretty young brunette.
Well I say finally what I mean to say is so far.
There are many more chapters obviously.

The next one began after two weeks of us living together.
All was going well and we had settled into a comfortable routine and it felt as if we had been together forever.
We were sitting in the kitchen eating crumpets on a Sunday morning when Dorcas suddenly said
“Can we get a cat?”
“What for?” I retorted
“Because I’d like one” she said sweetly
“Do we have to?” I sighed
“Don’t you like cats? Dorcas enquired
“I have no strong opinion either way” I informed
“So you don’t dislike them?” she asked
“No not at all” I replied
“Are you allergic?” she queried
“Nope” I replied
“So can we?” she asked cutely
“I take it that you have a strong opinion about cats?” I asked
“Oh yes” she replied “I love them”
“They’re very lovely, they’re good company, they’re clean, they’re not demanding” she continued
“And they keep mice away” she added as if that one reason underlined all the others
“I don’t have mice” I stated
I had never had mice in the house in all the years I had lived there and was not at all unhappy with that fact and I didn’t need a cat to achieve that.
All through my childhood at my parents’ house we didn’t have a cat and we were mouse free so the point seemed moot.
“Please, please, pretty please” she begged
And I was helpless to resist
“Ok, ok” I conceded
“Yey” she screamed and jumped up and down before planting a kiss on my mouth.
“But” I interjected
“But?” she repeated
“There are certain conditions” I stated
“Which are?” she asked
“No Toms” I said “I don’t want spraying in the house”
“Check” she responded
“I’m the only alpha male in this house” I said pompously
“Ok tiger” she mocked
“No rescue cats, I don’t want to take any chances on getting a mental one like John and Carole did” I continued
“Check” she responded
“And no kittens” I added
“Ok” she agreed “Anything else?”
“No that’s the lot” I confirmed
“Good get your coat on” she instructed
“What for?” I asked
“I said we’d pick the cat up before 11 o’clock” Dorcas said cheekily
“And how did you know I’d say yes?” I asked
“Because you’re lovely” she replied “and you love me”
“Yes well just remember that cutesy stuff won’t work once you lose your looks” I told her as we were going out the door
“It’ll still work even when I’m old and wrinkled” she said cockily

We were going to Mrs. Brownlow’s house, just a few doors down from us.
She was a lovely lady, who sadly was having to give up her cottage and move into a sheltered housing scheme on the other side of the village.
Where pets of any kind were not permitted.
Doris had a sweet little two year old tabby female called Pandora for whom she was looking for a good home and we were it.

Well all went swimmingly with Pandora’s arrival, she quickly took to us and made herself at home and although I had misgivings about getting a cat I was happy that I had agreed.
Then the presents started to arrive.
I would wake up in the morning and make my way downstairs to make coffee and there it would be, a mouse, a vole, a bird and on one occasion a coy carp.
All either dead or very near death and all of them gifts, for me the alpha male, from the huntress.
Sometimes Pandora would be in attendance smugly guarding her latest trophy.
On one particular morning in late November I came downstairs to find a squirrel.
“My God Pandora what on earth have you brought me this time?”
As soon as my foot landed on the hall floor she started rubbing herself around my ankles making a series of chirruping noises as she did so.
Then she would go and circle the stricken Squirrel, look up at me then at her prey and then back at me as if to say
“Look what I did”
“Yes very good, well done” I said without enthusiasm although I had to admit I was impressed.
Then she returned to my ankles and repeated the whole process again.
Pandora had just got to the point where she was saying to me
“I did that, that was me”
Then Dorcas came halfway down the stairs and hung over the bannister to enquire
“What’s going on?”
“Pandora brought in a squirrel” I told her
“A Squirrel?” she exclaimed “wow who’s a clever girl then?”
The cat responded to that by repeating the whole rubbing, chirruping and gloating sequence.
“Who’s a clever girl?” I said to myself as I slipped my unstockinged feet into a pair of wellies.
That was all well and good but she wasn’t the one who had to take the poor suffering twitching creature up the garden to finally dispatch it with a spade.

Of course finding dead offerings in the hall was far better than the alternative.
You see Pandora didn’t catch mice and such to display them as trophies or to supplement her diet.
She brought them into the house primarily as toys and she would play with them for hours, but sometimes they got away
Which is why I recalled what Dorcas had said about cats
“They’re very lovely, they’re good company, they’re clean, they’re not demanding” she continued
“And they keep mice away”
Well I had never had any mice to keep away, until now.
And now I have a cat.

Life With Dorcas (Part Eight) Just Like Mama Used To Make

We spent most of the day after the games night at Gary’s slobbing around the house in our night clothes and watching old films on TV.
After all the recent exertion’s associated with renting out Dorcas’s house prior to her moving in with me, so it was really nice to have such a lazy day.
However we paid for it over the coming week as the deadline for Dorcas vacating her house loomed large and we spent every spare moment moving her and her possessions from Finchbottom to Bushy Down.
And so began a new chapter in our lives when we would no longer be two lonely single dwellers living half-lives but one loving couple sharing a house and home.

The Monday after our first weekend of officially living together was a normal workday for me but Dorcas had managed to book off a couple of days off work so she could unpack the last of her things and make herself at home.
A lot of her making herself at home seemed to involve rearranging the cupboards and taking over the majority of the wardrobes.
But despite that she certainly seemed to have spent her time productively and the house was looking more homely than it had ever done.
And as I walked through the front door on my arrival home on Tuesday evening I was greeted by the smell of home cooking.
“Hi Hon” I called “Something smells nice”
Her head suddenly appeared from around the kitchen door and said
“It’s me”
I walked down the hall to meet her and gave her a kiss
“No its not you” I said “I can definitely smell something tasty”
“Cheek” Dorcas said and hit me with a wooden spoon
“Ow” I said “what’s cooking then?”
“Bacon and onion dumpling” she replied then continued in a very bad Italian accent “Justa lika mamma used to maka”
“And is yours as good as mamas?” I asked thinking that if it tasted half as good as it smelt I was in for a treat.
“Better” she replied “now go and finish setting the table”
I did as instructed and then opened a bottle of wine, I returned to the kitchen just in time to see the suet delight coming out of the oven and I’m sure that the oven sighed.

As I sat and ate the heaviest most indigestible dumpling I had ever experienced along with lumpy mash, anemic gravy and over cooked veg I thought to myself
“How bad a cook is her mother?”
I persevered and ate most of it and when she said
I didn’t have the heart to tell her the truth
“Lovely” I said
It’s a good job I wasn’t marrying her for her cooking.

Fortunately I could cook and I generally got home an hour before her so I would get the evening meal on the go so as to minimize the risk of having to eat her offerings.

It was about a fortnight after the night of the dumpling when we were summoned to the Fox-Martins for Sunday lunch which I had to say I was rather looking forward to.
Her father Edward was very easy company especially if you restricted the conversation to sport while Marcia thought the sun shone from my every orifice.
But the main thing I was looking forward to was a Roast dinner I wished I could have one every week.
How does the old saying go? Be careful what you wish for.

We were in the car on our way
“Are you sure you don’t mind?” she asked
“Of course” I said “I like your folks and I’m looking forward to a great Sunday lunch”
“Oh” Dorcas said doubtfully “Good”
We arrived just after two and we found Edward in the lounge watching football.
“Hi Dad” she said
“Hello baby girl” he replied and gave her a kiss, then he shook my hand.
“Ben dear boy” he said “sit down, they’ve just kicked off”
“I’ll just say hello to Marcia first” I said and Dorcas led the way.
The aromas emanating from the kitchen were mouthwatering.
“Mum?” Dorcas called
“I’m in here darling” a disembodied voice called back.
I followed Dorcas into the kitchen and kisses and hugs were exchanged between them and then Marcia turned her attention on me.
“It’s lovely to see you Ben” Marcia said “I’m glad you could come”
“It smells delicious” I said “I can’t wait”
“Oh” she said all flustered “that’s a really nice thing to say”
Then Dorcas kissed me and dispatched me to keep her father company.
Edward had a freshly poured beer sitting on the table waiting for me.
“Are there you are” he said without taking his eyes off the screen.
“It’s one nil to City, completely against the run of play”

Marcia called us to the table about half an hour later and we sat down at the table.
Edward poured the wine and Dorcas and Marcia carried the terrines in, then when we were all seated she lifted the cover off the meat platter to reveal the charred remains of what would once have been a very expensive joint of beef.
The vegetables and the gravy were a similar disappointment, the insipidness of the gravy was clearly a family tradition.
As Edward unceremoniously hacked his way through the charcoal he slowly revealed the undercooked redness at its core.
And as I struggled politely through the hideous meal I was left to ponder how two such beautiful women could be such ugly cooks.

So it was with a full stomach and a bad case of indigestion that we drove off from her parents place.
“Did you enjoy your Sunday roast then sweetie?” Dorcas asked
“Oh yes” I replied “it was ….”
“Horrible?” Dorcas interrupted
“No, no” I protested
“Yes, yes” she corrected me “Mums even more rubbish at cooking than I am”
“You’re not rubbish hon” I said
“I am, you could have beaten someone to death with that dumpling it was so heavy” Dorcas said and laughed
“Well maybe not to death, but certainly into a coma” I said and she punched me.

Life With Dorcas (Part Seven) The Electronic Dice

Since I first met Dorcas, on that day when she almost ran me over, my life had been so different to the safe and comfortable existence I had known before.
I felt energized and fresh, which was just as well.

Because October had been an exceedingly busy month.
We spent evenings packing up Dorcas’s house in Finchbottom and slowly moving her stuff either into storage or into mine, I mean ours.
Then on the weekends there was decorating, gardening and car booting.
And all of the above had to be achieved while keeping busy in our respective jobs as we were saving our holidays for something else.
So it was with some relief that I received and accepted an invitation from my best friend Gary to attend a games night at his place on Saturday night.
We had been best mates since junior school, Gary, Stix, Evan, Clive and me, and our friendship endured.
It survived all the ups and downs of childhood and adolescence.
It survived sexual awakenings and the continual distraction of women thereafter.
It survived higher education, marriages, mortgages, divorces and redundancies.
Women had come and gone over the years but the friendship had survived.
Our friendship endured in spite of everything and part of that were Games Nights.
Games nights consisted of a takeaway followed by board games or cards, the food and game decided by consensus.
“You know what that means?” Dorcas asked
“Yes a weekend off” I replied
“I have to meet your best friends” she said gloomily
“I know” I replied “They’re all dying to meet you”
Then I continued
“And the other halves are anxious to meet the girl who has won my heart”
“Oh Great” Dorcas said despondently

I failed to pick up on her lack of enthusiasm but as we got closer to the night Dorcas seemed to be getting more and more withdrawn.
On Saturday morning we lay under the duvet cuddling she was very quiet which wasn’t like her at all.
I was a bit worried about her as she seemed a bit down.
“What’s wrong sweetheart?” I said
“Nothing” she replied
“Well I know that’s not true” I persisted “So what’s wrong?”
“I’m scared” Dorcas admitted
I wasn’t sure I’d heard her correctly, she was such a confident gregarious girl, and being scared didn’t fit her at all.
“Scared?” I asked
“Yes” she responded and rolled over and hugged me, burying her face in my neck and then she started crying.
“What are you scared about?” asked
“Meeting your friends” she sobbed “Your best friends”
It seemed she was really worried about making a good impression in front of my oldest and best friends.
“They are going to love you just like I do” I assured her
“Really?” Dorcas asked
“Well not quite like I do obviously” I said and she lifted her face from my neck and smiled.
I did feel for Dorcas when I took the time to think of what I was putting her through, it was a daunting prospect meeting my friends.
I didn’t have to go through that with her best friend as that was my sister Helen.
So we spent the next hour cuddling up under the duvet as I went through my friends and their respective partners one by one and the best ways to make a good impression on them.

My mate Gary was something of a figure of fun within our group, a fact to which he seemed completely oblivious.
We had known him since school and we had always teased him.
He was the type of kid who had a new hobby every week and this habit followed him into adulthood.
He also thought himself a whizz at DIY and he fancied himself as a bit of an engineer. But the one thing he could do without fail which endeared him to us was that he could take a joke.
His wife Elaine did not have a sense of humour, at all and she was the vainest woman walking God’s green earth and the only thing that she loved as much as her own looks was for someone else to compliment her on them.
“Stix” so named because his surname was Littlewood fancied himself as a bit of a ladies man and liked to flirt, Kylie his second wife knew he was all sausage and no sizzle so quite enjoyed watching him flirt before he crashed and burned.
Evan Thomas and his childhood sweetheart Cerys were foodies so if you got them chatting on the subject of food you were in.
Clive White and his third or fourth partner Tina were ultra-competitive so if they won whatever the game might be they were happy.

After I had finished putting flesh on the bones of those expected to be present she seemed more at ease.
“I love you Ben” she said
“That’s handy” I replied “because I love you too”
Dorcas smiled and kissed me tenderly and we made love.

I thought as Dorcas was nervous about meeting everyone, rather than arriving to a houseful and totally overwhelming her I would take her over to Gary’s early so I could introduce her to the hosts before anyone else arrived and that way she just had to meet one couple at a time.

So when we got there we stood on the porch and I gave her a kiss for good luck before I rang the doorbell.
Gary opened the door.
“Blimey” he said
“You’ll never believe it Elaine” he called over his shoulder “it’s Ben and…”
“Dorcas” I said
“… Dorcas” Gary continued
“Are we too early” I asked
“No not at all” he replied “Lovely to meet you Dorcas, come in, come in”
“Thanks Gary, like wise” she said and squeezed my hand.
As we walked into the lounge he said to Dorcas
“You’re obviously a good influence on him, Ben’s never the first to arrive”
Then he introduced her to his sour faced wife Elaine.
“Dorcas?” she said “that’s a strange name”
“It’s biblical” I answered “nice isn’t it?”
“Hmmm” was her only response
I gave her hand another gentle squeeze and Dorcas said
“I love your dress, I wish I could afford designer label”
Elaine’s expression softened immediately and a hint of a smile could be detected when she continued
“And your hair’s a fabulous shade of red”
“Two down, six to go” I thought to myself

Stix and Kylie were the first to arrive after us and with Dorcas being gorgeous and Stix being a letch he took to her straight away.
There was a moment’s frostiness from Kylie but as soon as Dorcas gave her a wink and she realized Stix was being played she quickly warmed.

By the time Evan and Cerys arrived the gregarious confident Dorcas was there to greet them and within five minutes they were deep in conversation about a new Mongolian restaurant in Kiddingstone, so much so that she almost missed my introducing her to Clive and Tina.
Dorcas continued discussing cuisine with Evan and Cerys while we devoured a rather mediocre Indian.

The games element of the evening began with cards and due to some creative cheating by Dorcas, a skill I hadn’t previously experienced from her, Clive and Tina were the resounding victors.
Deftly played by my wife to be.

We went on to play Trial Pursuit next which was when Gary chose to reveal his latest fad.
As I said earlier he fancied himself as a bit of an engineer and with the help of the Internet and RS Component’s he managed to fashion his latest pride and joy.
“It’s an electronic Dice” Gary said proudly
It was brown in colour, made of plastic, about three inches long and two inches wide and the same in depth.
With two buttons and an Led display on the upper side.
“Wow” everyone said with varying degrees of sarcasm except for Dorcas who said.
“That’s really interesting, how does it work”
“Well” said Gary thrilled that someone appreciated his efforts
“You press this first button and the numbers start randomising”
“Oh yes, I see” said Dorcas
“Then you press the second button and it displays your throw” he continued
“Wow that’s so clever” she said still enthusing
“And you made that?”
“Yes” he replied proudly “I did”
“Can I have a go?” she asked
“Absolutely” Gary said and handed it to her
“So I press this button first” Dorcas said
“Yes” Gary replied
“Then this one?” She said
“Yes” he said again
“And that’s my throw” she said just before she shook it in her hands and rolled it across the table.
Gary’s jaw dropped and the room erupted with laughter and Dorcas said to Gary.
“Got you” and he roared with laughter
In truth at that moment she had them all in the palm of her hand.

She held my hand under the table and squeezed it firmly and as she turned and gave me a smile I fell in love with her all over again.

Life With Dorcas (Part Six) The Case Of The Disappearing Lingerie

In the weeks following the family gathering in Cambridge, to mark Uncle Herbert’s 60th Birthday, my mother was still in shock.
The news of my proposal and subsequent engagement to Dorcas had taken her completely by surprise.
She had apparently come to terms with the fact I would end my days as a bachelor and even though it had been confirmed and verified to be a “genuine engagement” she was still skeptical.
I have to admit there were moments when I didn’t believe it myself.
But we were engaged and everyone seemed to be as pleased about it as we were.

Though my mother was a confirmed skeptic on the subject, plans had already begun in earnest with both sets of parents jockeying for position even though a date hadn’t even been set yet.
Dorcas and I left them to get on with it for the most part as we had plans of our own to finalize, we would rein them in later when we were clear what we wanted.
We never thought at the time that we might live to regret our attitude of laissez-faire in this regard.
But there were more immediate things to occupy our attention, because although we hadn’t yet set a date for the wedding we had set another significant date on the calendar which was fast coming up on the horizon.
Dorcas was moving in with me.

By the time October came around she was already staying over at mind for three days a week so it seemed silly not to go the whole hog.
My place was bigger than hers so it made more sense for her to move in with me rather than the other way around.
We were going spend October packing up her place in Finchbottom so it was ready for renting from the 1st of November when she would move in with me, with as much of her possession as would fit.
When I asked her why she wasn’t selling her house, she said
“I want to keep it just in case”
“In case of what?” I asked
“In case you turn out to be a swine” she replied
Bloody cheek

As I said she had been spending a lot of time at mine and for the most part things went without a hitch but it wasn’t all plain sailing, there was one bone of contention.
That is apart from the age old chestnut, the toilet seat, what is it with women and their obsession with toilet seats.
Anyway I digress, my particular bone of contention was namely articles of underwear, that were particularly delightful when she was inside them but were very annoying when she was not.
They lost their allure somewhat when they were left hanging from the shower rail or draped over radiators.
When she wasn’t looking I would gather them up, in ones and twos, and put the wet ones in the airing cupboard or the dry ones in a drawer in the bedroom.
Dorcas didn’t seem to notice or if she did she didn’t say anything.
That is until the beginning of October when she enquired
“Have you seen my green knickers?”
“No hon, not since you were in them” I replied
“Are you sure?” she quizzed “I know what you’re like with your tidying”
She had noticed then.
“Definitely not honey” I answered
“I don’t understand it I’ve found the bra upstairs so I know they’re here somewhere but I can’t find the pants anywhere”
“They’ll turn up” I suggested
“That’s not very helpful” she replied
“There are some blue ones in the airing cupboard” I said helpfully
“I can’t wear blue pants with a green bra” she said crossly
“Honestly, what kind of a girl do you think I am?”
Over the next few weeks her green panties didn’t turn up and it transpired they weren’t the only items to disappear.
She went on to lose an assortment of knickers, three odd socks and a pair of tights.
Even my lucky pants did a disappearing act.
I had never experienced any loss of laundry all the time I had lived there so I was at a loss to explain the disappearance’s and could offer nothing but my stock answer of
“They’ll turn up”
Dorcas was unconvinced, as was I, and I’m sure she was beginning to think I was some kind of fetishist who had a secret stash of her knickers.
However any such suspicion’s she might have harbored would have been readily dispelled by a visit from my next door neighbour.

It was on Sunday morning, we had just returned home from church, when there was a knock on the front door.
When I opened it I was faced with a very shamefaced and embarrassed character holding a carrier bag out in front of him.
It was my long time neighbour John Elliot, a normally gregarious chap who on this occasion was stooped over like he had the whole world on his shoulders and was staring at his shoes.
“I think these might be yours” he said quietly thrusting the carrier bag in my direction.
“What is it?” I asked and took the bag
“Open it” He said shuffling his feet nervously
I did as he instructed and opened the bag and found inside sundry items of underwear.
“You’d better come in” I said

I had known John and his wife Carole for several years and we had always gotten on very well.
When I first knew them they had two cats, Madeline and Emily who were sisters, and they had them for several years but after Emily was killed on the road in the village Madeline ran away.
They were both huge cat lovers so they decided they would get a rescued cat from an animal rescue center.
Well what they got was a tabby called Tabitha who was a very sweet looking cat that unfortunately suffered with psychological problems.
It was a very nervous and timid creature who was very suspicious of everyone but what none of us suspected was its darker side.
While the humans of the village were all at work Tabitha roamed the local area indulging in her particular passion namely stealing from the neighbours.
She stole knickers, pants, socks, tights, handkerchiefs and the occasional bra as well as bibs and booties.
The troubled animal preyed on the unsuspecting locals stealing from washing lines, wash baskets and clothes airer’s though thankfully even with her psychological problems she only stole clean items, nothing soiled or un-fresh.
We were all oblivious to this dastardly crime putting the loss of missing items down to mischievous house elves.
The dastardly crime only came to light when John was clearing his spare room prior to decorating when he discovered a nest of other people’s underwear.
This could have been more awkward than it already was and John might well have had some explaining to do it Carole had found the pantie collection before he did.
When John told her of the stash he had found Carole thought it was very funny, she did however after sorting the not inconsiderable collection into bags for the prospective owners, dispatch him to return the items.
“I have never been so embarrassed” John said
“How many houses have you had to go to?” Dorcas asked
“You’re number 10” he said
“You poor thing” Dorcas said sympathetically the she looked at me and we both burst out laughing.
When we had regained control of ourselves he continued
“Luckily Tabitha’s is scared of her own shadow so she never strays more than a few houses either side of us, so it narrowed down the field”

After he had gone I looked at the contents of the bag
“You see I said they would turn up” I said
“Pah” Dorcas said unimpressed
“Still you’ve got to hand it to Carole she was spot on with her sorting”
I said
“And look even my lucky pants are here”
“Oh, it’s a shame they came back I threw them out once” she said
“You threw them out?” I asked
“Yes I did” she replied
“But they’re my favourite’s” I said indignantly
Dorcas chuckled and from the doorway she said
“Well you can either stay down here with your lucky pants or you can come upstairs and get lucky in mine” and she went out the room.
About thirty seconds later I got up and followed her, pausing briefly by the kitchen bin to dispose of my former lucky pants.

Life With Dorcas (Part Five) Indecent Proposal

After the family Overton had done battle on the Cam we squelched our way back along the river bank to Chez Cush in high spirits.
As we got closer to the house we could hear a happy chatter and the sound of glasses chinking.
We walked around the side of the house towards the terrace and found the family gathered.
“Oh goodness you’re all wet” Mum said “You’re worse than you were when you were children”
“Aha the motley crew return” Uncle Herbert said jovially “Who won the Battle of the Cam?”
“I did” Said Helen triumphantly as she squelched onto the terrace.
“So why are you dripping wet?” asked a bemused Uncle Edgar
“They threw me in river” said Helen indignantly “because they’re mean”
This information was received with raucous laughter and not with the wave of sympathy she had been expecting so she flounced off to get changed.
The rest of us decided to have a drink on the terrace first.
During our absence a large white marquee had appeared on the lawn on the west side of the house in preparation of Uncle Herbert’s 60th Birthday party the next day.

Over the next hour everyone slowly drifted off in their ones and twos to get ready for the evening meal until there was only Dorcas and I left and we spent a romantic hour cuddling in the hammock watching the sun go down.
“This is nice” I said
“This is perfect” Dorcas corrected me

I was up early on Saturday morning, as was Mum, there was only the two of us, everyone else was sleeping in after severe over indulgence at dinner the night before.
We sat in the conservatory having breakfast and watched a procession of vans arrive on the drive and disgorge their various cargo into waiting hands who transported them to the marquee or its environs.
“What do you think of Dorcas?” I said suddenly although Mum had known her longer than I had as she had been at school with Helen.
“She’s very nice dear” she replied as she stood up
“Of course she’s far too pretty for you to keep” she continued and left the room before I could respond.
“She’s far too pretty for me to keep” What on earth did she mean by that?

I spent the rest of Saturday morning wondering what she meant by her remark.
Did she mean Dorcas was too pretty for me? Not good enough for me? Or too good for me?
Anyway the conclusion I reached was that I loved Dorcas Fox-Martin and I was going to keep her, end of story.

At two o’clock people started to arrive and the party slowly got going with the garden quickly filling with familiar faces.
I was appointed one of the “meeters and greeters” which was a great opportunity to introduce Dorcas to all and sundry.
After about an hour she went off to babysit Connor so Helen was free to mingle and I had a chance to catch up with old family friends and acquaintances but as a result I hardly saw Dorcas all afternoon and I really felt her absence.

As the evening gave way to dusk all but the hardiest of us had moved into the marquee where shortly before the band started their set my kid brother Danny said he had an announcement to make and a murmur spread around the room in anticipation.
“I would just like to make a short but significant announcement”
Now I was reasonably sure it was not a marriage declaration as I knew Danny’s position on marriage very well indeed.
He loved Siti with all his heart but he would never marry her because he thought marriage was a nonsense.
I had no opinion on marriage myself as I never thought the opportunity would ever arise.
Although Danny was anti marriage I suspected he might change his mind if given sufficient incentive to do so, namely if there was a chance he might lose Siti.
So when the announcement was imminent I was certain sure it wasn’t marriage but wasn’t prepared at all for what he did say as he stood holding Siti’s hand.
“We are having a baby” he said excitedly and the tent erupted in cheers and then my Mum cried.

About an hour later I was on my way back from the bar when I walked behind my Mums table out of her line of sight.
“You must be very proud Eleanor” Aunt Alexandra said
“Yes all my children are married or settled down” She Replied “apart from Ben of course”
At that remark I stopped in my tracks.
“But he has a pretty little girlfriend” Alexandra corrected her.
“I know and she’s lovely” Mum said “but he’ll never keep hold of her she way out of his league”
There was a brief pause and then she continued
“He really needs to find himself a horsey type, not a pretty little brunette”
Well they say eaves droppers never hear anything good about themselves well that would teach me.
As I continued on my journey I was feeling absolutely gob smacked.
I approached our table and Helen slurred loudly
“Then they threw me in the river”
Everyone laughed, but I rather uncharitably thought “for god’s sake let it go”
I sat next to Dorcas who gave me a smile as I sat down, I smiled back but inside I wasn’t smiling.
It was only when we were on the dance floor smooching along to 10cc’s “I’m not in love” that I felt at peace and I thought to myself “oh yes I am”

It was the next morning when I was getting ready for church that I made the decision.
I had woken up that morning having had an epiphany.
I quickly finished getting dressed and rushed downstairs and into the kitchen.
“Where’s Dorcas?” I asked abruptly
“And good morning to you” Abi said sitting at the table still wearing her dressing gown.
“Have you seen her or not?” I asked
“She’s in the shower” she snapped
“Thanks” I said and turned on my heels and left
“And I’m next” she shouted after me

I went upstairs to the guest bathroom and pressed my ear against the door.
I could hear the sound of the shower running and tuneless singing.
So having detected it was Dorcas and not my mother I knocked on the door.
“I’ll be out in a minute” she called
“I need to talk to you” I called back
“I’ll be out in a minute hon” she said
The door was locked but it was an old house with a lot of the original fittings, including the door latch on the inside of the bathroom door.
I couldn’t wait a minute, what I had to say to her was urgent so as Dorcas wouldn’t let me in I had to let myself in.
So I used my credit card, sliding it between the frame and the door and lifting the latch.
I pushed open the door which squeaked as it opened.
“Who’s that?” she called in alarm
“It’s only me” I answered
Dorcas was just stepping out of the shower and hastily covered herself with a towel.
Although in the two months we had been seeing each other we had, to put it as delicately as possible, been intimate we were not at that stage of intimacy that allowed naked converse.
“Get out I’m not decent” she shouted
“I have something important to say” I insisted
“Can’t it wait?” she asked
“No it can’t” I said
“Well you can’t just barge into the bathroom when someone else’s is in there” Dorcas said crossly
“It’s not decent we’re not some old married couple you know”
“That’s just the point” I said
“What is?” she said still cross
“I want us to be” I explained
“You want us to be what?” she said with a puzzled expression
“Married” I said quietly “I want to marry you”
Dorcas just stood there looking at me with a vacant look on her face.
“Well what do you think?” I asked
“I think you should come over here and kiss me” Dorcas replied
“Is that really decent?” I queried
“It is now we’re engaged” she answered and we kissed

We decide not to tell my Mum until after church as we thought her head might explode.
We did tell Danny though but only as he happened to be passing the bathroom as we came out but we swore him to silence until lunchtime.
“I’d better be your best man” he said
“But you don’t believe in marriage” I replied
“That’s not the point” he said

Life With Dorcas (Part Four) Punting On The Cam

Since our unusual first date back in June on the Tree Top Trail, Dorcas and I had spent a lot of time together on the full range of more conventional dates, country walks, museums, galleries, pubs, restaurant’s, cinemas and bowling alleys.
Over which time we had gotten to know each other and I discovered that quite apart from being gorgeous, which was plain to everyone, she was witty, intelligent, sensitive, loving and a totally rubbish bowler.

At the beginning of August one bright Friday morning we were driving up the M11 on our way to Cambridge to celebrate my Uncle Herbert’s 60th birthday.
By which time Dorcas and I were well and truly a couple.

It was to be a full on family weekend, which is something we do rather well I don’t mind saying but this was the rarest of occasions when absolutely everyone would be in attendance.
Apart from the birthday boy Herbert and his wife Alexandra, there was his elder brother Edgar, my eldest sister Abi and her husband Bijs were coming over from Holland, my younger brother Danny and his girlfriend Siti were driving across from the west midlands, baby sister Helen, hubby Mark and baby Connor were a few hundred yards ahead of us on the motorway and my Mum and Dad were about 50 miles behind us, despite the fact that we left home in convoy, because Dad never broke the speed limit.

Although Dorcas was a longtime friend of my sister Helen, she didn’t know all the players involved in the weekend’s events and was a little apprehensive about meeting them all, so on the journey I filled in any blanks in her knowledge of us.
“Have you met Abi before?” I asked as we approached junction 8
“Not really” she replied “She was in the back of your Dads car once, I think she was on her way back to Uni, but I didn’t meet her exactly”
It was hardly surprising really as she never really came home again after Uni.
Abigail met Bijs at University and went out to Southern Holland almost as soon as they graduated.
Now they both worked at the City Hall in S-Hertogenbosch and lived a few miles away in Rosmalen and only get back to the UK once in a while.
“You know Danny though” I said as I took the exit and drove towards Stansted airport
“Yes but then he is nearer my own age” she said
“And he asked me out once”
“I didn’t know that” I said surprised
“I said no” she assured me
“I’m pleased to hear it” I added
“How come we never met?” I asked
“I don’t know” Dorcas said thoughtfully “Just my good fortune I suppose”
“Bloody cheek” I said

Forty five minutes later we rejoined the M11 with my sister and her husband on board and we were still ahead of my Mum and Dad.
With the introductions done and Dorcas thoroughly interrogated by my sister we made steady progress towards Cambridge.
“You’ll like Uncle Herbert” Abi said either to Dorcas or Bijs I’m not sure which
“He’s Professor of Medieval Studies at Cambridge University” I said proudly
“Just like CS Lewis” Dorcas contributed
“That’s right” I said surprised “How on earth did you know that?”
“Well I’m not just a pretty face” she said
“Clearly” I concurred
“He’s at Magdalene College” Abi continued
“Also like Lewis” Dorcas responded
“Have you been swatting?” I asked suspiciously
“No I’m just a big fan” she replied
“Of Lewis or my Uncle?” I asked with a smile
“He is also a wit” Abi added
“A raconteur, a lay preacher and an all-round good egg” Abi and I said in unison and laughed as this was a well-worn phrase oft quoted by the family in relation to Uncle Herbert.
Bijs and Dorcas looked on in bemusement.

We drove onto the driveway of chez Cush just before one o’clock and I took a moment to take in the familiar vista before I took Dorcas inside to do the introductions.
The Cush brothers still lived in the ancestral pile built by my great great great grandfather at the height of the industrial revolution.
It had featured prominently throughout my life where all the family gatherings had taken place.
It was not a particularly esthetically pleasing structure but it was typically Victorian and it held fond memories for me.
The harshness of its hard lines had been somewhat softened over the years by the matured sympathetic planting which blended it into the unfussy landscape of the fens where many a long summer holiday had been spent.

Herbert was still at the college but Edgar had a light lunch prepared for us which we ate on the terrace.
We had just finished when Mum and Dad arrived followed shortly by Danny and Siti.
“Well better late than never” I said
“I thought we made good time” Dad replied
“Not you Dad” I responded “You’re actually early, I was talking to desperate Dan”
“I have just one thing to say to you bruv” Dan said punching me on the arm
Enough said we all concurred

After lunch as we had a couple of hours to kill so we left the oldies and the baby to doze on the terrace and set off for a walk along the river.
What began with a huddled chattering group eventually spread out into a ragged strand.

Danny and I were at the back about 20 yards astern of Dorcas and Siti who appeared to be getting on like a house on fire.
Danny and Siti lived in Kidderminster where he was an Estate agent and she was a primary school teacher so I didn’t get to see him as often as I’d like.
It was only on these mass gatherings that we were able to catch up.
“How did you of all people manage to snatch up a gem like Dorcas?” Danny asked in disbelief
“She obviously fell for my charm” I said smugly
“I thought she had better taste” Dan continued
“She knocked me back you know?”
“I know” I replied
“Turned me down flat” he continued
“Which just goes to prove she does have good taste” I said and he tried to push me in the river.
The girls turned around to see what we were up to and they both gave us a look so we returned to our previous positions.
“Well you’ve got yourself a good one in Siti” I said
“I know” he said smugly

About half an hour later we were in sight of the university buildings and Abi shouted back from her place in the vanguard.
And Danny and I started jogging towards her.
“What’s going on” Dorcas said with alarm
“Were going punting” I said and took her hand and we ran hand in hand along the path
“But I’ve never punted” she exclaimed
The reason for all the excitement was that because of all the summers spent in Cambridge a disproportionate amount of time was spent Punting on the river Cam.

We hired 4 punts and divided up into our respective couples.
Now when the Overton take to the water the object of the exercise is not to get wet.
We had all been in the river at one time or another, some more than others, but when we were punting the winners were the ones who stayed dry.
If your pole gets stuck in the mud you let it go, if the situation arises then you stay with the punt and not with the pole it’s simple really.
Now when I say the object of the exercise is to stay dry in truth what I actually mean is that it is to get your opponents wet.
Once both occupants of a punt have been dunked then they can take no further part.
Now under normal circumstances hostilities wouldn’t begin until all craft were out of sight of the dock and the prying eyes of the boat keeper.
But on this occasion Bijs missed his footing and fell in the river without even setting foot onto his punt.
“God Bijs your whole country is below sea level” Danny shouted “you should be more at home on the water than any of us”

It wasn’t long before Abi, the least sea worthy of the Overton’s, succumbed to an early bath and we were down to 3 boats.
Once the flotilla had travelled sufficiently up stream so as to be out of sight of the boat station and hostilities could begin.

There had been a number of harmless skirmishes when Danny, who normally wins hands down, narrowly avoided a ramming by Helens punt only to find himself heading straight for a weeping willow.
Siti panicked and ran to the rear of the vessel and then she and Danny slid down the pole together.
During the ensuing laughter Mark and I collided, and he and I both got dunked.
Dorcas stood up and laughed like a drain before she shouted
“Abandon ship” and jumped in and joined me.
“I’ll save you captain” she said and wrapped her arms around me as we stood in the cool water, me up to my thighs and Dorcas waist deep and we laughed in the summer sunshine.
Which was when I fell in love with her.
As I stood in the waters of the Cam kissing my girlfriend, Helen noisily declared herself the winner.

She had never won before and she wouldn’t shut up about it on the walk back to the Cush’s so we picked her up threw her into the river.
Her last words before she hit the water were
“You can’t do that I’m a mother”