Early summer 2009
The effect of our move on Bink was fascinating.
To be honest, we were all so happy, so free and energised and in love with our new life that I don’t remember particularly noticing at the time, the effect on her.
As so often, it is on looking back that the pattern seems to shift itself out of the mist.
For the first half of that summer term – while our mortgage broker sweated away so hard to procure a house for us; and our parents came over to have lunch in the nearest pub and look round their new home and discuss how it would all work out; and the vendors gave us coffee in their smart machine yet again and cleared up after Hamlet pooped in their immaculate flower beds and wondered when and possibly whether we would ever exchange – in all those white-gold weeks of early summer, we lived in the school.
In the Chaplaincy, which the head had deemed too small for us and Shaun had said was bigger than the cottage we had just left.
I was slightly surprised, when we first moved in. True, it had high ceilings and generous rooms and given everything we’d just left, was luxurious. But it seemed about the same size as our sweet little cottage in Oxfordshire.
Then... astonishment! Shaun led me up to another floor, as big again, three more bedrooms. What use could we put them to? Ah yes of course, Bink, Rosie and Serena needed them; and the boys if they came home.
Shaun took Hamlet to Bedford Park next door, morning and evening, as we had no garden. And that first morning, another Dane owner screeched her four-by-four round in a U-bend: our first new friends.
I loved living in the school: it was how I was brought up. The wide playing fields stretching to the margins of sight; poplars waving at story-book clouds drifting past sailor’s trousers sky; thwack of willow on wood and youthful shouts of an afternoon. And a loud bell clanging through our flat every forty minutes, marking the day.
The moment we arrived: entertaining again, as we had at the vicarage before we left London. Brunch in the garden beneath our Chaplaincy; Shaun’s new flock, the choir and their families; fish and fresh coriander bought at the newly-discovered market; buttery kedgeree yellow with turmeric and chopped eggs; big urn of tea; Buck’s Fizz.
Lolling sleepily on rugs in the school sun when they’d all gone, staff clearing the tables as they had in my childhood.
While Bink took Rosie into school meals, regular as the bells ringing the lessons. She had settled into a rhythm. And we were so settled ourselves, we scarce even noticed.
Up and dressed each day. Eating regularly. Looking after her little sister.
I believe it was on our very first Sunday, first weekend in Bedford, Shaun and I away somewhere or preoccupied, I can’t now remember.
Bink got Rosie up and dressed, and took her to our new parish church. Bink did. Found it, attended it, took Rosie. Not Shaun or me or even Serena. Not even Ben.
A few days later the vicar called with flowers and wine: the modern vicarage squatted opposite our flat and had seen the removal van off-loading our few-weeks’ essentials.
But it was Bink, who introduced us to the church where my mother is buried and my father will be.
Nine years later, it took the eminent Professor Veale, at the Priory, to pronounce that Bink needs structure in her life, such as you find in a boarding school. She should consider something like that for a career.
But of course, the structure only lasted as long as our time living in the Chaplaincy...