High summer 2015 [cont]
I mean, I’m not that stupid.
Don’t have breakfast. Get in the First Class carriage.
She was up to something.
So I got into the First Class carriage of the train travelling from London up to The North, stopping briefly at Sandy.
And burst into tears.
There she was, in First Class (sorry I keep having to repeat this, but it doesn’t happen to me very often) in an elegant long skirt and her best wedding hat, all dolled up for Rose’s Speech Day, with a hamper reminiscent of Ratty and Mole on the river.
And a huge bouquet of flowers.
On my wedding anniversary.
A bucket with a bottle of champagne in it.
Prosciutto. Cherry tomatoes.
Coffee. And a separate pot of cream.
Strawberries. And more cream.
Croissants. With extra butter.
Freshly squeezed orange juice.
I can’t remember what else. Far too much.
How silly I am! I am wiping my eyes all over again…
I told the train manager, Serena said, that it’s your wedding anniversary. And you have a really ill daughter. And another daughter whose Speech Day we’re going to.
And that it’s really difficult being Bink’s mother.
And – did I say? – that it’s your wedding anniversary.
And that things are sometimes really stressful and sad, being Bink’s mother.
And I asked her, please pretty please, would she upgrade us to First Class, as a present for you. For nothing.
And she said, of course! So here we are.
Have a glass of champagne. Happy wedding anniversary!
(And I’m supposed to be one in the family with all the cheek.)
And finally, a card for me. To go with the flowers. With comments from all the prayer group. For our, my, wedding anniversary.
You see, Serena said. When you said you couldn’t afford the train fare for Rosie’s Speech Day, I did exactly what you would have done under the circumstances.
I emailed all Bink’s prayer group and asked if they’d like to chip in.
And of course they did.
And then Christian managed to get far cheaper train tickets than you had found, so there was rather a lot of money left over, so I asked everyone if I could spend it on a treat for you, and of course they all said yes again.
And there’s still enough left over for us to take Rosie out for supper, too.
And the card was full of messages of love from all Bink’s prayer group.
We had a glorious two-hour train journey, attempting to eat our way through that wonderful Ratty-worthy breakfast. And not succeeding very well.
At midday we met up with Rose in the cathedral close.
Then filed into the cool of the cathedral for an afternoon of speeches and prizes.
To watch Rose receive the Greek Prize.
Only, it wasn’t the Greek Prize she was getting.
Or rather, it wasn’t only the Greek Prize.
It was the such-and-such prize for musical performance. And the so-and-so prize for mathematical achievement. And the doo-dah prize for creative writing. And the someone-else prize for something-else. And the rounders prize and the deputy-head-choristership prize and the really-obscure-benefactor’s prize for tidying-up-more-books-in-the-classroom-and-putting-them-away-than-anyone else.
(In Rose’s last year at the school, the head had to invent a prize, for Rose and the top-achieving boy in her year, so that the two of them didn’t gobble up all the prizes between them. She later told us that as she was trying to squeeze in, on the flyleaves of all the books the two of them had chosen, the words, The Venerable Bede Prize for Almost Everything Anyone Can Think Of Not Previously Specified in Any Other Prize, she got a fit of the hysterics and couldn’t write anything for a full five minutes.)
Apart from wondering where on earth this hard-working prodigy had come from and what on earth she was doing in the Atkins Family, Serena and I nearly burst with pride.
Though I felt even more chuffed on the close lawn over tea afterwards, when the Dean said, on seeing Serena and me – and our hats and gloves – how good it was that someone at least, knew how to dress for a school Speech Day.
And then I changed into something more casual in the school loo and Rose changed out of uniform, and we walked along the river and took Rose for supper in that café hanging over the bank, with the lights twinkling on the other side, using the remainder of the funds from Bink’s prayer group, and we persuaded her to try oysters and have a glass of prosecco with us, both of which she had to gulp down with orange juice afterwards.
And eventually delivered her back at school, and took the train back down South, on which Serena had upgraded us properly onto First Class, now, for that deal you can do for about a quid when nobody else wants to travel First Class (just had to get one more mention in) and there were free sandwiches and drinks and they were all wasted because we couldn’t consume another thing.
So it was one of the best wedding anniversaries (sorry, Shaun) I’ve ever had in my life.
And all the day long, I was trying not to think how much more fun it could have been if Bink could have been with us, and it had been a Girls’ Day Out for four, not just the three of us...