This work may be used free of charge and copied, selling without prior written consent prohibited, obtain permission before redistributing, In all cases this notice must remain intact copyright D.W. Bloyce 2012
All characters are fictitious, If a character name is used in connection with a side, it’s just co-incidence if that given name belongs in that side. Insofar as song lyrics being included I don’t know the legalities or etiquette involved, I have given the opening few and last few lines if that is all that is needed or the song in full if the text needs it and credit to the author in either case, traditional songs are treated the same but credited as Traditional.
This is a fiction story, not fantasy and while there is a lot of passion and some very erotic action in later parts and in book two if you are looking for raw action then I am sorry but this isn't the book for you.
On The Third Day
“Put him back girl, he’s too old for you.” We surface rapidly, both of us blushing a bit, I hide behind my tankard, for a moment I am confused; I don’t recognise the lady behind the voice.
“Chrissie, what are you doing here, I thought you were going out,”
“I have gone out, that’s why I’m here and not at home, and you aren’t the only one who can swan off unescorted, although you don’t look at all unescorted to me.”
“Sorry Chrissie, this is Frank, my white knight on a silver charger, without him I don’t know what might have happened, Frank this is Chrissie, my neighbour and protector, she has been dropping dark hints about David for a fair while, I’m glad I didn’t listen to her though, if I had I would never have come here and met you. How did you find us by the way?”
“I just walked along the fence asking for Jenny Saunders or Blackwater, over the other side half a dozen people said they were Blackwater and I could leave my stuff there, you were walking round the field with your ‘betrothed’, and that you were in a green dress. From what they said you have an awful lot of explaining to do, young lady.”
“I have no explaining to do, especially to an elderly control freak like you.” This was said with a smile from both of them, so no malice intended. Chrissie was young, probably twenty-six to thirty, blonde, and very pale skinned, five foot six, and she carried a bit more flesh than Jenny, and looked healthier for it.“Flower, shall we shake our fists at the mischief makers over the way.”
“That sounds like a good idea, how about a bonus raspberry as well, my love.” We do it and giggle like a couple of school kids, as Blackwater wave back.”
“Come on Jenny, I worry about you, you are such an innocent in a very strange place, what did that ‘betrothed’ mean.”
“I don’t have time now, and I don’t want to tell all the details anyway, but Frank took me in, cared for me, helped me through a very difficult afternoon and fed me, in the evening he took me to meet some friends of his, Blackwater Morris, he and his late wife Lynda danced with them for a few years. They were very pleased that I was with Frank, I couldn’t find a safer berth, were their exact words, after a social evening of singing and a couple of glasses of wine, we came back to the van, Frank rearranged the sleeping bags and duvet into two single beds, we slept through to morning, He didn’t lay a finger on me, and idiot that I am, I tried to tempt him, but he didn’t fall into temptation, after that I knew he was someone special. For reasons I don’t yet understand, Sue and Val ended up having a bet over whether we were emotionally involved, we found out about it and turned it around on them, and in doing so we discovered we each have some fairly intense feelings for the other, last night, we sang two songs together, now they are trying to marry us off,”
“I have further news on that front love, you remember after your little paddy Ken said “Frank, if I were you I’d get on one knee, ask her and when she says yes make sure ‘obey’ is in the vows” Jenny nods yes;
“When I went into the awning to get your beer Ken gave me some very specific orders and I quote ‘there or thereabouts’, ‘Not if but when you pop the question, and she says yes, if she wants someone to give her away can you book my place at the head of the queue, I know I’ve known her less time than you but she can easily get to someone, you and her are like peas in a pod, she’s special. See you later in the Gordon, ok?’ What do you say to that then love?” Jenny’s eyes start to fill, I hold her, and we start to sway to that tune we both know so well but neither can hear.
“Frank, my flower, are we both that easy to read? I know how I feel, and I have a very good idea of your feelings, but it is only six months since you lost Lynda are you ready to start again?”
I whisper in her ear, “If I asked, would you say yes?” Jenny whispers her reply,
“Of course I would, when were you thinking of asking?”
“I am sorry to say it, but not now, if Blackwater and Tribal got to know, we might as well take out adverts on the television, I was thinking of tomorrow morning over breakfast, after I had tired you out a couple of times.” We come apart and face Chrissie,
“Chrissie, this must be very strange for you, why did you come down here? It must have cost a fortune, how long did it take?”
“Only a couple of hours driving and a quarter of an hour of waiting time, As to why, when you spoke to me yesterday, I could tell from your voice and word choices that something significant had happened, I wasn’t willing to wait until you got round to telling me so I came to find out exactly what was going on, and now I have a confession to make, I have borrowed your tent and a sleeping bag, ‘just in case’ I wanted or needed to stay.”
“That’s perfectly ok, so now you are here what are you going to do, we were planning on going down to the town watch some dancing, and have a liquid lunch at the Gordon, would you care to keep us company,”
“I will but only if you have space for a gooseberry.”
I chip in with, “You will be right at home here, there are enough fruitcakes around here already and an extra gooseberry wouldn’t be noticed or thought out of place.”
“Well my flower, should we go and have a few choice words our friends in Blackwater, would you care to choose them or may I”
“I would be very interested in your choice of words when we meet them, if they are as interesting as previous encounters, I think Ken and Sue will need a couple of pint’s apiece to help them recover. Should we cut across or finish our lap?”
“The sooner we see our ‘friends’ in Blackwater the better, race you, no.... I can’t run in this dress, come here my flower,” and we walk back to our van with our arms around each other.”
Chrissie, walking a couple of yards behind, thinks to herself, ‘She’s so involved with him, I hope he hasn’t hurt her; it is said that the lord protects fools and lovers, but I’ve never seen her near a church; I’ve only known her a couple of years, she was the younger sister I never really got to know, I won’t half miss her if it works out for her’.
As we get closer to our van ‘when did it become our van’, another change, neither planned nor asked for but welcome all the same, these are the sorts of little changes that help to prove to myself that what we are doing is right for us, Val and Sue start towards us, I can see curiosity seeping out of every pore, if they were cats, curiosity would have terminated them both years ago. Who will speak first? I will.
“Why do I suddenly feel a bit outnumbered? Five to one isn’t fair”
“There are only two of us, or have you got double vision,” Says Sue
“Don’t forget Chrissie, and Kath and her daughter, coming up behind, I don’t know her name.”
“It’s Charlotte, we all call her Charlie and she’s nine going on nineteen”
“Like I say, Five to one, that’s not fair.”
“Jenny’s on your side, Charlie’s too young, two to one is fair enough!” Jenny retorts with, “I’m on no one’s side; I’m only batting for me. Everyone in the awning now! I’m not messing. Everyone enters, those that are inclined take a beer, I pour one for Jenny, “Thank you, my flower,” and pour one for myself, Jenny starts to talk in a very schoolmarm voice, I watch as Charlie nearly stands to attention.
“Right listen up all of you, Friday afternoon and early evening were a proper nightmare for me, thanks to Frank and Chrissie,” here she lifts her tankard and salutes us both;
“I made it through the night. Saturday was dominated by my legs and how much of them should be on display, also by the bet about Frank and me, when we called you on it and admitted our feelings towards each other those were not enough for you.”
“When we left last night I wouldn’t be surprised if you were marrying us off, and I know plans had already been made as to where we would dance. Earlier, Ken told Frank, and I quote, make sure ‘obey’ is in the vows. Finally, the icing on the wedding cake, he wants to give me away. If and or when I marry I would like Erica and Chrissie to work out between themselves who is to give me away and who is bridesmaid. This isn’t a little ‘got you going’ rant like earlier these are our lives you are playing silly buggers with and I will not stand for it. Is that understood? Those who cannot accept this may leave our van now.” Nobody moves.
“It looks like I’ve put my foot royally in it again, I can only say that I am sorry, so sorry I upset you Jenny, I guess it proves Sue to be right, I shouldn’t be allowed out without a keeper, can you please forgive me, Frank knows that I do not understand the meaning or use of tact and sensitivity, that, I am afraid, you will have to accept if you hang around with me and Blackwater.” Sue interjects with “It’s not all your fault, pet I shouldn’t have started the bet with Val, mind you, I stand by what we said about the clothes.”
Val addresses the whole awning, “Frank, Jenny, we are all sorry if our antics caused offence or upset you in any way, that wasn’t our intention, we know Frank and he knows us, to him, it’s probably water off a ducks back. Jenny, don’t let us spoil what you have or want, if you want it, go get it girl.”
“I want to go see some dancing and get a drop or three of Nelsons Blood, but first having hopefully put our points of view across, I need to do the hostess bit, everyone, this is Chrissie, my next door neighbour and my best friend, Chrissie, from the door round the table Ken, he is squire of Blackwater, next is Sue, Ken’s partner, Val her partner in crime and next Harry, Sue’s partner, standing is Charlotte, known as Charlie she belongs with Kath and Richard. Finally there is Frank, former member of Blackwater and another half dozen other sides as well, widower and light of my life. Right five minutes and we are off to town, ok.” This gets a
“Yes Miss” practically in unison from Ken and Sue, they are well used to being corrected by spirited individuals. We all eventually rise from the table and leave the awning, Jenny and I first, followed by Chrissie, then Blackwater in pairs with Charlie bringing up the rear, I whisper to Jenny,
“Does this feel like a wedding procession to you?” She turns and looks and bursts out into a fit of very schoolgirl like giggles,
“Yes, it looks that way, doesn’t it? It only needs Charlie beside Chrissie to complete the illusion. Parade Halt!” Calls Jenny. “This is not a rehearsal.” There are a few chuckles over this as they look around and realise what we look like. A people carrier pulls up beside us and three more Blackwater people alight and join us, The car drives down to the bottom of the field, the driver and front seat passenger get out and are joined by Andy and Lisa who come out of their camper van, and all walk back to us. When they get back to us, Ken does the introductions,
“Day trippers, meet Chrissie, Jenny and Frank, Chrissie is new to all of you, she hails from Bishops Stortford, The day trippers are Jerry, Debbie, and Alan, I assume you collected Mark and James on the way up,” Jerry replies. “Yes, they were looking sorry for themselves, slogging uphill in the heat. Nice to meet you all, are you dancers?” I reply for us, “I used to be, I can play a bit and Jenny and Chrissie aren’t involved, at the moment.” Jenny gives me a very relaxed smile, Chrissie; I feel is totally out of her depth.
“Jenny wanted to go down town to watch some more dancing; we will be leaving in a minute, who else is coming?” To Jenny I say;
“Do you need anything out of the van, my treasure?”
“No thanks, but could we put the stuff that Chrissie bought inside.”
“Of course treasure.” and I lift tent, bag and I assume spare clothes into the van.
“Frank, can we have the use of your awning for a bit, we’ll zip up when we come down in an hour or so?” Asks Richard.
“Of course, no problem, see you later.” Nine of us set off for the town, Harry and Val, Ken and Sue, Andy and Lisa, Jenny, Chrissie and I. We three walk a bit slower and are soon ten yards behind, and at this point, Chrissie says to Jenny, “You aren’t the same person that left on Friday, your confidence is sky high, the way you talked to them in the awning, the way you are holding onto Frank, what happened to you this weekend, has Frank been good to you.”
“He hasn’t only been good to me; he has been very good for me, Firstly, could you see me standing up in front of people I only met the day before and singing a song as a duet that I hadn’t even heard a day before. Secondly, because David was supposedly bringing my clothes down on Friday I only had the clothes I stood in, Frank lent me one of his t-shirts and got very creative with a bandana, I could not believe how good he made me look in an xl tee, and later we went clothes shopping round the charity shops, have you ever seen me in a skirt, a short skirt at that about six inches above the knee? This is a dress he bought for me, Blackwater think it needs to be a couple of inches shorter would you believe? Isn’t it gorgeous? And lastly so far, Frank, my flower, did you notice that I said ‘our van’ when I was having a paddy, that wasn’t a slip of the tongue, that was how I felt about it. Is that another of those ‘little changes’ that you mentioned?”
“Yes love, I have been thinking in terms of ‘our’ since yesterday evening.”
“Chrissie, can you tell me more of what happened yesterday, I can’t believe the police got there so quickly”
“I might have had something to do with that, you know Terry, the local PCSO, I saw him outside the block after I moved into yours, I called down to him from the balcony and asked him to come up for an official chat, I gave him a mug of tea and let him loose on my biscuit tin while I explained who we are, where we live, where you were, and why, he didn’t seem overly interested until I mentioned that it was David Andrews who had diverted you Fdown here, after that he asked a few more questions, he had a wander round and made a couple of security suggestions for the future, and one for overnight.
He called again just after 10 am, as the man from the locksmiths was leaving, no discount by the way. Terry said that they thought David might be paying me a visit between midday and 2pm they were that confident, they asked if a couple of PCs could wait in the flat, rather than moving officers around outside. I gave consent on your behalf, I had one male and one female officer with me, she asked if she could play your dad’s guitar, again I gave the go ahead, she was good; she played five or six songs and sung along.
Her radio beeped, the guitar was hung up and the pair of them went into the hall, within a minute I could hear a key going in the lock, an attempt to open the door, then a fair bit of thumping and banging on the door and a lot of very colourful language, when the police opened the door an inch David charged the door, was tripped and handcuffed in next to no time, he was arrested for a public order offence, as Terry explained when he came in, that is more of a holding charge than anything, when you give a statement they will be able to bring more significant charges against him, from overheard conversations I gather once he is under arrest they should be able to search his home, looking for stolen goods, and even possibly tie him in with some of the local drug dealers. I told you he was bad news didn’t I girl?
“Yes you did, thank you so much for all you have done for me this weekend.” By the time the news had been exchanged, we had cleared U.C.A. and from the high end of the field we could look across the Medway and see all the new development on the rivers banks, Blackwater have stretched their lead to fifty yards. I was between the two girls, Jenny on my right, Chrissie to my left, Jenny and I have our arms round each other, I talk quietly directly to her.
“Jenny love, are you going to give Chrissie a clue as to what she might be seeing today.”
“I don’t think I will, you didn’t help me when we came down yesterday,”
“That’s different, I assumed you learnt something from Blackwater Friday evening and when you saw them in kit Saturday morning.”
“No my flower, Chrissie is going in the deep end, I hope Tribal do the same to her as they did to me.” This last statement was said very quietly. Jenny has a low and slightly evil sense of humour, this could be great fun, it’s a pity she is in a dress, Bishop Gundulphs Longsword side could had some fun with her if she were in trousers.
“I think we ought to move a bit quicker, we don’t know if they are going straight to the Gordon or stopping at The Eagle or even The Two Brewers.”
“Frank my flower, I don’t want to get rid of you but could you walk on and catch them up to find out what they’re doing, I would like some girl talk time with Chrissie.”
“Ok treasure, I will wait for you outside The Eagle, See you in a bit, I love you. As Frank moves on ahead, Jenny asks Chrissie if we can sit here and talk for a bit.
“Of course girl, what’s on your mind?”
“It’s your mind I am thinking of, I am fully aware that you think of me as a younger sister, so put your older sister head on and start asking and listening.”
“Ok Jenny, You say he hasn’t hurt you, what has he done, honestly?”
“I am still a virgin, if that’s what you are asking”
“Ok you haven’t had sex, what have you done?”
“Honestly, all he has done is to stroke and play with my boobs, and we have done a lot of kissing, a heck of a lot of kissing, he knows how to move me.”
“What do you mean by that, Jenny?”
“Frank made me come twice this morning, just by kissing and playing with my boobs.” That’s how he moves me.”
“Life isn’t just orgasms Jenny, girl. What else has he got going for him?”
“I trust him totally, I have told him things that I can’t tell you, He has told me things about himself and his history, which makes me love and trust him even more.”
“That’s the first time you’ve used the love word in its proper context, if I am an older sister to you what do you think Erica will say about Frank,”
“It doesn’t matter what Erica thinks, she won’t be having a say in what we decide to do. As I said earlier I would like you and Erica as bridesmaid and to give me away if and or when I get married.”
“Last question Jenny, and our friendship rests on an honest answer, what were the two of you whispering about, back on the track?”
“Frank said, ‘if I asked would you say yes?’ I replied, ‘of course I would, when were you thinking of asking?’
“I am sorry to say it, but not now, if Blackwater or Tribal found out, we might as well place adverts.”
“Ok Jenny, as Val said, if you want it, go get it girl.”
“Thank you Chrissie, I hoped you would understand, I do love him, I am fully aware he might be dead before I’m fifty, that really hurts but I don’t get a choice in the matter.
“Hi Jenny, everything ok?” A voice behind them asked, we both turned and Chrissie jumped as we were faced with a Morris Man blacked up and in black, white and green tatters. Jenny asks,
“Yes, we met here yesterday, I’m Darren, see you down town later, right?”
“Yes we are moving in a minute, if you see Frank, please tell him we are on our way and when you see Michael, Chrissie here needs the same as me, ok.”
“You know a lot of people now, don’t you?”
“I’ve only met and been introduced to about twenty people, but Frank and Lynda danced or played for I think seven sides together, that’s a lot of people. Tribal have asked Frank if they can run an ‘ale’ for Lynda one year on, Frank reckons they might get a hundred people for that. As I told Darren, we had better start walking, if we are going to meet Frank on time.” We stand and walk together along the rest of the bowling green and towards the play area and I put my arm in Chrissie’s as we often do around Stortford.
“Are you interested in this Morris stuff because it’s interesting or is Frank pushing you into it?”
“It’s all me. I don’t think Frank knows how to push, I have never seen or heard anything like it before in my life, and I’m not going to describe it, I don’t want to give you any preconceived ideas. But at one point yesterday Frank invited me stand beside him in the band while he played his melodeon, as the dancers finished and moved off they came through the band, the last pair holding hands together aloft as they went either side of me. The band then moved to where the dancers had been, I was right in the middle of them, I’ve never felt a rush like it. Well not until this morning. Frank and Ken reckoned I was becoming a Morris Junkie!” A woman in whites, with blue and green trim is walking towards us.
“Hi Jenny.” She says,
“Hi.” I reply.
“Who was that?” Asks Chrissie.
“I have absolutely no idea, probably a member of a side that Frank and Lynda danced with sometime, I don’t even think I saw them dance yesterday. I would guess that the Morris grapevine or at least the Essex, Suffolk and Kent parts of it has me tagged and identified the length of Rochester High Street by now.”As we are waiting at the lights at the exit from the gardens, two ladies in long green and grey pinafore dresses come alongside side us.
“Hi Jenny, what’s it like being caught in the Blackwater trap?”
“Very confusing.” Is my honest and heartfelt reply.
“Stick with it and you’ll soon have them trained, see you later”. And with a tapping of clogs they were across the road, our light goes green so we cross behind them.
“See what I mean, I think they are Winstree Hundred from Mersea Island, but don’t quote me on it.” The rest of the way down we talk girl stuff about Stortford and I try to talk about Chrissie’s love life, still non-existent according to Chrissie, and she changes the subject to work, she is a clerk in Harlow NHS Hospital, some of the things she has to handle make me cry, she is part of the organ transplant admin team. Franks words about ‘Without you’ spring to mind ‘the intensity decreases the more familiar you become with the emotions it provokes’ that has to be true otherwise Chrissie couldn’t function.
We are just before the start of the High St. and there is a hole in the wall machine, only a couple of people in a queue so I wait my turn to get some cash, fifty should do, we are going home tomorrow and I still have twenty and change. Transaction complete we move into the High St.
The Third Day
Fifty yards further on are the Whitchmen, I hope they are about to start, my stride lengthens, “Keep up Chrissie.” we get there just as the band are starting, we are on the side of the road by the first of the dancers. When I saw them yesterday they used short sticks about a foot long, this time the sticks are thicker and three feet long, they put a lot of work into swinging and clashing the sticks, as they weave along the sides I am still struck by how quiet their movements are, they are very confident, small talk and banter between the dancers, I would want a hard hat! Chrissie is staring, mouth open, it’s obvious she has never seen the like of this before either; at the end of the dance the dancers converge, clash and yell before dropping the sticks and running into the slightly sparse crowd.
“What do you think, Chrissie?” have you seen the like before?”
“That’s not Morris dancing. Morris dancers are dressed in white,”
“That’s Cotswold, this is Border, and next on here is a North west side, these are different again, but it’s all Morris.” These are different, North West are usually ladies sides these are all men. And big, the music starts and it’s a fairly quick tune, there is a single whistle blast and the men start to dance, very quick short steps, some toe pointing, pieces of coloured braided rope on handles with bells are twirled in both hands, they can’t keep this pace up for long, surely, another whistle blast, the pattern changes, about three times a minute the whistle blows, after five or six figures there is a long blast and at the end of the music the dancers stop, dead still and silent, a single drum beats softly while the dancers march off stepping quickly in time, twirling the ropes high then low in time with the slow beating of the drum.
“Time to move Chrissie, we need to find Frank before he starts to worry about us.”
“Why would he worry about us, we’re safe here.”
“Because that is what he does. Yesterday afternoon at just after five pm, we were walking back to the campsite and I have never been so scared in a town in broad daylight before, I hope I never feel that way again. The next decent spot is at The Eagle, I hope he is there, I am missing him already.”
Frank is walking towards The Eagle from the Gordon, and wondering where the girls are, ‘I knew I should have stayed with them’ I daren’t walk quickly they might be in a shop, near the Two Brewers a Tribal dancer calls “Frank, Jenny said they were now coming when I saw them by the bowling green, they shouldn’t be too far behind me, see you later.”
“Thanks for that, I’ll go to The Eagle, your lot are at the war memorial.”
“Cheers.” I continue my slow walk, they may stop and watch someone down there, and even walking slowly I arrive at The Eagle in three minutes, why do you always feel thirsty when your tankard’s empty. I stand on the grass nearest the slip road to the car park, from here I have a good view of who’s coming, and Jenny’s green dress should really shine out. I miss her, I need to see, smell and kiss her, I crane my neck down the road, there is a clog side down there going like the clappers.
The only side I know who go at that pace are Wrigley Heads from Manchester, I haven’t seen them for ten or more years, and that was at Ely. I am tempted to walk down but know I shouldn’t, we are meeting here or the Gordon and I don’t want them wandering round in a strange town. Another three minutes pass and I see Jenny’s dress approaching, thankfully she is in it as well, we meet in the middle of the road, I pick her up and kiss her, as I lower her we don’t break the kiss until the temperature begins to rise, we are learning some control at last, a part of my mind thinks ‘pity’ the sensible part says ‘be glad, wait till later.’
“Hi, my flower, that was a dry walk and talk, any chance of some liquid refreshment.”
“Of course love, I kept my tankard empty just for you, let’s go in here and see what we fancy, there are more beers out back if you fancy something different to what’s on offer in here.”Once inside we edge closer to the bar, it isn’t very crowded, so it’s easy to read the pumps.
“What’s on offer, flower.”
“Bombardier, that’s a light coloured bitter by Charles Wells, darker is Morland’s Old Speckled Hen now made by Greene King and finally Hobgoblin by Wychwood “
“You did that deliberately saving Hobgoblin till last didn’t you?”
“Yes but not for the reason you are thinking, I don’t know what Chrissie would like to drink, so a short description of the beers may be of use to her, She could be a lager lout, maybe a wine or long spirit would suit, so host as I am, Chrissie, what would you like?”
“I don’t have a clue, the same as Jenny please,”
“Am I right in assuming its Hobgoblin for you treasure.” Jenny nods yes. I go to the bar, and after a couple of minutes. Three pints Hobgoblin please, one in here if it’s ok, as I hand over my tankard. Once I have paid for the drink, I pass one to Jenny, who passes it to Chrissie, I pass the next pint to Jenny, who gives me a ‘look’, and I then walk a couple of steps to them with mine.
“Shall we go outside into the road?” I ask, and Jenny turns and I follow, a most pleasant occupation, as I said earlier, her dress fitted to the millimetre, the view as she walked was intoxicating, Chrissie brings up the rear. When we cross to the grass, there is an empty seat, we park ourselves, Jenny takes another half inch out of her plastic glass;
“Would you like me to fill your tankard, love?”
“Yes please Flower” I tip Jenny’s plastic into her tankard, she has about two inches left in her plastic, I give them both back to her,” now what do I do?”
“I would put one on the bin beside you and drink from the other.”
“Why did you buy us pints, it’s not very ladylike.”
“As Ken said, when you are with the Morris you drink pints, you don’t have to empty them at the same rate as the men. And like Ken I don’t do tact, did you have a good girl-girl talk on the playing field?”
“Yes, flower we did, and that is all I’m telling you. But I do have some questions, Darren from Tribal saw me up there and he asked if I was ok, as we were walking further along the path a lady in white with green and blue ribbons said ‘Hi Jenny’, I don’t have a clue who she was or where she is from, and at the traffic lights at the top of the hill, two ladies from ‘I think’ Winstree asked me what it’s like to be caught in the Blackwater trap.” Will this sort of thing go on for long?”
“So far as not telling what you and Chrissie said. Good on you love, I don’t need to know your business, you have and you keep your secrets, it adds to the mystery and interest.
Next white shirt and trousers, blue and green on the baldrics that will be Westrefelda, A Cotswold side Linda and I were with during the late nineteen nineties. Winstree would have known of you within minutes of Blackwater knowing. As to how long this will go on, we are going home tomorrow but that isn’t what you meant is it,” Jenny shakes her head.
"Lynda and I were well known in the Morris, I am thankful that Lynda’s illness was, for cancer, very short, if a quarter of the people I am expecting to see at the ale had managed to get to her funeral that would have been a truly shattering experience for me, especially as it is getting to be a bit of a tradition to be in kit. Every one of those people has an interest in knowing you or is interested in getting to know you, and will talk to you on the slightest pretext. Never mind love another four hours and we will be on our way back to our van.”
“Hey flower, Tribal are coming here, let’s get close, Chrissie, these are brilliant, you will never experience anything like this again.” Jenny is up and moving towards the kerb, as soon as she gets there she looks back for us, Chrissie gets up and starts to move towards Jenny, I have a suspicion what Jenny is hoping for, so I suggest that Chrissie leaves her beer on the bin with Jenny’s plastic. I catch Michael’s eye before the dance starts and point at Jenny in front of me, he gives thumbs up, I hope Jenny doesn’t spill too much beer on her dress, I know, I speak in her ear.
“You are very close to the dancers, can I have your tankard, I wouldn’t want one of them to bump you and spill beer over your dress.”
“Thank you my flower.” I place Jenny’s tankard with mine and the two plastics on the bin and walk back to stand behind the girls. The drums start up, a slow sinuous rhythm of tom-toms and bongos go on top, more drums come into the mid range, the beat becomes very African but wilder. The dancers sway and then move to the music doing hey’s along and across the set, a six man hey down the length with sticking on every pass, alternate left and right, this opens to a circle hey, sticking as before, the drums get faster the circle gets smaller and as the drums work themselves up to a fever pitch with absolutely no warning the dancers charge screaming into the crowd, we get a double dose as Michael and probably Julie go straight for Chrissie and Jenny respectively, although Jenny is half expecting it, it arrives with such suddenness that she can’t brace herself, Chrissie of course hasn’t a clue, they both scream with equal total fear, Jenny turns to me, arms wide, she is as white as a sheet, she looks to Chrissie, who looks even whiter, holds her arm out and Chrissie joins in the three way support huddle. I owe Michael a beer, or maybe two. Michael and Julie come over towards us I give a silent shhhh face and Michael hangs back, I hope he got the message.
Julie faces Jenny, “Hi again, is that the sort of thing you were hoping for, you shouldn’t give it if you can’t take it, Jenny my girl, want a cuddle?” Jenny leaves to get a cuddle from Julie while I am left to look after Chrissie, I give her a squeeze, and look down, “ok now?” I ask.
“I’ll never be ok again, who did that, was it you?”
“I’m not guilty, I had a very fair idea what was going to happen at the end of the dance, most of their dances end that way, but I am pretty certain that Jenny may have arranged a scare for you, and got a bonus scare herself, usually the dancers aim for gaps between watchers and only give a bit of a scream Michael and Julie came straight for the pair of you hard and loud. It didn’t do me a lot of good, either I can tell you! I put my arm around her, “Let’s find our drinks.” When we get to the seat, holding her hands I lower her to the bench and pass her beer, her hands are shaking, I steady her hands while she takes a sip then a decent pull from the plastic, as I let her hands go she looks at me and says “thank you, if it was Jenny who arranged that she needs to watch her back, I’ve had far too many scares this weekend” and she turns to me and starts to cry, properly, not a gentle whimper. I hold her close and hope that she feels safe, her arm goes round my neck and she is hanging on to me as a drowning person hangs on to a float.
After a couple of minutes more Jenny comes across, she doesn’t look happy seeing my arms round Chrissie. When she sits by me and realises how Chrissie is crying, she goes to the other side and holding Chrissie’s face in both her hands starts to say how sorry she is, “I didn’t mean any harm by it, Michael recognised Frank yesterday and gave me a scare, when I saw Darren earlier I asked him to ask Michael to give you a scare, I didn’t realise how much fear a painted face can generate, Please Chrissie look at me, please..... Jenny starts crying as well.
Chrissie puts her arm round Jenny’s shoulders, with luck I can escape leave them to talk and reassure each other, as I try to take my arm away from around Chrissie she burrows back in, this may be awkward. I am tempted to run away, make an excuse and go to the gents or something, but I don’t. I know it isn’t right to do that.
I get on my knees in front of them both, My right arm is round Chrissie’s shoulder, my left hand is holding Jenny’s right hand, our fingers are intertwined, Jenny’s left arm is round Chrissie’s shoulder and our hands meet and our fingers intertwine,
“Jenny love, can you look at me a moment.” Jenny looks up at me; tears are rolling down her cheeks.
“I made my best friend cry, why did I do it?” I try to answer her.
“Jenny my love you didn’t make her cry. Tribal made her cry, you may have suggested that they scare her; it is their responsibility to not go over the top, I reckon that scream was a bit over the top, they have been doing this for years, and know exactly how aggressively to charge and how much noise to make. Let’s get Chrissie away from here, where do you think would be best, the Gordon, the castle or back to the van. Jenny says, I think back to our van would be the best bet.”
“Ok let’s get a taxi back, the nearest rank is behind us, Chrissie, how mobile are you feeling, we are taking a taxi back to the van.”
“No, I don’t want to run away, I want a couple of good stiff drinks and something to eat, I have had nothing to eat since yesterday and I am running on empty.”
“God Chrissie, why didn’t you say you’re hungry, we don’t have food shortages or famines in this country, we had a fridge full of food back at our van. What would you like to eat, name it and it’s yours”
“A full English and a couple of mugs of tea, followed by a brandy and coke or two, if you can find it.
“Let’s try the Gordon first; I’m sure they do food all week-end, if not the Dickens Cafe is opposite the war memorial” I suggest. We get to the Gordon, and enquire as to the availability of food, when we were asked what we would like, one full English and a couple of mugs of tea, followed by a double brandy and coke, "Certainly sir, would you care to follow me I will get you a table." We all follow and are shown to a table. I usher Chrissie in and sit next to her, Jenny sits opposite her.
We both study her carefully, still very pale and a bit shakey. Two mugs of tea appear and are placed on the table, sugar is also bought. Chrissie starts on the first mug of tea and gets halfway down without stopping for a breath. The first is finished and she pulls the second closer, wrapping her hands around it as if cold. Shock will do that;
“Are you cold Chrissie?”
“I’m freezing, hold me and cuddle me, please.” My left arm goes round her and I pull her closer, my right hand goes on the table to Jenny. We all sit like this for a while, Chrissie hunched over her tea, Chrissie’s Full English arrives, and she starts in, when she scrapes the top off her soft fried eggs, my stomach does a lurch.”Excuse me please, both of you, I will get the drinks.” I shoot off with a lot more haste than grace and go into the Marquee, I have only just got to the bar when Ken comes up from the side, we all thought you had gone, where have you been? I give him the bare bones of what has happened, and tell him that with a bit of luck we will all be down once Chrissie has been fed and is comfortable, are you queuing, if so I’ll get them in.”
“No thanks, just being sociable.”
“Pint and a half of Nelson’s please, and a double brandy and coke.”
“Brandy isn’t good for shock, you know that don’t you Frank?”
“Yes, but after two mugs of tea and Full English it’ll be ok. She hasn’t eaten since yesterday; I think it was hunger that did the damage.” I pay for the drinks and then remember I had put brandy and coke on the food order, never mind, I take the top off of mine and sip a drop out of Jenny’s so that when both tankards are held in one hand the slope on the sides won’t waste too much beer, Chrissie’s drink goes in the other hand and I move off, back to the girls. When I get there all evidence of egg has gone as has the rest of the food and tea, it’s safe to sit again so I get in beside Jenny, I pass her tankard and slide Chrissie’s drink towards her, she looks at me and says with a wide smile on her face;
“You are as good as Jenny says aren’t you?”
“No, as I told Jenny before, I try to be as good as people say I am, I am no saint though. You needed support, I gave it, it isn’t often a bald fifty year old gets to hold two pretty girls in a morning, if I didn’t know that I had Jenny to hold and cuddle later, I could have said that you made my day, thanks.”
“He has the gift of the gab, Jenny girl, any Irish in his genes.”
“Not that I know of, I think he’s straight gentleman, through and through.”
“They are the ones to beware of, it is said a gentleman can get into a girls knickers quicker than a playboy.” Chrissie’s other brandy arrives with the bill, I go to pick it up, but Jenny beats me to it.
”I’m getting this it was my fault after all.”
“We don’t do guilt trips, remember, you did what you thought was ok at the time.”
“I ordered. I pay. Is that right Miss?”
“What has happened to ‘flower’ today, my love.”
“I am sorry my flower, today has been almost as freaky as Friday.”
“Chrissie, how are you feeling now?”
“A lot better, thank you, I will soon be able to hold my drink without looking like I have the DTs, now I can think straight, did I get an answer to why you arranged to give me a fright like that, something like that could kill a frail person?”
“Like I said before, they gave me a fright yesterday, and while it did shake me up a bit, it didn’t seem too extreme a trick to play. With Frank’s famous twenty-twenty hindsight I know I was wrong, I had a bad Friday as did you, my Saturday was good, yours wasn’t, I put a lot of responsibility on you and it wasn’t fair, I know you don’t like responsibility.”
“It isn’t that I don’t like responsibility Jenny, my job is a life and death job, when I leave work I have to switch off responsibility. If I couldn’t I would spend all my free time worrying about hearts and lungs and kidneys and all the other spare parts we can use if I can get them matched to recipients and on the way quickly enough. I would also be worrying about how yesterdays recipients are getting along; I have to be able to switch off, totally, from work in order to survive, this means I can totally relax, when I am relaxed then I can’t handle shocks like Tribal, at work that wouldn’t have touched me.”
“I truly am sorry, I wasn’t really aware of what your job involved and what you have to be able to do in order to do it successfully.” A few tears roll down Jenny’s cheek and Chrissie wipes them away with her free hand.
“I promise I won’t do it again, ever.”
“Apology accepted Jenny, I just need to work my way slowly through this enormous Brandy then maybe we can go and socialise with the rest of your new friends, what shall we talk about now, bearing in mind I still have my ‘big sister’ hat on, I suppose I would like to know your man’s name, I only know him as Frank.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if that is all Jenny knows as well, is that true, love?” Jenny nods,” I only introduced myself as Frank when I spoke to Jenny on Friday, for both your benefits, I will give you a potted history, ok?
I am Frank Burton, age fifty, widower, two children, Sarah & Robert, twenty one and eighteen both single and employed, Sarah is engaged, Robert is unattached and both living at home, I am a part time worker, semi-retired, I have been involved with the Morris for more than half my life. I like traditional and folk rock, keen Fairport and Cropredy fan, and don’t like sea food unless it’s a fish. I used to be very up on current affairs and politics but have now decided to not get wound up about things I cannot change, and go with the flow instead of always swimming against the tide. Do you have any further questions, big sis?”
“If you don’t mind I have a few, but I don’t want it to sound like a cross examination, why did you talk to Jenny in the first place?”
“Jenny was walking along, obviously looking for someone; it had started to rain so I invited her into our awning to listen to the traffic news on Essex, from there we started talking about who she was with, we went out in the rain under my brolly to look for Billington, we asked quite a few people before we came back for a brew. While Jenny made a brew I went over to see a side from Ware, they didn’t know of Billington either. By the time I got back to the van you had rung Jenny and told her you had seen Mr Andrews.”
“When did you know you had feelings for Jenny?”
“That depends on what you mean by feelings, I was feeling sorry for her walking in the rain without a hat or brolly, and I felt sympathetic towards her when she was crying alone, so I held her. I was feeling grateful to her for being here before I dropped off to sleep, I don’t know what I felt when she gave me a peck on the lips when she got up, whatever it was it felt nice, warming. When Ken and Val came round after breakfast and embarrassed her, I felt very defensive for her, they were ragging my guest and I suppose that was when I first had feelings for her in the context you might be thinking of.
“How did you know Jenny had feelings for you?”
“I assume you mean apart from her being grateful that she hadn’t landed in the mire with a knife wielding sex maniac. That would be Saturday morning after I told her about Lynda, and we talked about depression, our first proper kiss, there was a lot of feeling in that; later when we were shopping and Jenny had been winding me up with inappropriate clothing choices she said,” “sorry love, I’ll be good.” Finally when we both coloured up when Harry caught us holding hands in the Gordon.
“Finally, have you proposed to Jenny?”
“Not properly, I did whisper yesterday, ‘if I asked would you say yes’”
“What did Jenny say?”
“You need to ask Jenny that.”
“Are you evading the answer?”
“No, but I do believe we have some right to privacy, and I will not give away a whispered reply, it was whispered to keep the answer private, I intend to maintain that privacy.”
“Jenny has already told me what she said.”
“Well then, you know, why ask me?”
“I want to hear it from you.”
“Jenny love, may I tell Chrissie your reply?”
“Thanks flower for protecting our privacy, you may tell her.”
“I can’t recall the exact wording, but in essence it was ‘of course I would’, is that satisfactory, big sis?”
“Perfect thank you.”
“Is that the end of the examination, big sis?”
“Be nice, don’t get cheeky flower.”
“I’m not getting cheeky, by her own admission, Chrissie thinks of herself as ‘big sister’, I quite like it as an informal tag, so until Chrissie tells me to stop, she’s big sis. Is that ok Chrissie.”
“Certainly, but what will you call Erica when you meet her?” In my best plum in the mouth, BBC English I reply.
“She will be Erica, you only shorten the name or give a nickname to friends or close friends of theirs. We must keep some family standards you know, what?” In a more normal voice I enquire, “How are you feeling now big sis, are you up for a bit of socialising?”
“Yes thanks Frank, lead on to Blackwater, let’s see if they are better behaved this time shall we?”
“I wouldn’t expect miracles if I were you.” I reply as we get up from the table;
“Jenny, would you take big sis through, I’ll just settle this and see you in a minute.”
“I want a kiss if we are going in opposite directions please flower.” I go to Jenny and we have a very pleasant short kiss.
“See you in a little bit love.” I walk up the step to reception where with a slight delay but no hassle the bill is sorted. I wonder if Jenny remembered to stop at a hole in the wall. I walk to the marquee with a stopover at the gents, once in the marquee, I have no trouble seeing Jenny and the green of her dress is a beacon, drawing me closer when I get to her I rest my chin on her shoulder and look straight ahead, there is a temptation to look down but there won’t be much of a view, this dress fits perfectly, Jenny turns her head to give me a peck on the cheek,
“Hello flower, feel better after your diversion?
“How did you know?”
“I saw you going left at the bottom of the stairs when someone opened the double doors and when you didn’t appear on schedule the only place you could have stopped was the gents,”
“I assume then that you didn’t hear the screams when I went on the rampage in the ladies?” At the stage a choir was singing but the conversations, ours and those around us meant that we couldn’t really hear them, Blackwater had got themselves a table, the tables are big, easily seating ten, why then are there only four or five chairs to a table, so some are sitting and the rest of us are waiting for our neighbours to go so we get a chance to snaffle their chairs, Harry spots a chair two tables away and after asking if it was free, brings it back for Chrissie, she sits next to Sue, after a couple more minutes I find one for Jenny, She sits in front of me. Ken is talking about a figure he saw Blackbird do as he was walking outside the Two Brewers, like a Zig-Zag hey but with extra places and spins, He keeps looking and finding these figures but he will have forgotten them before he gets back to the van let alone the next practice. Just as I have been nagged over hauling water, Ken has been nagged to get a camcorder so everyone can see and learn the figures, nothing changes. Another chair becomes vacant nearby and I take it, Jenny tells me to sit between herself and Chrissie and obedient as I am I park in the designated place. As soon as I am parked, Jenny leans over and whispers in my ear.
”Give big sis a cuddle, just hold her and ask if she is feeling ok. I don’t mind.”
“Ok, in a minute love, then I’ll get the beer in.” After a bit I lean across to big sis and speak quietly in her ear.
“How do you feel, big sis, would you like a cuddle, I have permission,” she looks at me, eyes moist.
“Please flower.” I put my arm around her shoulder and as she leans in towards me my arm slides down towards her waist, looks up and gives me a peck on the cheek.
“I don’t know how Jenny managed to land on her feet and meet you; I don’t suppose you have an identical twin brother you could fix me up with.”
“Sorry I don’t and you’re much too nice for most of my friends; I wouldn’t mind betting that Robert would be very pleased to meet you.”
“He’s only eighteen isn’t he?”
“More ageist stuff, ehh? I’m too old for Jenny; he’s too young for you. Don’t worry, I’m only ribbing, but I will say that both our kids are a lot older than their years. You will meet them at the wedding if we marry, or maybe before.” From across the table I hear Val call Sue,
“Sue, have you seen what Franks up to?” Sue turns slightly and after seeing my arm round Chrissie, calls to Jenny.
“Jenny, are you aware you man is cuddling another?”
“Of course I am, Chrissie’s need is greater than mine, I was taught to always share my sweeties because you might never know when you won’t have any for yourself, and Chrissie’s needs for sweeties are greater than mine so I share.”
“Ken, can we accept two halo wearers in the side, won’t that affect our reputation.”
“If it does we will just change faces from black and colour to white and colour and clash harps, I don’t think two halos will be a problem unless they get them tangled, we can always keep a bucket of cold water about to separate them.” I turn to Chrissie,
“Feeling better now, do you fancy another drink?”
“Yes please flower, Brandy and coke again, a long one.” I turn to the table, who’s ready for a refill, of the nine of us at the table, only five are in need, I take the requests and repeat them to Jenny, “could you help me please, treasure, if you take Ken and Sue’s I will bring ours.”
It doesn’t take too long to get to the front of the bar,
“Lunchbreak in here and IPA tops in this one please and one and a half nelsons in these” says Jenny, as the barman looks at her first, the beers come back and Jenny orders Chrissie’s, a double again.
“That will be her third double, will she be alright with that.”
“Yes no problem at all, she has just had a big meal, and she can hold her drink, although saying that; with a full stomach, a few brandies and a good man making her feel safe, I would not be at all surprised if she isn’t asleep in less than twenty minutes.” Chrissie’s drink arrives and Jenny hands over a twenty.
“I was buying these.” I said. Jenny replies;
“I placed the order so I pay, nah, nah, nahnah, nah.”
“You want me to continue holding her when we get back?”
“Yes please flower, I feel so guilty about setting Tribal on her, you don’t mind do you?”
“Of course not, but when we get back to the table I would like you to give me a proper ‘this is mine, I’m only lending him out to my friend’ sort of kiss.”
“I know exactly what you want!” At the table I put our drinks in place and pass Chrissie’s hers. Jenny gives me Ken and Sue’s and I pass them across. As I straighten up to reposition myself to sit down Jenny holds my shoulders and turns me to her;
“Remember you are mine, you’re only on loan,” and gives me the sort of kiss that the Beach Boys Northern Girls do; and the northern girls with the way they kiss. They keep their boyfriends warm at night. I edge my chair a couple of inches closer to Chrissie,
”Want some more, big sis?” I ask her as I hold my arm aloft to go around her.
“Please flower,” and says very quietly and close to me;
“I know you are only on loan she didn’t have to tell me.” I reply in the same quiet voice,
“The kiss told me and you, so she wasn’t telling us, she was telling Blackwater again, now get comfy and rest awhile.” Once Chrissie is settled her hand rests on my thigh, Jenny’s hand comes to rest on my other thigh but a bit higher, I wonder if she is subconsciously guarding her property.
I start to tune in on the talk around the table; it would seem that Charlie wants to know when she can start dancing, having seen Royal Liberty out yesterday with some very young dancers, she reckons it is ‘so not fair’ that she can’t join, and with the impeccable logic of youth, they are younger and smaller than me, so there.
I join in, “I can see her point, Pretty Grim have their Grimlets, Royal Lib mix seven year olds with adults, if we lose them at nine, how can we get them back when they are teenagers when there are so many other temptations for their time, if we can get them, even at seven like Royal Lib it is a lot easier to keep them, and if we can start them on music or singing as well, that boosts their confidence, and it will help their general development. The more we expose children to different environments the stronger they will be for it and more able to resist peer pressures that might push or allow them to drift into things that we old fogeys don’t approve of. End of rant, ok, I know it’s a repeat; but I still believe I’m right.”
Ken comes back with,
“Yes Frank it is a repeat, I remember you telling us this about six years ago when, Gina’s girl wanted to join.”
“I’m not going to rub it in but didn’t we lose them both to Annie’s Fantasies?”
“Ok, yes we did lose them, but the problem was then and it’s worse now, if the parents aren’t involved, there are legal implications”
“I haven’t had to look into the child protection issues but they cannot be that onerous, otherwise children would have nothing to do apart from school, the idiots lantern and hanging out on the streets, have you thought of asking Royal Lib or Grim, what they have done, but in Charlie’s case both parents are involved so child protection isn’t an issue, do they have a problem with her joining?”
“I don’t think so.”
“So when did she first ask to join in, this morning, last night or at one of the overwinter practices?”
“I think it was a couple of months ago”
“The way kids soak up knowledge she could have known half your repertoire by now. If Kath and Richard agree, get her in on the next practice and watch her bloom. If she stays with it, maybe a penny whistle as a gift for her first dance out, it wouldn’t be right to buy her a tankard at her age, would it?”
“Treasure could you slide my beer a bit closer, ranting is thirsty work and I think big sis has gone walkabout with the faeries.”
“I have not gone away with the faeries; I will admit that another five minutes would have seen the back of me, you have a very comfy husband in waiting here you know, Jenny girl. With regard to Charlie I hesitate to throw my views about because I know nothing of the customs, but I agree with Frank, give her a chance.” Chrissie gets herself fully upright in her seat and reaches for her drink, “thanks Frank,” as she lifts her glass to me “not me, Jenny was quicker getting her money out than I was.”
“Chrissie, I have realised what you said then, since when did you get away with planning my life, husband in waiting, indeed”
“You’d be amazed how many times I’ve said stuff to you, tactfully arranged and it sort of just soaked in, without you moaning at all, deny it now that the pair of you might be hitched in the not too distant future.”
“I can’t deny what may come to pass, at some point in the future if I have no control over events that may lead up to it.”
“That made no sense Jenny girl, can you take another go and see if it makes more sense second time around!”
“How can I make a sensible answer, if I don’t understand the question.”
“Look Jenny, are you and Frank getting hitched? Answer yes or no!” Jenny feels like she is in a trap, answer honestly and Frank would be disappointed, he wanted to ask after Rochester, answer dishonestly and she would be caught out, for like Frank she is uncomfortable with deceit. Then Jenny has a Eureka moment, Standing up and pushing her chair back from her legs she turns directly towards Chrissie and asks “Is this what you wanted to know?”
Jenny lifts her dress hem and dropping to her knees, a tear rolls down her cheek, “I am sorry, so sorry flower, I know this is not how you wanted it to be, but my choices have been taken from me, please flower, will you marry me, I do love you so much.” Jenny is crying and tears are rolling down her face.
“This isn’t how you wanted it either is it my love? This should be something tender and private but we have what we are given, of course I will marry you my treasure. Now off your knees, you aren’t begging, sit down and have a cuddle from your ‘hubby in waiting’.” Jenny rises and sits beside me sliding her chair as close as she could, “cuddle me please, my precious flower. My left arm goes around her shoulders and my right hand brings her face round to me and we kiss, slowly and lovingly. After a few seconds we break the kiss, and I look to Chrissie.
“Chrissie, I am disappointed in you, Jenny and I trusted you with privileged information, I think you have more than exacted revenge for the scare you received from Tribal. We can’t undo what’s done so unless either of you have something to add the matter is closed. For the benefit of everybody else around this table, what you have just heard is privileged information we want it to go no further, no texting even to other members, no party, no surprises. Do I have your word on that? I look around the table and get a nod from everyone.
“Thank you all. I know we are spoilsports, I was going to ‘pop’ the question again and properly tomorrow, then let the news spread around the sides after breakfast, and finally do a tour of the site after we had packed down. Jenny love, shall we go for a walk, maybe up to the castle gardens, or around the cathedral?”
“The castle gardens sound nice flower, Chrissie, you are my friend and I don’t want to abandon you with your partners in crime, would you care to join us?”
“Would you both be ok with me coming?”
“I have no issues with Jenny’s invitation to you; to everyone else we will see you later. Bye.” We pick up our drinks and prepare to leave, on the way out Chrissie asks if it’s ok to take glass out, we shouldn’t really is the correct reply, so we call into the bar where Jenny and I were caught out holding hands Saturday lunchtime, and ask for and get a plastic to pour Chrissie’s drink into. When we are out in the street, there aren’t many dancers about, the Witchmen are back by the cathedral, Westrefelda are by the bank, I think it’s Dark Horse near the craft fair, we cut through by Ye Arrow towards the Boley Hill stage, where some setting up is going on for later and into the castle gardens, there isn’t a lot to see, it’s still too early in the year, we find an area of grass where we can sit, I lay my jacket down to protect Jenny’s dress from grass stains and after a short silence talk over the events of the day and try to mend a few fences and burnt bridges.
Chrissie opens the conversation, “To both of you, I am sorry I forced the issue, it should have been a private affair as you said, but I was so jealous, I think I have been playing the big sis role in my own mind for so long that for a few minutes I was your big sister and you had a toy that was all yours and it hurt that I didn’t, I have never felt that way before about anyone or anything and I’ll say it again that I am so sorry I spoilt it for both of you, but I don’t understand why you have to wait until tomorrow, what sort of difference would that have made?”
“All campers and caravaners have to be packed down tomorrow morning, Fort Pitt Grammar is a school again on Tuesday, If Blackwater or Tribal or any of the other sides that I or Lynda were in individually or together got to know tomorrow there wouldn’t be any way they could make a party of it. We could plan our own do or do’s, of course the Morris would be invited, but probably only a few from each side, but now the moggy is out of the bag and far, far away, Blackwater know, and it is safe to assume that all the ladies, despite my request to treat the news as confidential will have a severe cases of texter’s thumb by five, then either our or hopefully someone else’s awning as far from ours as possible is going to be the host to a very impromptu, very noisy and probably very emotional engagement party, and I have to stay fairly dry.”
“What are our options then flower?” Asks Jenny.
“To be brutal, we can cut and run, either go back to the van pack away the awning and batten down the hatches until eight or nine p.m by then I should be ok to drive; then move to another campsite or go home, or move into B&B until tomorrow, and then go home, both of these options are to my mind not acceptable, I would disappoint many of mine and Lynda’s friends, and ours as well, and of course it might mean deserting big sis. That means we stay, and if the event happens in our awning, we will have turfing out rights, any time after eleven, or if it happens in Tribal, Blackwater or any other side territory we can do the lover bit and split like newlyweds at their reception, probably between ten and eleven again, this way we can set up the tent for big sis before hand, and look out for her, and all get settled down with a bit of supper at a reasonable time. There may be one outside chance in that Blackwater may decide to issue restricted invitations to cut the numbers down, after all an awning isn’t a very large space even on a big van, and as a dampener to stop the sightseers we three could do an informal lap and say hello to all the sides I was with, I don’t really want to visit Lynda’s sides, I can’t really say why that is, it isn’t disloyalty to Lynda, it certainly isn’t embarrassment, for if they came to us, I would be ok with it. My preferred option is to go back to the campsite, have a bite to eat, and then do a tour, trying to keep everyone at home tonight.”
“Do you have any thoughts on what we could do, treasure?”
“No my flower I don’t, but could you cuddle us both please, you need a cuddle don’t you big sis?”
“Yes please.” I lay back down onto the grass and spread my arms wide, “come and get it then” both girls lay on my shoulders and my arms come around them as they hold hands to brace themselves on my chest, Jenny’s top leg rises to rest on my thigh.
“Treasure with your leg like this are you giving all the men a thrill?” I ask quietly, her leg straightens very quickly.
“Thanks flower I can’t get used to being a proper girl again.” We lay quietly for a few more minutes; I have my eyes shut with my face towards Jenny and I kiss her forehead when a cloud obscures the sun; It isn’t a cloud, a voice I recognise says,
“He’s got two this time, I don’t know how he manages to do it, I wonder if he gives classes in attracting females, whatever bait he uses it certainly works!” From my lying position,
“Ease up Michael, I’m only looking after them, they haven’t recovered from the shock of your screaming charge yet.”
“Look you old reprobate, I think one at a time is more than enough, poor old Darren is practically drooling at the thought of getting near your leftovers.”
“They are not mine, we abolished slavery long ago, if he wishes to talk to either of them I can’t and won’t stop him, but I have a very strong suspicion that Jenny might be a bit more than he could handle. Seriously though, why are you spoiling an old man’s dreams?”
“We are starting to hear rumours about you and Jenny is there any truth in them.”
“I haven’t a clue, what are you hearing?” I am going to tell him nothing, if he knows I will try and cool any celebratory enterprises.
“Jenny asked and you said yes.”
“I don’t even need to guess where that started, Blackwater, they’ve been squelching around in that estuary mud for so long, it’s addled their brains. I will admit that we are to be married, but, and remember this well, there will be no celebrations in town or on the site tonight, this weekend was originally to have been a new start for me without Lynda, to see if the Morris still has something for me, Jenny and I will do a lap tonight, and maybe have a drink with some sides, but no celebrations, they will happen if they happen only after Lynda’s ale. Is that properly understood, Michael, Julie?”
“Yes boss man sir, we will be good, no party.”
“Thank you both from both of us, I couldn’t have handled a party tonight, with you in line and Blackwater properly cowed, Jenny and I might have a nice evening. It would have been far too painful otherwise. Back to a more normal conversational topic, since you are in civvies are you done for the day?”
“Yes, we sent the youngsters back with most of the kit and a couple of dry twenty something baby sitters, could Julie and me invite you into Ye Arrow for a pint, just the one, we will be good, no party.”
“What do you think treasure, Fancy another Hobgoblin?”
“Yes ok, if big sis is invited along.”
“Who is big sis?” asks Julie.
“My next door neighbour, best friend, and keeper, Chrissie, this is Michael, and Julie of Tribal Border.”
“You pair are the ones who bloody near shocked me to death; I will not drink with you.”
“Sorry Chrissie, if you feel that way, we have done that literally hundreds of times, and we always check after the shockee has calmed down, Frank waved me away, so we assumed you were ok. I can only say we are sorry, please let us buy you a drink?”
“Is that true Frank? You waved him away after he was coming back?”
“Yes I did, from the way you reacted to the scream, I believed that seeing the blacked up face again wouldn’t do you any favours. I did what I thought was right for you at that time.”
“Sorry Michael, You can buy me a drink, and Frank can buy the second, is that ok with you Jenny?
“Why are you asking me? Chrissie”
“Because hopefully we will all be together. Right everybody up, go on you pair.” I get to my feet and give
Jenny both my hands to help her up and she comes straight into my arms and we kiss, slow, warming, and very loving.
“Hey you two, how about helping big sis get up!” We break and each hold out a hand and Chrissie grabs both and we haul her up as she comes up she holds us both, giving us both a hug. I am amazed to see her turn and give Michael a hug, “Jenny or Frank will explain why I reacted the way I did, I’m sorry for sounding off at you, it wasn’t really your fault.” Do I detect a moistness of eye in Chrissie, I am certain that her soft centre has come to the surface, if Darren could chat her up now he would be in with a chance, I wonder if he is one of the dry twenty something’s who are babysitting. Michael and Julie lead into Ye Arrow, it’s quieter in here than yesterday, Michael pulls back a chair at a large old oak table where five people are already sitting,
“Jenny, is this ok for you?”
“Chrissie, is this ok for you?” He asked as he pulled out a second chair. “Frank, are you going to slide in there,” as he nods to a bench seat. ”I’ll sit after Julie is settled, thanks.” Julie takes an empty chair from the table behind and sits between Jenny and Rachael.
“Right, I notice no-one was tempted to go to the bar, who wants what, guests of honour first, Chrissie, what’s your poison,”
“Brandy and coke please, a single only, everyone else has been trying to get me ratted with doubles so far today.”
“Jenny, what would you fancy?”
“I’m not telling, but a Hobgoblin would do a treat for now thanks”
“Frank, you still a Hobgoblin man?”
“Darren, get those started, while I sort out the rest, ok” Darren, who by some strange co-incidence was sitting next to Chrissie, gets up and heads off to the bar; Michael continues, turning to Jenny and Chrissie.
“Ladies, I will do the rest of the intro’s, hiding in the corner is Jack and next to him is his far better half Andrea, if we had as many partners in crime as Blackwater, Margaret, known as Maggie would be Andrea’s, her husband is William, predictably Bill, Last and definitely not quietest, their daughter, Rachael. Everyone, this is Chrissie, Jenny’s keeper by her own admission, and naturally, this is Jenny, Frank’s betrothed. Side rules apply people, that is confidential and remains so until tomorrow, understand?” He looks around the table getting a nod from everyone in turn. Then the ladies start, all talking at once and listening at the same time.
“Come on Frank, let’s get to the bar I know what they all usually have, Jack can stay trapped in his corner.”
Bill asks Rachael to let him out, once Bill escapes; at the table the ladies are full of questions for Jenny.
“When did you meet Frank?” Asks Julie,
“Ok which Friday afternoon”
“Two days ago then, does that help?”
“And you’re getting married?”
“Yes, I asked him a couple of hours ago.”
“You asked him?”
“Look folks, this going to take the rest of the week-end at this rate, can I give you the bare bones of what has happened so far this weekend?”
“Sure Jenny, go ahead”
“My former boyfriend, now under arrest thankfully, sent me down here on the pretext of joining a non-existent Morris side, and while I was down here he was going to nick my stuff, Frank and Chrissie, sussed out what was going on and Chrissie moved into mine until she could get the locks all changed, Frank took me in fed me and introduced me to Blackwater on Friday evening. When we went back to his van, he remade the sleeping bags back into singles, during the night we woke a couple of times and despite me tempting him he never touched me. I knew he was different he could be trusted, and because I trusted him he trusted me, he told me all about Lynda. On Saturday we found out about a bet that Blackwater members had going about us, in turning the bet back on them we discovered we had some fairly strong feelings each for the other. We talked about how we felt and why we felt that way, last night I asked Frank to put the sleeping bags together, and though we lay together we only cuddled, when I asked him this morning why he hadn’t pushed our relationship in a physical direction, ’because it wouldn’t be right’ was the simple answer, that was when for me, strong feelings became love.
Blackwater were being their normal wind up selves this morning, practically ordering Frank to propose, Ken wanted to give me away by the by, when Frank and I went for a walk around the field, Chrissie turned up and surprised us in mid kiss, as a result of Chrissie’s cross examination of us, Frank whispered to me, ‘if I asked would you say yes? Of course, I replied, when were you thinking of asking, When it would be too late for any surprise parties’ was his reply. Now if you will excuse me for a minute I have to make space for my drink.” Jenny passes us near the bar, stops to give me a peck and continues on to the ladies. Back at the table the questions continue, Chrissie is now the recipient of the ladies curiosity;
“Chrissie, how come you seem to have the job of being Jenny’s keeper, protector or chaperone?
“Jenny moved into our block of flats soon after her dad died, her mum was killed when Jenny was ten, she is such an innocent, and in today’s world she could soon become a victim. I have to admit that within a few days I started to treat her as a little sister because, and this is something I don’t think Jenny even knows, I had a younger sister, Rebekah, she would have been the same age as Jenny, she died when she was five of leukaemia, so we have both each been good for the other.”
We are all behind Darren as he receives the last of the three drinks he knew about. ”Ok lover boy, go get her if you can, take their drinks with you, no leave Frank’s here.”
To the barman Michael continues, “Two Masterbrew, two Spitfires, and two Carling, all pints, thanks squire.” To me he continues, “ain’t young love grand, do you know if Chrissie is attached at all, I don’t like to see him suffer too much, although a little suffering is good for the soul, so some say, Red wine and soda spritzer, large, no ice, that’s the lot thanks.”
“I believe that Chrissie is very unattached, she has no boyfriend and would very much like one, that’s how the wedding news escaped, she was envious of Jenny, and forced the issue with Jenny in front of Blackwater, Jenny was in an emotional trap, and the only way out she could think of was to get on her knees and ask me.”
“So the rumour mill was right then?”
“Yes it was, sorry I made you work hard for it, but we honestly didn’t want it to come out like this.”
“Can you tell me why Chrissie reacted so badly to the fright? I don’t want to put pressure on Jenny if it’s been a bad afternoon for her.”
“Chrissie is organ donor/transplant something or another in Harlow hospital, she directs organs that are available to where they would do the most good, it is a life or death job, and as she says when I knock off I have to turn off all my worry circuits, did the heart get there in time? Did the liver transplant woman make it? Could I have done something different or better? At work that scream wouldn’t have touched her, here relaxed, worry circuits off, it was just too much, too sudden, and she hadn’t eaten since yesterday. A full English, two mugs of tea, and a couple of double brandy and cokes made a lot of difference to her.”
“Shee-it, she’s right, we were over the top using hindsight, is it ok for Julie and I to pop over and talk to her this evening if we don’t get a fair chance here or on the way back?” Jenny comes past us on her way back from the toilets and I get another peck;
“See you in a little bit love.”
“Yes treasure.” And I continue talking to Michael;
“Of course you can, you were our last side, you put me on your books to camp this week-end even though you don’t normally camp, and I owe you a big debt of gratitude anyway.”
“How long should we leave the ladies to finish talking to Jenny and Chrissie?” asks Bill,
“They aren’t talking to, they are talking at them, I reckon they will have finished asking when the ale finishes on the sixth of November, but if we wait a bit I believe Julie will give me a nod when they want us back.”
I ask Bill, “You’re new to Tribal since last season, what do you reckon to it? Are your ladies involved?”
“Yes they both have drums, they would like to dance and having seen Wolfshead and Vixen yesterday for the first time have already been dropping hints about us going the same way, I don’t think the side is big enough to do that and even if it was we would only be copying. I prefer the idea of extending our dances to ten’s and twelve’s, rather than having two bare sixes, but I only have one vote like everybody else, time will tell who wins.” Michael then asks me,
“Frank, you and Lynda were part of Priory before you moved to us, didn’t I see them do an all female dance’ a few years back?”
“Yes, they did an all ladies dance if they had enough ladies, men joined in if they were needed and it was called The Girlie Dance, women in pairs arms round waists dancing figures and chorus to Monks March, I can’t recall sticking. It was done more as a bit of fun, rather than a serious dance. If I may change the subject rather abruptly, Bill said ‘I only have one vote like everyone else.’ Have you managed to push through proper democracy within tribal, how does it work?”
“When we have bagman’s notices around halfway through practice on Wednesdays, if a decision needs to be made, it goes to a straight vote on show of hands by the people at that practice, If you aren’t there to vote you can’t moan at the result, votes involving less than one third of the side, may be referred for another vote when two thirds or more are present; all votes are recorded and signed off by me or my sub and two others. Change of practice or subs require a paper vote by all members and two thirds in favour to change the status quo.
Back at the table, Jenny was trying to explain that she hadn’t a clue where or when they were to be married or if it was to a religious or civil ceremony, all she believed at the moment was that it would probably be after the ale and that Frank hadn’t shown any particular religious inclinations, he definitely didn’t bow to Mecca Friday night! “I can’t be doing with this” exclaimed Julie, “let’s get the men back over here and get some things settled.” And she fires off a whistle they probably heard in Chatham, “I think that’s our signal to return” said Michael to Frank and Bill as they leaned on the bar. We return to the table “You called, my darling,” said Michael to Julie.
“This is going to be so much fun, we need to help this young lady; she is so un-informed about what is to happen to and around her, she hasn’t a clue, the important bit and you have to remember this, what we say and do here is all in fun, if someone suggests a black wedding dress or red icing it’s in fun. I will lead the discussion, first is the venue and to set the tone do either of you need to have a synagogue or mosque?”
“Not me, what about you, Flower?” “Not me” I get out before Rachael comes into the banter with.
“Frank has to wear floral Hawaiian shirt and shorts!”
“That’s not nice Rachael.” Corrected Bill. Julie then corrects Bill,
“No Bill, that’s a perfect idea from Rachael, Jenny can wear a dark business suit, let the male be the showy one just as in nature.” I can see that Jenny does not approve of this idea; I think she is very much a traditionalist.
“Not a synagogue or mosque then, I hope you aren’t Pagans, it’s a bit pricey to hire Stonehenge for a hand fasting and ale, are there any religious sensitivities that needs to be catered to.”
“I was christened into the Catholic Church, the second time I went to church was to Erica’s wedding and nobody on my side has religion.” Says Jenny, the way she said it made it sound as though religion was a disease; and a lower class one at that. I suppose she could be right, religion was how the powerful kept the serfs in line centuries ago, and we don’t change that quickly.
“I was christened protestant, I’ve been protesting ever since, but I did used to sing in the choir, through avarice not belief, mind you; we were paid sixpence old style for every service”
“Pity, churches are a hell of a lot cheaper than old mansions, manor houses and so on. I don’t suppose you would be comfortable catching religion Frank?”
“Not just to save a few bob, no I wouldn’t. I quite fancy the idea of a Hand fasting, but it has no legal standing in the U.K.”
“Ok, so far, registry office, floral shirt and shorts, and business suit, Number of guests, by tradition the bride’s side is larger, how many family spaces do you need, Jenny?”
“I don’t need many at all just two and space for a bump or three after mid November.”
“That’s a bit minimalist Jenny.”
“I’m sorry but that’s all I have” said Jenny, her eyes are wet, I let go of her hand to give her a cuddle.
“What about big sis?”
“Chrissie is a friend; friends are closer and more important to me than family.”
“If I have to get my family numbers to less than Jenny’s I have a problem, I will need eight family spaces.”
“At this rate you will only need to hold it in your awning, get serious folks, we want some fun, Jenny, how many friends spaces?”
“Would you believe including work and professional I might be able to get up to ten”
“Jenny girl work with us here, add in ex fellahs to make it respectable.”
“No change, still maybe ten”
“Frank, help us here, we need some sensible numbers from you,”
“Excluding the Morris probably twenty five, sad lonely little sods aren’t we?”
“Jenny,” calls Maggie.”I can’t believe you don’t have any ex’s to add, we don’t mind if they aren’t handsome, we just like seeing the blokes, you have to give the bridesmaids something to choose from.”
“Sorry Maggie, Frank is my first proper boyfriend, I have excluded Mr Andrews, as with a bit of luck he’ll be in jail when I get married, either Erica or Chrissie are going to be my bridesmaid or matron of honour, if it’s Chrissie, it looks like she has found herself a bloke, they’re holding hands now you know,” At this revelation both Chrissie and Darren colour up in a most remarkable fashion, but don’t let go. “And to continue what I was saying now they have embarrassed themselves, it may be that Frank’s daughter Sarah may be one but as I haven’t even seen a photo let alone met her, I can’t say, and also I would like to ask my serfs, Patricia and Lizzy to be bridesmaids as well”
“Thank you for that, my treasure.”
“To get back on topic as they say nowadays, how many Morris people are you thinking of having, Frank?”
“Heaven only knows, and that’s not a religious comment, I’ve been in at least seven sides, a fair few of the more senior members I knew are now ten toes up, and I don’t feel like inviting people I have never met, so if each side has half a dozen qualifying members that’s still fifty or so.”
“I don’t think they want to play, people, less than one hundred, there won’t be enough drinkers among them for a decent impromptu scratch Morris in the road outside. So where is this quiet little wedding going to take place, tradition again dictates that this is at the Jenny’s home town or village. Where do you fancy getting married Jenny?”
“I do have a favourite place, I don’t even know if it is licensed, it’s the remains of the roman theatre at St Albans, I think they are fantastic, nineteen hundred years old.”
“Is that where you get you taste for old wrecks! Boom, Boom!” This remark came from Michael. “You walked into that one Jenny.”
“He is not an old wreck, nowhere near his use by date, old buildings always last longer than the modern ones anyway. What about you flower; is there anywhere special for you?”
“No love it’s the people not the place that make anywhere special for me. I remember going on a school trip to St Albans, I’m pretty certain we went to the roman theatre, I would be quite happy for us to go there. Although the beach at Studland has a lot of happy memories as well, it might make for an interesting day.”
“I didn’t know you liked free beaches, you never said, was it your or Lynda’s choice?”
“I think Lynda may have experienced the joys first, but we both drifted into it during our first summer together, all our family holidays were down that way, either in tent or caravan.”
“Come on people we’re off topic again.”
“No we’re not,” I reply whilst gently squeezing Jenny’s shoulder, “this is our third day, and I reckon we are getting good at non-verbal communication; speak up Jenny if I get it wrong.”
Ticking things off by tapping my fingers on the table, “one, you are very much a traditionalist, a white wedding,” Jenny nods.
“Two, Registry Office, at Jenny’s end and our families only, three, reception at an hotel in Stortford, family and friends only.” Jenny’s still nodding and there is a hint of a tear in the corner of her eye as she looks to me and asks.
“Can we have our Morris ‘do’ on day two of Lynda’s Ale?” This gets a cheer from the rest of the table, and the other customers in the pub just turn and stare.
“That’s how to plan a marriage bare bones sorted in the time it takes to sink a pint. Who wants another one? Is it same again all round?”
“Chrissie, double one?”
“Please flower it is thirsty work doing all this thinking and planning, worse than work; but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it.”
“Treasure, pint of Hobgoblin”
“Please my flower.”
“Darren, if you can get away, could you help me please?”
“Of course, Frank.” As soon as we leave the table, Jenny is asking Chrissie quietly,
“Do you really like him? What does he do? Can you get together when you want, he doesn’t live at Stortford does he?”
“Steady, Jenny girl, you sound so much like me it’s spooky. Yes we can meet, he’s from Brentwood and as we both drive we can meet in the middle or it’s just over forty minutes from mine to his, he works on the railway, electrical trackside engineer I think he said, and of course I like him, he has a nice smile and I like the sound of his voice, I half expected him to try to get some inside info on you.”
“Why would he want info on me, if it was you he was after?”
“What makes you think he wanted me rather than you?”
“Stop fishing for compliments, do you want a list Chrissie, I’m skinny, you’re curvy; you are a natural blonde, I’m not; I’m taken, you’re free; I’m the quiet one, you’re lively, will that do for starters?”
“Thanks Jenny, I needed that, a bloke can boost your confidence but a friend who’s opinion you respect can do you a lot more good.”
At the bar Darren is talking to Frank, “ I have never known a girl that’s so easy to approach, if I see a girl in a club or pub I can almost feel the barriers they have surrounded themselves with, Chrissie doesn’t seem to have that same ‘look don’t touch’ fencing around herself, I can’t understand it.”
“Females aren’t designed to be understood, the man who says he can is so much in touch with his feminine side he is as understandable as they are. I don’t think Chrissie has any barriers outside work, the barriers go down when she finishes work, with her defences down she is very vulnerable that’s why the scream shook her so much, be good, be gentle with her, please Darren. She has a lot to give but because she has no barriers, she can only use trust, and that takes time, to sort the chaff.” I place the drink order with the same barman as before, he remembers it perfectly and I correct him to a double on the brandy, I send Darren back with matched pints as they are placed on the counter, and after paying bring Chrissie’s and Rachael’s to the table to finish the round. As I sit down next to Jenny again, Darrel looks to me and says, “I’ll be good, don’t worry Frank.”
“What was that about?” Jenny whispers in my ear, “Man talk, I’ll tell you later love.”
“So what or who was the topic of conversation while we were at the bar, odds are one of us should have felt our ears burning, I wasn’t feeling the heat.”
“Just wedding stuff, my flower, does Sarah have a favourite colour; come to think of it what is her colouration?”
“Blue eyed blonde very similar to big sis, slightly darker skin tone, Germanic rather than Scandinavian, if you get my drift. Her favourite colour is purple, but she doesn’t wear it. Rich cream and through gold to amber all look good on her. Her favourite dress is long and gold, lowish square cut neckline with a gather under the bust, Five foot eight tall, size ten dress and size six feet, she doesn’t do high heels now, Brian is also five eight and she doesn’t like looking taller than her man.”
“That’s remarkably accurate, my flower, may I ask if you help her with her wardrobe?”
“Only when invited, if she wants to look special for a celebration for example.”
“Right Jenny,” Says Chrissie, “it looks like that’s sorted, Erica gives you away, she’s family, me as bridesmaid with possibly Sarah as well if you get on, you having nicked her dad, Patricia and Lizzy may boost the numbers, topaz dresses for the bridesmaids but what will Erica wear, you can’t put her in a suit like the Frank, it has to be a dress, and I have a really silly or maybe fitting idea.” Silence reigns around the table, Tribal thought they were in for a fun afternoon, of wind ups and jokes, if Jenny runs her half of her dad’s little empire as efficiently as the wedding plans she is making now the dragon’s had better watch out!
“Come on Chrissie, play fair, what are you thinking, I hope it isn’t one of those slip it in quietly and she won’t notice ideas”
“That brooch of your gran’s, the clear stones are white, that’s you, the amber stones are the bridesmaids, and the green stones are Erica, can she or will she wear green? And would you be willing to wear the brooch?”
“She would love it; if we could get this dress still, in her size she would be ecstatic. I will wear the brooch, both dad and gran would have loved it.” I don’t think Jenny or Chrissie is aware of anyone else in the room, their drinks are well dented, and both I and Darren might as well not be here, but there again, males are only at weddings to make the numbers up.
“Flower, your turn now, who’s your best man, your brother or Robert, or someone else,”
“The best man only need’s a month’s warning so if you and Sarah hit it off, Robert will be best man, if you aren’t comfy with Sarah, then my brother Garry gets lumbered.”
“Right I can accept those options, what colour scheme for the men?”
“Ok treasure, be it ever so boring but grey suits, would you prefer a top hat and tails do or just sharp suits,”
“Can you stand tops and tails, I know that morning dress isn’t comfortable but that would be brilliant if you could, what shirts and neckwear”
“Your choice love, Dickey, regular or cravat, probably in topaz to match, I prefer white shirts.”
“That’s settled topaz cravats, white shirts grey morning dress and shoes please flower, I’ve only seen sandals on you this weekend. Michael, Julie, all of you I am sorry if I hi-jacked your afternoon of hi-jinks and japes, but my wedding is starting to feel real; not just a continuation of this whole strange weekend.”
“Don’t worry Jenny, It’s been an educational afternoon that I wouldn’t have missed for the world, the way you cut through the undergrowth and with big sis got so much sorted so quickly you must have some high powered PA job in the city, am I close?”
“Sorry to disappoint you Julie, you’re nowhere near, I’m a self employed property agent from Bishops Stortford, and I have the flat next to Chrissie. I will say that both Erica and me were always encouraged to go for it if we wanted it, nobody gives ‘owt for nowt’ nowadays, if we tried and failed dad always helped us through it, but never financially. It was our strength and our weakness also, because we never learned to ask for or accept support from others, it made us both a bit insular; that’s probably why Frank is my first real relationship, he saw me through my fences and helped me to lower them to accept the support I needed. Hey Frank, it’s nearly half five shouldn’t we be out of here by now, you know what it was like yesterday!”
“Don’t worry love, Tribal are in civvies, you have your clubbing dress on, we will be ok; It was Blackwater’s Morris kit that attracted the attention yesterday, you and big sis are welcome in town, even if you have got blokes holding on to you, Rachael is very welcome – no bloke – as a group we have more ladies than gents, we are safe. Yesterday we walked back down the High St. with Blackwater, and as Jenny said we could feel the tension from the locals, it was not nice at all.”
“We usually leave around six, that’s when the locals reckon all over twenty ones should be at home sipping their cocoa, you get a proper feel for the town then, all the coppers and the bouncers tell you all you need to know, if you hadn’t seen it on the police shows and here, a lot of people wouldn’t believe what it can be like when you tell them.”
“Back to the wedding details my treasure, have you any dates in mind bearing in mind your request for the Morris ‘do’ on the sixth of November, we can’t have the ‘do’ before the wedding, nor 3 months after?”
“Why ask me? Flower, you have a say as well.”
“Like the prisoner gets to choose the length of the noose, right?”
“Now now, flower, do want to wear that Hobgoblin or drink it?”
“I’ll be good,” I think for a few seconds “October twenty ninth is the Saturday before if you want a Saturday, or midweek around then if Saturday is fully booked. We could get additional invites out at Faversham or Tenterden to people that we want that aren’t on the ale invitation list. How does that sound to you love?”
“I like the sound of it quite well; October is a risky month for weather though.”
“We can sort out details like that later, maybe a hotel with nice sheltered grounds for the photos or even the roman theatre for the photos if we can get consent. I really don’t fancy Studland at that time of year!” Michael interrupts our chat with the request,
“Bottoms up folks, it’s time us old fogeys got up the hill again.” With much moaning and creaking all tribal get to their feet except Darren, I think he may be wanting to walk back with us, I will have to disappoint him for a little while, I prefer to walk through the town with Tribal, despite my confident tones to Jenny I am not that ready to run the risk with just we four.
“Come on girls, we may as well go through the town mob handed, it will be a lot safer if we are all together.” Darren gets up and we all leave together, Once outside it feels very pleasant for six pm on the first of May, there is very little cloud and what there is, is thin and high, no sign of contrails, so the weather may be set very fair for tomorrow as well, I will enjoy taking Jenny around the field on our ‘engagement’ tour. It only takes twenty minutes to clear the town, we are not loaded down like yesterday and there seem to be fewer police about. Once we cross the main road and start up the hill, the mood of everyone lightens, as we get into the park I even hear Rachael giggle about something with Andrea. Judging by the way she looked back at Darren and Chrissie, I know the source of the merriment, as Darren and Chrissie are behind Jenny and me, I glance back and see them walking with their arms around each other. I lean in towards Jenny,
“How do you fancy stopping by the bowls club for a cuddle, my love?”
“When are you going to stop asking silly questions, I have been looking forward to a long loving kiss ever since I asked you to marry me? Should we sit this end and give big sis a chance at the other end; I think she may feel safer in company.”
“A very good idea love, should we be bold and invite them?”
“I will flower; I am closer to Chrissie than you to Darren.” Jenny turns us round so that we are walking backwards together, tricky, I’m well padded if we trip, Jenny carries very little additional padding.
“Chrissie, we are stopping in a minute at the next bench for a kiss and a cuddle, you are both welcome to keep us company if you want.”
“Ok Jenny, thanks, are we stopping lover boy?” Darren just nods his head; it looks like he thinks he has won the lottery.