Monday, 15 September 2008


“Happy Anniversary darling!”, murmured Hubby into my shell-like last Saturday, before depositing simultaneously, a kiss on my cheek, a cup of tea on my bedside table and an enormous bouquet of lilies on my chest. Who could ask for anything more, as Ethel Merman once sang.
“Thanks”, I said groggily, before leaning out of bed and delving into my bedside table to remove an envelope and handing it to Hubby, “I thought you’d forgotten”.
“Evidently”, he replied grimly reading its contents. But our wedding anniversary hadn’t been mentioned. We hadn’t discussed if we were going out for dinner or to the pictures or indeed whether we were going to mark the occasion at all and so the card I’d bought was rather a facetious one, which had the following quote on the front, ‘A wife can surprise her husband on their wedding anniversary by merely mentioning it’.
“So were you testing me Alice?”, he asked.
“Well”, I explained, “I normally give you plenty of advance notice regarding matters of significant dates and this time I thought I’d see how you got on alone, without my prompting you”.
“So, basically you were angling for a row?”, he demanded. I shrugged.
“Jeepers Alice. Ever the romantic”, said Hubby.
“Look”, I replied, sitting up in bed defensively, “There’s no need for the hang-dog expression. You don’t usually know when your own children’s birthdays are and you hadn’t mentioned about going out, so I thought the card was, in the circumstances, apposite.”
“Well we are going out actually. So there”, he replied petulantly
“Oh? Where?”, I asked. Please, not Pizza Express again, I prayed. After 17 years of marriage however, many couples communicate by way of extra sensory perception and we are no exception.
“Well it isn’t Pizza Express ok? It’s a surprise. Just be in your glad rags by 7pm”.
Our various children gathered at the breakfast table in dribs and drabs. The youngest ones, with typical bonhomie threw themselves at Hubby and me, lavishing us with kisses and enormous hugs.
“Happy Anniversary mummy” said the 6 year old before adding by way of an afterthought, “and you daddy”, as she handed us an, albeit grotesque, drawing of a bride and groom.
“Ditto”, said our son sleepily, kissing his father’s crown before turning his attention to me, “Yeah man, happy, you know, wedding-thing...”
“Is the word anniversary really too much of an effort to articulate before 10am?” I asked.
“Sorry ma, but um, like yeah”. It’s like sharing a house with a cross between Dylan the rabbit and John Lennon. I sighed.
My teenage daughter though bounded into the dining room, gave me a huge kiss and handed me a card. Always precocious regarding her literary choices, her inscription within the card brought tears to my eyes as I read it aloud: ‘Romeo and Juliet might have gloried in the songs of the lark and nightingale but they heard it only once together. Your love has continued for uncountable lark songs and we too will love you forever’.
“Isn’t that just wonderful?”, I asked those at the table, wiping away tears, “Thank you sweetheart”.
“Yeah cool” responded her brother, glumly chewing a sticky maple and pecan Danish.
The postman delivered a card from my in-laws and my sister in law also remembered. As I arranged them on the mantelpiece after breakfast, I was horrified to find an inch of dust greet me but, just as I was about to address the situation with a can of Pledge, the doorbell rang. It was the plasterer, come to fix the hole in my ceiling.
“Bloody hell”, he said looking up, “So this is where the Hadron Collider is then eh?” My anniversary thence continued in an asthmatic cloud of pink plaster dust, falling debris, boot foot prints on my carpet and infinite mugs of builders brew. As I hoovered for the nth time later that evening, Hubby began to get agitated.
“C’mon Alice, leave that, we’ve got to get ready”.
“What’s the rush? We’re not going far are we?”, I asked, more preoccupied by my Dyson which was having difficulty sucking. I peered into its wand.
“We have to be on the seven o’clock ferry. We have to be”, he reiterated looking at his watch, “Please, go upstairs and get your slap on”. Twenty minutes later I was showered, dressed, bejewelled and smelling heavenly. I stepped into my vertiginous heels, kissed my kids, gave orders and waited for Hubby in the hallway. He emerged from the basement in his naval uniform.
“What’s going on?”, I asked suspiciously.
“We’ve been invited for dinner on a German frigate”, he said, taking my arm and ushering me outside before I could protest. “It’s a private affair, in the Captain’s cabin”.
Before you could say ‘achtung’, Hubby, me, a handful of other officers, their wives and a contingency from the local Anglo-German fraternity, were on board a ‘PAS’ boat, sailing out to the frigate. The sea was slate grey and lumpy. I felt queasy.
Eventually our little boat moored alongside a pontoon out in the Sound. I gingerly stepped onto it and picked my way up the ladder to the ship. It was literally a white knuckle ride as I gripped the railings. The wind buffeted me and I wavered, collecting myself before continuing my climb. My shoes were preposterously inappropriate as was my frock. Beneath me waited the unfathomable jaws of the sea.
Most unexpectedly I had a wonderful time. The Captain, his crew and the company were delightful, the food fantastic and the wine plentiful. Emboldened by Dutch or in this instance German courage i.e a few shots of Jägermeister, which I was advised contained over 53 vitamins, I tripped back down the ladder to our waiting boat like a happy-go-lucky gazelle. As we approached Millbay Dock I fingered Hubby’s gold stripes, “After 17 years you never fail to surprise me. Danke darling”.


Kit said...

Happy Anniversary, Alice! Glad it all ended happily - I thought it might go pear-shaped when you mentioned the naval uniform!

We usually celebrate ours by watching our wedding video with the children - who can't believe that Daddy had long hair then - guaranteed to make us feel old... it's coming up again though and this year we are planning to go away for a night - it'll be a surprise if we actually do manage to get away - only the second time in the ten years of having kids that we've gone away without them ...mostly because it's just too much effort.

Anonymous said...

Happy Anniversary!

Wait, do you mean children supposed to know this date and acknowledge it with a card?

Eloise said...

Happy Anniversary, Alice! Lovely story. So glad it ended happily and not with you getting seasick.

Sally Lomax said...

Happy Anniversary!

Brilliantly told as always....

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a lovely evening though I thought it might not be. Men aren't always very good at remembering special occasions. My Other had the nerve to change my birthday in August. I had to celebrate it the day after - um! Had a good moan on my blog though - shame he doesn't read it occasionally!

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

And who says romance is dead? I must share this one with my husband...