Wednesday, 15 July 2009


I’m not quite sure how it happened, but Hubby said something along the lines of, “If you can find a babysitter, you can come to a cocktail party in Fowey with me.” That’s big of you, I almost said, but, given we’ve been so remote with each other recently, I thought it best to accept the invitation graciously and, if only for a few hours at least, give the impression that we are an impregnable, united force.
I rang my mother in law and wondered if she’d be kind enough to be in situ overnight to facilitate us in a night away.
“Only if you take the appropriate precautions with you Alice. I have nine grandchildren as it is and Christmas on a small pension no joke and then, when you see these young girls walking around, pushing designer buggies you wonder how they do it. When I had mine, I had an old pram that did them all. Now I see double buggies, one half pink the other blue. And not a wedding ring in sight. No wonder this country is in crisis. It makes my blood boil”
I held the phone away from my ear and let her carry on. Her rant was on a roll of boulder sized proportions. My attempts to hinder her would be as futile as Sisyphus’s so, rather than interject her metaphoric rhetoric I let her run out of steam before concurring that:
“June Whitfield would have made a perfect prime minister and I don’t doubt that we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in had she been, but the fact of the matter is Dorothy, is that your son has been surgically sorted if you get my drift and so you really needn’t worry about the patter of tiny feet.” Mollified, I was offered no further contraceptive advice.
The following day, I sheepishly announced to the PTA that whilst my services would no longer be available at the summer fair I would still fulfil my duties in making sweets to sell and visiting the butcher for meat for the BBQ. Then I awaited the arrival of my mother-in-law, lulled her into a false sense of calm by way of a cup of tea and a slice of cherry Genoa before showing her the ropes. Even though she looked bewildered by my timetable of events and baulked after reading ballet, jazz, trampolining, dog feeding and walking, how to get to the summer fair and what was in the fridge for supper, Hubby and I fled the house like proverbial rats from a sinking ship.
With a reception on board HMS Monmouth to prepare for we had little time for extra-marital activities but as we had a whole night to enjoy we didn’t frenetically scramble to tear one another’s clothes off. To be honest when one of you is in a very expensive Gieves and Hawkes naval uniform that is more than a little tight, then to remove it would take patient easing and gentle pulling anyway and not a passionate and reckless undressing. Poor Hubby, it was a baking evening and as I sat sipping a cool, glass of white wine in a very little, black dress, I could not but feel for him in starched shirt and heavy black wool suit, let alone a gold braided hat and honestly thought given the perspiration running down his collar that he would melt away very soon.
My hand firmly gripping his arm, I gingerly teetered down the perpendicular hill in Fowey to the jetty to meet the other guests and climb on board a little boat to carry us out to the ship. One chap, wearing a very natty brooch, held a playing card. ‘Ah, entertainment’, I thought. I knew this wasn’t going to be a run of the mill cocktail party but even so I was very excited by the prospect of a few tricks.
“Are you a magician?” I asked. He at least afforded me the gallant courtesy of not calling me a dumb-ass by gently informing me that he was in fact The High Sheriff of Cornwall and his natty brooch on closer inspection was plume of feathers. An inscription of Ich Dien under it somewhat gave the game away.
“Ah”, I said, before I felt Hubby’s vice like grip escort me away. The playing card remains as surreal a mystery a week later.
On board, the Royal Navy showed off ‘one of its most versatile ships’ by providing delicious nibbles, plenty of drink but also by way of presentations and demonstrations of its steely, crunchy capabilities. From the general murmur of impressed fascination I think the guests left feeling they were receiving value for money and that they are more than adequately protected by Monmouth’s crew and commanding officer, who incidentally is a man with quite exceptional, blue eyes.
By the time Hubby and I had secreted a Chinese takeaway into our hotel room and scoffed it lying on our tummies, I felt horribly full and insisted, much to his protestation that Hubby and I go for a walk. It was late and after an hour of brisk marching, Hubby pleaded with me to go to bed. We fell asleep immediately, both of us assuming we’d still have the morning together to enjoy but I woke up with such a stiff neck I could barely move my head and Hubby clutched at a terribly bad back. Any attempts at any shenanigans, thwarted.
We returned to the ship for Captain’s lunch at midday and found to my immense delight that Tim Smit, uber eco-warrior and genius behind the Eden Project was another guest. I have waited years to ask him this, and you have only me to thank if you see one, “So Tim, there’s only plants. We need an element of surprise. Any chance of the odd maquaque or a marmoset or two?”


rosneath said...

how come shenanigans were being considered if you are 'so remote'?

anyway, I am planning to head to the Eden Project in September with my mum - we'll look out for monkeys in any way, shape or form!


Eloise said...

Alice, I can always count on your posts to bring a laugh and a smile. As usual, you didn't disappoint!

Hope you'll also post on how things went at home while you were away.

DL said...

I think I must have been in a different navy. My recollections are of emerging from a steel tube, with a highly distinctive and not terribly pleasant smell, which lasted for several days and survived all attempts to remove it. Cocktail parties were the stuff of distant dreams (as were "shenanigans" - largely due to the smell).

Best wishes,