Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Guests of honour?

Were she not already there, my mother would have died and gone to heaven.
“Guests of honour! Guests of honour mind you!” I can hear here telling her darts team. I was more than a little surprised myself, it must be said.
“Who will be at the Trafalgar Night dinner?”, I murmured through tightly zipped lips which were concentrating on gripping a needle, lest my internal organs be harpooned by it.
“The usual crowd of mayors and ex-service members. The locals from our town”, replied Hubby equally intent on bulling his dress shoes. I peered though the needle’s eye and pulled a length of black cotton through my lips, hoping for a stiff point to thread the needle with.
After several attempts, the thread went through the needle’s eye, “Ta-da”, I exclaimed jubilantly, “Who’s the guest of honour?”, I added, head bent, hell bent of mending my one and only navy coloured posh frock which had split under recent duress.
“We are”, said Hubby. I stopped sewing.
“What did you say?”, I asked, looking at him with a bemused smile. He was having me on.
“We are the guests of honour, or to be more precise, I am, but they wanted you to tag along”.
I scratched my head quizzically which, under the circumstances, made me yelp, as I was still clutching the needle.
“Are you making a speech then?” I hadn’t seen him writing anything.
“Yes, Alice, I am making a speech”. My heart sank. I thought this was going to be a fun night out away from Hubby’s work, where I could drink to the memory of Nelson, who for once, God bless his soul, had not scuppered any of my birthday plans as all events to commemorate his memory where held either before or after the 21st of October. For once in a long time, I had no beef with the esteemed Admiral and would instead, be eating it.
“Well keep it short then”, was the supportive, wifely advice I gave Hubby.
The venue was within a stone’s throw of our house and yet, because I had my very lovely, very expensive and very high heeled suede court shoes on, I could only take baby steps, much like a Geisha in a tight Kimono.
“Please wait for me”, I called plaintively in Hubby’s wake, “I really can’t go any faster”.
“Why did you wear such ridiculous shoes then?”, he replied, walking back to retrieve me, clearly irritated. Men are such hypocrites. Would he have preferred me to have worn a pair of Birkenstocks then, or a nice flat, comfy pair of wide Van Daals?
Puffing, as he had my elbow in a vice like grip and we were striding uphill, I posed the above question to him.
“Of course not Alice, I hate you in flat shoes. I just always forget to add an extra half hour to any walking that may be necessary… Hello, good evening”.
We’d arrived; it really wasn’t very far at all. A lot of hand shaking went on, and a large glass of wine was thrust in another. Some people were strangers, a couple were old friends and the rest were my community. The people I see on a day to day basis, in the bank, in the library, on the street, in the WI market. I felt very much at home.
Later, more than replete after a hearty dinner, Hubby cleared his throat and got up to speak. Oh, God, I thought, here we go. Apply rictus smile and look on supportively. Well, hush my mouth.
His speech was fantastic. Goose flesh ran up and down my body. I don’t often praise the poor sod, but fair dos. The speech was rousing and heartfelt; it was stirring and patriotic; it was passionate and persuasive. You could have heard a pin drop. Hubby’d made Nelson, the Royal Navy, me and his community proud. As he lifted his glass in toast to the Immortal Memory, I swear I had to use every fibre of my body not to stand up and whoop and cheer.
The applause went on for quite a while. Our old friends looked on at us at the top table with tears running down their faces, mouthing “Your mother would have been so proud”. It was a very emotional moment. To be among our community like this was incomparable with any other naval do we have been to before. I felt truly honoured.
More was to follow. Hubby was presented with a fine, engraved pewter tankard and then, leaving me rather lost for words, I was presented with a fabulous wicker basket of flowers. Me? I felt like Alice, Duchess of Cornwall. I’ll say that again as it has a certain je ne c’est quois –Alice, Duchess of Cornwall.
With the formalities over, we could relax and enjoy what was left of a wonderful evening. Later we teetered back the way we’d come. I hung onto Hubby’s uniformed arm.
“That was an amazing speech”, I said to him, standing on my sore tippy toes to kiss him, “I wanted to sign up immediately and whup the Frenchies’ butts”.
“Darling, I appreciate your loyal support but the Battle of Trafalgar was over two hundred years ago. You may find the French are our allies these days”. And there’s me thinking he was a rugby fan.
Two days later, I drove onto the Torpoint Ferry. The ferryman beeped my tag.
“Insufficient funds”, he said. Had he looked at my bank account recently?
I rummaged through my purse. It didn’t contain so much as a ten pence piece. Dammit. I apologised profusely but was quite unprepared for the ‘violation’ ticket they thrust through the window at me.
Good job I’d already been given my basket of flowers. I doubt a ferry felon would have been bestowed with such an honour.

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