Thursday, 19 May 2016

The best first date ever

If you want to stand out from the crowd, they say, plan an unusual first date. And our first date was as unusual as they come: we made a poker together.

Writers are always interested in learning new things. You never know when you might need to describe a blacksmith at work in a novel (and I'm sure one will feature in the next book I write)  but the honest truth is that I wasn't really that bothered about learning the tricks of the blacksmithing trade. I just wanted an excuse to spend the day with you and it was the best one I could come up with. You'd said you would show me your blacksmithing skills years ago so it was an easy suggestion to make and one you were hardly going to say no to. 

In advance of the meeting, you asked me a few times what I wanted to make and I basically had no idea (see above - I wasn't really bothered about making anything.) So, in the end we settled on a poker even though I don't have a fire. I've always wanted a log burning stove so we decided that this could be the incentive I needed. When I look at prospective homes now, the potential for a log burning stove is my No 1 criteria. I need somewhere to use that poker.

I was nervous coming to your house for the first time. I got lost on the way and had to phone you to check where you lived. When I finally found it you were there at the bottom of the drive waving your arms and jumping around like a giant child. All my anxiety dissipated when I saw you there. It was always like being reunited with my best friend when I saw you, even at the start.

It's funny how memories become like multi-sensory snapshots over time. What is it that makes the mind record just moments within the hours spent together? How does it choose them? What mechanism springs into action when we fall in love to say, stop, absorb this moment, it will be important later? 

This is what I recall:

You, the childlike giant, jumping about at the bottom of the drive, dressed all in black. The way you signalled the way to a parking spot in an empty field as if you had reserved it specially for me. That moment when you stood behind me and held my arm, helping me to hammer the molten metal and we both knew that something more than friendship was brewing. (The resolution at that moment that, no, the sexually submissive man with the 97% compatibility rating on OK Cupid, was not the man for me. That the 3% incompatibility was crucial!) You, flustered, moving rapidly from one side of the forge to another trying to rescue me from danger. The smell of singed gloves as I picked up the wrong bit of the poker.   You testing me, naming the parts that I've forgotten now though I remember your laughter and your voice telling me that I was the loveliest of distractions. 

Your big black boots resting next to my purple boots on the railing of your verandah against a backdrop of fields and trees. Your straightforward appreciation of my company and the pivotal moment when you said something that made me sure of your feelings though the sound on that memory is turned down and I can't remember the words, just the glow of your warmth and the opening, 'well, Beverley........' Drinking tea and eating flapjack, the staple refreshment of our time together. Me admiring your free range lifestyle, you complementing me on my mind: 'You exude innate intelligence,' you said. How to woo a Beverley in one easy step. The hug as we parted. Me telling you that I'd had a lovely day. The promise that we would meet up soon. Perhaps a walk or something, you said. Or a bike ride. (We never did have a bike ride.) And, oh, I said, perhaps you could help me with some jobs? Like cutting the lock that held my bike to his bike in the yard. Symbolic, we said. And another excuse, setting the scene for us to get together again soon. Which we did. Really soon. 

Where our boots used to rest together. Just me here, after his death