Sunday, 8 February 2009

Not so far away day

In London the snow has turned to whipped egg whites floating through the sky and melting on the front window of the bus which announces, for the second time, that it has changed its destination.

I too have changed my destination as in the country the snow has frozen to meringues, peaks upon peaks of baked Alaska inside which is the cottage I'm supposed to be going to this evening, complete with Romantic Interest, and he can't get out. Nor, can I get in.

I slept late and rose early, throwing things into a bag that I might need, assembling the dual wardrobe for romantic walks across snowy fields and an evening in a cosy armchair with implied Red Setter in front of a log fire, as well as dressing for the annual office Away Day held in a hotel in Central London. At the last minute I slid through the slush in the front garden and threw the bottle of Bollinger I've been saving for a special occasion into the bag with two paperbacks, one of them his which I'm working through slowly, and an assortment of clothing that, let's put it this way - doesn't get out much.

By the time I arrived at the office at 8.30 after a journey of 1 hour 40 mins, two bus changes, and a tube ride, to set the answer-phone, schedule the lunch order to coincide with the timetable I had only just been given, change the SIM in my mobile phone which had helpfully stopped working, I knew it was all in vain. Romantic interest was in his own shaken snow-globe, looking at a blizzard, snowed under, the roads unploughed, the train service on his tiny rural line disrupted, and the only place I was going after a long day looking at flip charts was the hotel bar.

There are some things that a Belgian Chocolate covered biscuit and a selection of Marks & Spencer's sandwiches just don't touch. Disappointment being one of them.

I was as crushed as the said biscuits by the time I got to the packet. This feeling was not helped by Mr T's expansion plan for the coming year in which he hinted that he may employ a 'young, first-job receptionist to answer the phone, etc.' leaving me to wonder mutely what I would be doing when replaced by a younger model. Not even nuts helped.

At the end of a day of 'group activities' none of which involved car keys or Pictionary (dammit), onto which I was appended in my own special category of 'Marion', as in Finance, Press and Marion, or Editorial, Sales and Marion making me realise just how superfluous I am in the great publishing machine at Pedantic (I suspect reduntant might be fairly apt) I followed Angus to the bar. Angus had also struggled in that morning, but from a different part of the country and was still in country attire - waxed Barbour, cords and wellies. 'Grab the nuts and let's have a nice warming glass of red,' he said, settling himself into a dainty gilt armchair, crossing one wellied leg over another. I began to tell him that the first time I met my husband he was wearing wellies, and then stopped lest he think I was trying to draw parallels.

I bent to unzip my bag to put away my reading specs as Caroline passed by on her way to the white. 'My goodness, there's a bottle of Bolly in there...' she gasped, mercifully not mentioning the items of attire on which it nestled - I mean, long johns and thermal vests not what you want bandied around the office.

'Yes, well, I was supposed to be going out of town for the evening, but short of hiring a helicopter, there's no way I can get there.' I said tragically, like a crippled child deprived of Christmas. 'It'll be just my luck that by the time the snow melts he'll have gone off me and there will never be another chance.'

Angus patted me on the shoulder, the way you do an old horse, or a particularly favoured heifer. 'Never mind, if it's not meant to be, it's not worth the effort,' he said, and bent to fill up my glass.

'Are you mad?' Mr 'I married a sex goddess' living happily ever after in coital bliss in Cambridge? 'My relationships last about as long as a head cold and are usually about as pleasurable - in the words of Aerosmith (who needs John Donne - with whom I also had weekend plans) "I don't want to miss a thing." This could be as good as it gets.'

He laughed and murmured some vaguely bracing remark like 'buck up old girl, not horsemeat yet', and handed me the nuts.

So after whacking through a bottle of red with Angus, my romantic evening was take-away sushi with my ex-husband who had come round to spoil the teenage daughter's plans for a house party in my supposed absence, and stayed to watch Coronation Street - oh yes, we had an exciting marriage. He and my daughter sat on one sofa, she entwined around him like seaweed on a castaway, while I sat on the other making very polite conversation that did not involve the reading of any poetry whatsoever. However, he did bring me a bunch of flowers as a belated Congratulations on Publication Day, for which I was pathetically grateful. I told him I had gone up to the 5,500th most popular book on Amazon and he stoically pretended to think this was impressive. Meanwhile, I was flatter than a road through Nebraska, and so far, I'm still driving...