The bar was raised very high when fresh-faced and glowing Nicola, spinster of the parish of Appleby Magna wed Lord Strawberry of Chilcote. Not only was he a dashing young farmer of the soft fruit variety, he was also a gun on the rugby field and devilishly handsome.
I have always hoped I’ll get round to writing an out of date romance novel one day.
I call Nicola in England. Her son Harry, who is also on my friend list, picks up the phone. I have woken him up and suddenly I panic that this is the middle of their night. It is actually the middle of their day and he explains that he has just had a teenager’s weekend. I am about to ask him questions when Nicola arrives home and he quickly hands her the phone.
She begins to make lunch for a lot of people with the phone tucked into her neck. I listen to her opening cupboards as she speaks and suddenly I am homesick for exposed beams in the ceiling.
We have a lot to talk about; off the scale bad things and off the scale good things, loss and love.
Just hearing her voice reminds me how strong she is and how dear she is to me. We are godmothers to each other’s babies. I remember meeting her at Ibstock High School when she arrived in the second term of the second year. She never had a friendship group, and that made her very popular as she flitted from one gang to the next, laughing and teasing. To me, even when we are 94, she will always be ‘new’!
She calls a spade a spade and she calls a strawberry a way to make a living and a cake. I call her Nicola, everyone else calls her Nicky. I will not move on this one.
In 1992 I came to Australia to travel and Nicola, who had been here before, gave me two tips that I have never forgotten.
“On the flight, don’t watch the tiny plane on the monitor in front of you. And, when you go to a supermarket and the person on the checkout says ‘How are you?’ Don’t say ‘I’m very well thank you , how are you, have you had a nice day!’ Just say ‘Good thanks!'”
I think of her all the time.
At the back of the church sat a dark, curly haired young mistress of the parish of Swepstone. Her heart sank as the wedding vows were spoken. Lord Strawberry, gone from her dreams. But reader, I shall share with you this, she could never know that in just a few years she herself would wed a rather tall and perfectly suave gentleman from the Antipodes.