In which I move in – go to Ali and Ruth’s wedding – and see a goat on a lead
“Can you imagine being Ed Sheeran’s girlfriend? I mean, imagine all the awesome songs he’d write about you.”
Maria wrinkled her nose.
“Nah, he’s not my type,” she said. “I mean for one thing, he doesn’t have a neck. I mean, he basically looks like a thumb. A thumb with a ginger wig on the top.”
She shook her head.
“I can’t be seen going out with a thumb.”
A pretty talented, guitar-oracle thumb
We were nicely settled into our summer holiday routine, which can easily be summed up as not doing a whole lot, every day. I had finally moved into my new house with David and Alison and it was proving to be just as glorious as we’d hoped. We had already done what we’d been threatening to do for a while now – become even more Famous Five than usual, after running around the Bole Hills picking elderflowers for cordial and befriending passing dogs.
I had been spared my least favourite activity – clothes shopping – when a week before Ruth’s wedding, my mum came home with a beautiful embroidered blue and white dress and said in a slightly tired voice: “Here, this was in your size and now I don’t have to spend two hours at the mall with you.”
Clothes shopping for me mostly ends badly: I usually disappear, hungry and cross, to a book shop, whilst my sister stands in Marks and Spencer’s holding five pairs of trousers in my size, shouting: “You can’t wear Jane Eyre, you little moose!”
In typical Richard Curtis fashion, no one was ready on time for the wedding. Alison and Alex turned the house upside down trying to find a wedding-appropriate tie while I stood outside, rocking anxiously on my heels and sweet-talking the taxi driver into waiting an extra fifteen minutes.
There was almost definitely just as much swearing
Ali was stood outside the church when we arrived, surrounded by excited groomsmen and relatives, and looking the epitome of serene.
“I had a crazy phone call from Ruth’s mum this morning asking if I had Ruth’s bridal shoes,” he said, grinning. “I think she almost had an aneurysm but they found them in the end.”
As it turned out we were half an hour early, so we whiled away the time, sat outside in the sunshine whilst Alison, who was looking particularly pretty in a green maxi dress, complained about being out of her favourite board shorts for more than an hour.
I suddenly felt a small, warm hand in mine and I turned to find a little girl of about four in a polka dot dress sat next to me on the wall.
“I like your shoes,” she told me shyly. “And your nail varnish. Look, Mummy did mine today.” She showed me her tiny, blue fingernails. One seemed to have had all the nail varnish sucked off.
We spent a pleasant few minutes discussing the pros of sequined butterfly sandals (hers) over classic leather (mine) when she suddenly jumped up and shouted: “Watch how fast I can run!” and began sprinting across the lawn. She was replaced two seconds later by an even smaller girl who put a daisy in my lap and told me seriously: “I hear there’s cake at weddings.” before joining her sister in a race.
I spent the rest of the wait in varying states of anxiety that both girls would fall on their faces and I’d have to hand them back, crying and grass-stained, to parents I’d never met.
The ceremony was beautiful. Ruth and Ali were so happy and calm, both exuding a contentment and unerring confidence that there was nothing they wanted more than being with each other.
Overcome with emotion, I spent the whole ceremony fighting an internal battle to hold back what I knew would not be ladylike tears, but full blown, snotty sobs of unrestrained happiness. My facial expression (watering eyes, hiccuping, continual beaming) probably resembled one of a person free-falling through hyperspace but thoroughly enjoying it.
After the ceremony, I just had time to hug Ali and tell Ruth how beautiful she looked before I was dashing out the door to catch the train home to start my work placement at BBC Countryfile Magazine.
As with anything I undertake in life, I was a little nervous about this placement. I wasn’t sure I knew enough about badgers, or moss or deer rutting, but after being settled at my desk and introduced to the team, all of whom looked like they enjoyed hiking and lying next to rivers as much as I did, I began to feel at home.
Sian, who started her first day as online editor when I arrived, told me about all her favourite places to rock climb in Bristol and Bath and we had a giggle about one of the Wildlife editors who was having a loud and exuberant phone conversation about disco clams and whether they can be used as lighting at parties.
The office was having a sunflower growing competition and the Countryfile editorial team were losing spectacularly. Laura had thrown all gardening prowess aside and sellotaped the stems to stop them from snapping. I took pity on them and brought in two new sunflowers to sit on the window sill, although the features editor told me gravely: “I can’t promise we won’t kill them within a week.”
I learnt more about bees than I thought possible, the best types of soil for growing vegetables, all the gossip about Matt Baker and just how excited the British public can get about teapot-shaped sheds. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the hellish train journey there and back (the carriages were only one hay bale away from being used for live stock transport) it was a pretty perfect two weeks.
Seriously, I wrote five articles on bees. Check their website
Being home for the summer had become utterly enjoyable. I’d caught up on all the Marvel movies I’d been dying to see, which basically meant watching The Avengers Assemble over and over again on Netflix. It’s also always nice to have a voice of reason around when the hypochondriac in me surfaces. Which is a lot.
Me: I think there’s something really wrong with me. I have the worst headache all around my eyes.
Mum: Maybe that’s because you thought it would be a good idea to spend four hours reading the entirety of ‘Never Let Me Go’ in one sitting.
Maria: Yes, you moron.
We’ve spent most evenings outside, eating and chatting, with Mum parading up and down the garden every now and then, on bird watch following an unfortunate incident with a barbecued sausage and a hungry gull.
One evening when we were walking around the town, I heard the tappity-tap of hooves on concrete. I turned to Maria: “What is that?”
It was a goat, or rather, a huge, tattooed bald man walking a goat on a bright red lead. There were even tags on the collar around its neck. The man raised his hand in greeting.
It was nice to be home.
It clearly has nothing at all to do with this handsome man