I had taken a day off from work today and spent the morning cleaning up the house a bit, not too much, in preparation for the visit of Jane and her two boys. Jane is over from Germany where she now lives, and was Juliet’s childhood friend and loyal letter-writer for many years, even after e-mail was invented.
I picked her up from her mum’s flat in Headington, along with Johannes and Christian (15 and nearly 13, or thereabouts).
I don’t think we’ve met each other for 14 years or so, but she came to our wedding and J saw her at the occasional reunion in the UK. At home we introduced the boys to Lucy (Alice was at school), the guinea-pigs, the trampoline and the Wii, in that order .So they were all happy.
Jane and I talked non-stop all afternoon, looking at photos of J, her embroidery, the garden and the decor of the house generally (all down to J of course).
Jane has come through a difficult divorce, so she has not had a bed of roses either. I’m slightly squirming now at some of what we discussed, but it was appropriate at that time.
One thing I’m grateful for at the present time is to have had some recent discussions with friends who happen to be female, which is not something I’ve done very much of; J somewhat discouraged any friendships I might have had with women! in much the same way that I would have raised an eyebrow at any “man-friends” she might have had. The truth of the matter is that we had each other, as complete best friends.
Jane looked through some of J’s old school books such as English exercise books from secondary school and news books from primary school, and of course Jane was mentioned in several of them. She also fell upon an old jewellery box of J’s (it’s in the photo above) which contains childhood badges, emboidery items, foreign coins and the like, and even J’s Boots staff name badge from where she and Jane worked on Saturdays. Having Jane with me to go through these things was like having an expert archaeologist on hand to investigate an ancient Egyptian tomb. Well, sort of.
Before we knew where we were it was gone 6pm and the girls were preparing an”English tea” of home-made bread, various cold meats (including some German, to be on the safe side!), tea and home-made cakes. We had to rush through that, get the piggysqueaks back in and then it was time for me to take J and the boys back to Oxford. I could have talked for hours more, and so could Jane I think – and we barely started on the photos – but that was probably the right time to stop for today at least.
Then I rushed back, for it was monthly Film Night with the lads. I may have explained this before on this blog, but if I can’t remember, I’m sure my readers won’t. Normally, we meet at the local pub on a Thursday night and exchange wise and learned conversation for a few hours over a small dry sherry. (Some of that is not quite true). Anyway, some months ago we met at Richard’s bachelor pad instead to admire his new 40″ flat screen TV. This progressed into watching a film, carefully selected by one of us. The trick is, it mustn’t be a blockbuster and yet it mustn’t be too obscure. The selector has to introduce the film, with a few carefully-chosen words and comments about the film (and no reading the IMDB entry either). Ian’s wife, Emma, says she tells people we are all watching porn, she says it’s less embarrassing. But it gets worse. A few months back, we decided to have some food with the meal, so now we have super-chef Ian cook up something delicious to go with the beers. So far we’ve had ribs, barbecued chicken and tonight burgers, all home-made. Tonight the bar was raised still further, as Scot introduced themed wine – Californian Pinot Noir – to match the plot in his choice of film “Sideways“. Food, wine and the film all splendid. I can forsee the time when we start turning up in fancy dress to match the film.
All good, until the very end of the film, when I started to reflect on how much J would have enjoyed it and how she is no longer able to do so. It doesn’t help that I am collecting her ashes tomorrow afternoon. As soon as the film was over, these things rushed over me and I had to get away fast. Gave Ian a lift home and was pretty upset. I’m OK now. These things just wash up over you from nowhere.
I had also done pretty well this afternoon until Jane discovered a small ring that Juliet had made in school, and which she wore in the first few years that I knew her. She was endlessly fiddling with it and twirling around her finger – this is long before her engagement, wedding and eternity rings. I had completely forgotten about it, and yet there it was, an unassuming little thing of absolutely no significance to anyone except me – and Juliet.