Monsieur and I were to be married this year, but as we’re grown up and responsible, we made the grown-up and responsible decision to postpone the happiest day of our lives, just in case we lost our jobs, something that was a very real threat at just the hour when the demands for deposits various were due.
Some grown up and responsible months later, the day that was to be our big day approached and I felt a tinge of sadness.
“Darling, I think we should do something to celebrate, especially as it’s a bank holiday weekend.” I said to Monsieur, eager to eliminate the threat of regret.
“You’re right,” he agreed, “I’ll look into it.” Even better, Monsieur was making the arrangements and if there’s one thing I can say about my future husband, it’s that he’s VERY good at surprises.
At first I thought we’d be going to a restaurant, perhaps somewhere with a star or two after its name or even a starless wonder with enough starch in just one of their white tablecloths to keep a man’s shirt collars stiff for a year. Yes, the sort of place that makes a girl feel adored, even when she gets out her camera to snap the foie gras from sixteen different angles.
And so, as I can’t remember a single time that Monsieur has failed in surprising me, I spent an inordinate amount of time fantasising about where we might be going. Before long, curiosity got this particular cat and the Epic Inquisition began.
“So where are we going?” I demanded on a daily, if not hourly basis, sometimes by e-mail with giant, red font in BOLD.
“It’s a surprise.” came the reply, over and over and over again. He would not budge. He would not stir. Monsieur would simply smile that infuriating smile he has when he holds a secret.
Then, the week before our celebration of The Wedding that Wasn’t, Monsieur let slip that we would be staying overnight wherever we were going. No, he would not be whizzing me off to Venice for some O Sole Mios in a bobbing gondola; I knew that much because Monsieur’s passport was at the consulate. We’d therefore be somewhere in the UK, but where?
Next he booked a car – another clue to toy with. Knowing that Monsieur would never drive 5 hours to spend a single night at a place, only to drive 5 hours back the following day, I figured that our destination must be relatively close to London. Hmmmm. But where?
The e-mail font got bigger and bolder, but still Monsieur wouldn’t tell me where we were going. I felt like a five year old counting the sleeps until Christmas. At long last D-day dawned and we packed our overnight cases.
“Bring your golf clothes,” instructed Monsieur. Ah, apparently small white balls would be involved in the surprise, as he pulled our golf bags out of the closet.
“And a swimsuit.” he continued.
“And something smart to wear to dinner.” Well, that was a given. I’d taken for granted that I’d have to dress up for some special food on our special occasion. After all, Monsieur has never been a fish ‘n’ chips-on-a-freezing-beach-with-a-bottle-of-wine-sort of romantic.
Then we got into the car with our clubs and our bags and some little white balls and drove out of London. Goodbye, Westfield Shopping Centre. Goodbye Heathrow Airport. Goodbye Windsor Castle… and just before reaching the Slough of John Betjeman’s disparaging poem of the same name, which starts with ‘Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough, It isn’t fit for humans now.’, and only worsens in its damnation of the town, we turned off the motorway.
“We’d better not be lunching in Slough,” I thought to myself in unattractive snobbish manner, as Monsieur turned the car this way and that, eventually easing it onto leafy back-roads dappled with shade. Here were not concrete block buildings and superstores but tall brick walls and gate houses and hedges and vicarages and lots and lots of green. Perhaps we were going to Bray? It wasn’t far from here and Monsieur and I have long planned to visit Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck for some bacon and egg ice cream, among other culinary delights.
“I know where you’re taking me.” I said, rendered smug by my skills of deduction.
“No you don’t.” replied Monsieur, rendered equally smug by his own self-assurance.
And with that, we swept across to the left, onto a broad driveway climbing a gentle slope amidst the handiwork of Capability Brown and the manicured greens of a golf course.
No. I didn’t know where Monsieur was taking me. Not in the least.