Copyright © 2010 Angharad
All Rights Reserved.
The cooker was first, pinging away in the kitchen, in crossing the floor to get to it I saw an old banger turn into the driveway followed by Simon’s Jaguar. Oh shit–I’d forgotten to tell him.
“Trish,” I called and she came trotting into the kitchen, “Run down and tell Daddy that the person in the old car is a guest for lunch, I can’t stop, I’m making Delia’s sauce.”
“Okay, Mummy,” she trotted out of the back door and raced down the drive, I had a glance and saw Simon scoop her up and swing her round. Then she spoke with him. He looked at the other car–I couldn’t see if he was surprised as he had his back to me. However, he spoke to the driver then turned back to his car, grabbed his case and his laptop and gave the laptop to Trish to carry, he also gave her flowers to carry. Then he pulled out a large box from the boot of the car–which I suspect was full of Easter Eggs.
Maureen was wearing a skirt and a jacket and certainly looked better than the last time I’d seen her. She took Simon’s case for him and carried it more easily than I would. She also had flowers in her hand. I went back to my sauce when I saw they were chatting quite comfortably as they walked up the drive together.
Henry’s Mercedes flashed into the drive and pulled in beside the Jaguar, I poured the Riesling into the tray of chicken juices, and added the grapes and other stuffing ingredients. It had to reduce to half its volume. I checked the veg and drained them, they were all ready. Then I chopped up the chicken with the catering equivalent of tin-snips.
It was good sized one–oh well, it’d have to do. Keeping it all warm was possibly going to be a nuisance–especially when Simon came into the kitchen and wanted to kiss me. I let him have one kiss, then had to get back to the dinner–the cream went into the sauce and I stirred it around then I dished up the meat for everyone and poured some of the sauce over it–it smelt really good.
“Who’s your–um–friend?” Simon asked as he pinched a piece of chicken. He squawked when I smacked his fingers with my wooden spoon.
“Maureen–I meant to warn you.”
“It woulda been nice–but she seems harmless, she said something about you offering her a job.”
“Yeah, she’s an ex-dockyard welder, so I thought she could do some odd jobs about the place.”
“If you say so–um–this chicken is really good.”
“I thought you’d cooked it.”
“I did but I’d never have thought of making a grape and tarragon stuffing.”
“Uh–yes, quite. Wanna hand with these?”
“Why are you dishing up one lot of vegetables?”
“It’s for Julie who decided she didn’t want to meet Maureen.”
“Why–well okay, she looks a bit–you know, but she seems okay.”
“My thoughts exactly.”
“Dad and Monica seem to get on alright with her.”
“Of course, Henry could charm the milk out of your tea. If you can take the veg in, I’ll start bringing in the chicken.”
When I called everyone to the table–sending the boys to wash their hands, the girls had already gone to do theirs–Maureen seemed to be quite popular with the rest of my family. So, one of my worries disappeared.
Simon opened some of the wine which Henry had brought and was pouring it in all the adult’s glasses. Maureen declined, so I offered fruit juice which she accepted. Tom said grace, which sometimes surprises me–but it was Good Friday.
The meal went down really well, with Monica asking me for the recipe for the chicken. “It’s one of Delia’s,” said Simon loudly, thereby undermining my moment of culinary triumph.
“It was lovely ma’am,” said Maureen passing me her dirty plate. Dessert was baked apple stuffed with sultanas, cinnamon and brown sugar and served with ice cream–it wasn’t too onerous and the kids seemed to like it and I didn’t notice any of the adults leave much either.
Stella offered to make the coffee whilst I collected the dirty dessert dishes. Simon went round with a top up of wine. The rain lashed down in a series of heavy showers, but then it was April after all.
It was Robert Browning who wrote: ’O, to be in England now that April’s there.’ I don’t know if he ever lived near Portsmouth, but I think I’d rather be somewhere warmer and drier. He was after he pushed off to Pisa, but was very homesick–I’ve never been away long enough to feel that.
O, TO be in England
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossom’d pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops–at the bent spray’s edge–
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower
–Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!
Thinking of Browning for a moment reminded me of some implausible serial I read on the internet about some transgendered character whose father was doing a biography on Browning. Couldn’t remember anything other than she races round the place zapping people with the help of some Egyptian goddess or other oh, and trying to save the US president.
“She’s not that bad,” Stella hissed as she poured coffees.
I was still thinking about this character rushing about incinerating people–“I dunno, I thought it was implausible.”
“Eh? I’m talking about your friend, Maureen.”
“Oh sorry, I was thinking about Robert Browning.”
“Robert Browning–might I ask why?”
“O, to be in England.”
“Now the monsoon’s here, washing all the bunnies out and drowning all the deer.” She laughed at her parody.
“Yes, very funny, except it’s there not here.”
“O, to be in England now that April’s there.” I corrected her.
“Oh, okay you pedant. Um–alright, O, to be in Portsmouth ‘cos it’s Easter there, it’s pissing down an’ I feel cold, ‘cos I forgot my underwear.”
“Stella, do you realise you could be the next Elizabeth Barrett-Browning.”
“But she’s dead.”
“Exactly my point.”
“I take it you’re averse to verse in these adverse conditions.”
I groaned but declined to try and out pun her. We carried the coffees in and Henry and Maureen were in deep discussions.
“So if we got a surveyor to go round with you, you could decide what work was needed and arrange to do it for us?”
“Yes, sir, I’d be delighted to do that for you.”
“You realise we have about four hundred branches.”
“Oh–I’m sorry, sir, I thought it was a local branch you meant.”
“Maureen, do you know who you’re talking with?” I asked.
“Um, not really, ma’am,” she blushed, “other than someone who runs a bigger company than I thought.”
“Probably, Henry is my father in law, and he’s chairman of High St Banks.”
“Damn, now she’ll think I’m one of those overpaid buggers, who caused the financial crash.”
“You said it, Dad,” chirped Simon who had Mima on his knee and was reading a book with her.
“Thank you son, maybe I’ll offer Maureen your old job.”
“Which one is that, then?” queried Simon.
“The one I sacked you from two seconds ago.”
Stella sniggered while Simon laughed–“The only reason I’m doing it is because you can’t get anyone to do it for you.” He poked his tongue at his father to emphasise the point.
“Cathy?” Henry said looking at me.
“Don’t look at me, Henry, I know nothing about running a commodities brokerage.”
“Neither does my son,” sighed Henry. “Do you, Maureen?”
“I’m afraid not, sir–welding is my bag.”
“Okay, welding it is–if you give me a contact number, I’ll have one of my surveyors contact you about inspecting all the Hampshire branches–I’m sure we can save something on our insurance for that.”
“Thank you, sir, I won’t let you down.” I could see that Maureen was close to tears.
“When is this going to be?” I asked, “I hope it doesn’t interfere with my maintenance programme here?”
“Oh no, we’re talking at least a month to get my surveyor off his arse.”
“Good,” I asserted, “when you’ve drunk your coffee, Maureen, I’ll show you the outbuildings.”
“Certainly, ma’am an’ thank you for a crackin’ lunch, best I’ve ‘ad in years.” Maureen rose from the table and handed me a bunch of daffodils.
“Why thank you, Maureen, they’re lovely.”
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