Somehow, in the middle of all this, the year had moved round again and it was time for the Meet.
Picture the typically English scene: the house, the gleaming hunters, the pink, the excited hounds. Picture too the equally English Guys who downed tools, brewed up and lined the scaffolding the instant the first tight-jacketed, tight-jodhpured filly appeared. I should have realised when eleven of them turned up that morning that they weren’t suddenly dying to get the chimneys pointed or to replace the ridge tiles. Nor was it an appreciation of equine form or ancient English traditions that had got them out in such numbers. I had made the mistake of telling them in advance why it was that they wouldn’t be able to screech about in their vans and lorries quite as much as usual, and knowing much more about these things than I did (not difficult – and after all, they’re mostly Leicestershire Lads) they knew full well that there would be lots of port, and a jolly good view from two floors up.
I think it was when I saw No2, by then 3-and-a-bit, wobbling across the grass that I realised that while we might have taken the girl out of the city, we would never get the city out of the girl. She looked gorgeous, clad in her own choice for the day: a little checked skirt, multi-coloured stripy tights and a pair of Woolie’s finest high heeled gold clickety-clack sandals, with a vibrant green puffy jacket on top. Balancing a tray of sausages she was making determinedly (you need to know her) for the paddock. She considered the fence around it for a moment and then put down the tray, got under the bottom rail, stretched for the bangers and set off to look after her guests. Thankfully Unca Pete got off the scaffolding in double quick time and rescued her from just behind a particularly large beast sporting the give-away pretty red tail ribbon. Naturally, this only deepened Daughter’s crush on anyone with a hard hat and boots with reinforced toes. It was also all the encouragement the Guys needed to swarm, lemming-like over the edge of the scaffolding and soon we were hard pressed to keep glasses filled.
Eventually, the Meet dispersed and we gathered the empties. All that remained was for The Guys to get back up the scaffolding and crack on. Ah, but silly me: by now it was midday and clearly therefore lunch time. The deckchairs all came out (ours, of course) and the lunchboxes, and a great time was had by all: naturally we joined in and between us we finished the sausages and mince pies (unseasonal, but easy to mass produce) and enjoyed each other’s company in a very Hardy-esque way. But then the mobiles started to ring, and the ’emergency’ calls came in, and soon eleven were eight, and then four then two – and then there weren’t enough of them to do whatever it was they said they had planned for the day, and suddenly they were gone.
But you know what? We didn’t care. Eeyore and I sat in the warmish sun and enjoyed the view, stirring only really to rescue No3 from the edge of the ha-ha now and then. We dredged what remained of the port lake, and remembered W12 – fondly, but without a scintilla of regret.