My wife is 33 today, that I’m 73 makes me a child stealer. Indeed, in the brief time when I once taught ‘A’ Level students, she could well have attended my classes. To ease your fretting mind, I ought to tell you that we met when she was 29 and I 40 and here we are still enjoying one another’s company these three decades and three years later. From day one, Camilla has had the harder time of it, for she had to rescue me from the boat transporting me across the dark Indian Ocean after it struck a reef as it tried to enter an unlit tropical lagoon.
She then had to deal with years of my ruined health, which, we’ve recently discovered, is akin the Long Covid; I kept telling her to leave me and find a better model at the man-factory. She refused and I’ve only had to look after her a couple of weeks each winter as she suffers a hefty cold. We have discovered she has been depressed this past year, only noticing this when she brightened about two weeks ago. That this coincided with my rising from fourteen months of testing conditions made us realise that the burden of having to face, at home on her own, serious medical situations, one after the other, roughly every month, proved too much. More than once this past year we faced one another in hospital corridors, wondering if it was our last moment together. Ever. That goes deep. And she’s a tough bunny who has been in charge of frantic maternal emergency wards in a major London hospital. That all this came after a troublesome year-long renovation which ate our entire savings, proved to be a blow too much for my beloved Camilla.
And now she’s back! In stride with herself, smiling, laughing, looking alive! As if nature herself was out to celebrate this, the sun burst forth on our anniversary and as we sat in the acclaimed garden restaurant, life was perfect. The bubbly, the food, the ambiance, they gave us a little nudge skywards.
Children, bored with adult natter, left the tables set under a large open tent and wandered around the stately home’s walled vegetable garden. Between the rows of vegetables and herbs which fed us, they played without too much noise. Four near-teenage girls, excited to be out of London staying “In gites behind a pub!” Ambled about tasting herbs such as fennel and chatting non-stop about the most important things on Earth, what ever they might be.
A little thing marched over and told us, “They’re on holiday! I can’t start school!” This was bugging him, his mother said, because he was desperate to wear his smart new uniform for the first time. An eight year old girl kept pushing her younger brother backwards on to the bouncy-soft lawn and she fell on top of him and they rolled about laughing and tickling one another and then rose with practiced formality, to start all over again. It was a delight to watch.
And almost every adult conversation turned, at some point, to briefly mention Ukraine. All this which we enjoyed, was, on the 23rd of February, normal life to the population of that now devastated country. Looking at the woman whose shining eyes I have loved for so long, underscored what luck we all have, despite our individual difficulties.