One of our fellow guests is attempting to show me how to execute a trick involving two wine corks.
You start off with a wine
cork in each hand, sort of wedged in the crevice between your thumb and forefinger. You then have to somehow move each cork from one hand to the other, without removing your hands, ending up with the two corks between the tips of your thumbs and forefingers.
Don’t try this at home, folks, not unless you want to be driven slightly mad. Actually I haven’t explained it very well at all so you are probably not at all tempted – however, I would point out that, in order to experiment with
this trick it is necessary to open not one, but two, bottles of wine. This might just make you think of it in a different light...
It is the hottest day of the
year (so far) and we are sitting in Lucy and Bob’s lovely garden, in the welcome shade of a gazebo, sipping Pimms and getting to know their friends and neighbours. We were the last to arrive, despite being punctilious about arriving at exactly 12.45
(the appointed time) but then we are the only guests who had to come by car. Mr B has put our car in our host’s driveway. I am never sure if this is presumptuous or not but Mr B says he would rather not leave our trusty transport outside on a bend in
the road. Fortunately he manages not to behead any of the hollyhocks on his way in. This would be a Very Bad Showing Indeed and might result in our (i) never being invited again and (ii) being placed on some kind of Guest Black List. We wouldn’t know
about the Black List, I suppose, except for the fact that the invitations would inexplicably dry up.
I love invitations which say: “We will start with drinks
in the garden....” Now there’s a sentence which includes three of my favourite words – “start” (with its enticing connotations of good things to come); "drinks" (because what is a summer afternoon without the nectar of your
choice?); and “garden” (because, as good old Dorothy Frances Gurney once wrote, you’re closer to God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth.) Sitting in the gazebo, watching the butterflies flitting - and the bees bustling
- among the flowers, I feel as though Dorothy Frances and I are at one with each other. What Ms Gurney would have to say about being at one with me will almost certainly never be known, given that she died in 1932.
We enjoy a delicious meal on a table festooned with flowers. This is the moment – after the popping of corks and before the arrival of the starter – that I am challenged to the Cork Trick.
In between courses, because I Never Give Up,I do my best to work it out, without success. Nobody else around the table seems inclined to take up the challenge so when we repair to the garden and the gazebo once more, for our dessert and coffee, I feel
honour bound to take the corks with me and to keep trying. Eventually our host takes pity on me, seizes both corks and hurls them high into the air in the general direction of the flower bed. One of them refuses to go and lodges stubbornly in the brim
of Bob's hat where presumably it still remains.
We may have been the last to arrive but we are also the last to leave. Mr B and our host share two great loves
– Gillingham Football Club and cricket – so they need to check out the score in the Second Test Match at Lords. Lucy and I chat in the kitchen about this and that.
Now here’s an interesting point: Lucy and I have known each other, through work, for over twenty years. I think we would say we have always liked and respected each other, though we didn’t meet up all that often. However over the last
couple of years, with the help of of Facebook – much derided by some and blamed for many of society’s ills by others – we have become firm friends, realising we are what Anne (of Green Gables fame) would have called kindred
spirits. Sitting in her gazebo, at her table and in her kitchen over the course of this lovely, lazy, summer afternoon, I feel as if my life would be the poorer without our late-blooming friendship.
Mr B backs out of the drive. I am relieved to note that the hollyhocks are still intact. When we arrive home I tell him I will teach him the Cork Trick which I think I have just about sussed. All we need, I tell
him, are two bottles of wine...