... or never to have loved at all?
It’s a glorious day, perfect autumn weather with a clear blue sky and a nip in the breeze. I just had to walk across the Gardens to deliver something to one of the gates for someone to collect tomorrow. I’ve come back to the office with my cheeks tingling from the crisp air and my eyes wide with colour. By damn, I am a lucky woman to work in such a beautiful place.
The two big liriodendrons at the south end of the Broadwalk are covered in glowing yellow; they look as though someone dipped them in gold coins from top to toe. The taxodiums beside the lake are on the turn, half soft green and half the colour of Edward Watson’s hair (Mr Watson has ravishing hair). The long salvia border is still full of little sparks of colour, and in the Rock Garden cyclamen and autumn crocuses, buttercup yellow Sternbergia lutea and sky blue lithodora are still flowering everywhere. Squirrels hurry by, busy about their squirrelly business, or sit and scold in irritable little chirrups from the branches overhead. A nuthatch called to me, duweep duweep duweep, and a flock of long-tailed tits flew by twittering in their ringing high pitched voices.
Had a very odd ‘phone conversation yesterday evening while cooking supper. It seemed funny at the time (& gave me some moments of very enjoyable fantasy!). But I am now a bit troubled, as with the benefit of hindsight I am wondering why the question was being asked in the first place.
J: What would you do if you could have the man of your dreams, but for only one night?
Me: (thinks, mmm, the man of my dreams for just one night, plus a can of chestnut purée, mmm) Why, is it his last night on earth?
J: No, no, you can just only have one night together.
Me: (still thinking mmm, the man of my dreams has such amazing hands) I hate one-night-stands.
J: No, but seriously, what would you do?
Me: (thinks, mmm, chestnut purée on that lovely long thumb, oh, oh, oh... ah, better not mention this to J., she thinks I’m a Wise Older Woman, not a Dirty Old Woman) I’d cook him a good meal and pour him some decent wine and then make love to him all night; I’m only human! Why do you ask?
J: Oh, no reason... How about if you could be with him for just one weekend?
Me: (thinks, at least two cans of chestnut purée, then) Cook him several good meals, take him to Kew for a romantic walk in the autumn leaves, take him for a nice crazy afternoon helping TCI with her DIY, have an evening at the Magpie and Crown; and then make love to him all night. Why do you ask – are you having a Major Dilemma Moment?
J: Oh no, (slightly stagey laugh) nothing like that... How about if you could have him for just one holiday?
Me: Have you been reading “Possession”?
J: I don’t like horror stories.
Me: ?? Er...
J: Would you have that one holiday with him, if you could never see him again afterwards?
Me: Yes, of course I would. And I’d try to make it as happy and memorable as possible.
I don’t know if she’d had the answer she was hoping for, but I can’t get rid of a worrying feeling that I was meant to say something else. She just didn’t sound too happy.
Have I just encouraged a friend to do something that will break her heart in little pieces? Should I have been puritanical and advocated a life of virtue and self-denial, touch-these-soft-lips-and-part, what-the-eye-don’t-see, the-heart-don’t-grieve-after? Supposing she is having a Major Dilemma Moment?
I am not a good person to ask for advice, methinks (apart from anything else, I am easily distracted by the thought of the amazingly gorgeous hands of the man of my dreams...).
Not having any idea of the context, I simply gave honest answers. I’ve loved and lost, and had my heart broken, and I wouldn’t undo a moment of it – no, not the ecstasy, not the agony, not even the real disasters. And so, if I could have the man of my dreams for just one night, just one weekend, or just one holiday, then yes, I would do everything in my power to enjoy it, and to make sure he enjoyed it too.
And unless he turned out to be allergic to chestnuts, I’d start by opening a tin of the world’s best chestnut purée, Clement Faugier brand“Crème de marrons de L’Ardeche”...