At the weekend, which for some reason began on Thursday, we had visitors. Not just any run-of-the-mill, common or garden, everyday type visitors. Oh no. These were special. Anne-Marie and Sarah are our best friends from Colchester. I lived with one of them for two years, Ellie lived with the other for two years, and they’re now living together in what used to be my house. It’s all rather confusion really. We’ve been through a great deal, the four of us, the good and the bad, the ordinary and the random, the practical and the spontaneous. So close is our relationship that they no longer fit into the category of ‘friends’ – they have managed to transcend that definition and become more like family. They are the sisters I never had. And I love them both very much.
Anyway, enough of this mushy stuff, back to the story.
AM and Sarah came to visit on Thursday, having made the journey in Sarah’s little blue Fiesta all the way from Colchester (a good 4 hour drive, not including loo stops), and arrived on our doorstep laden with hugs and presents for Samuel. Both their presence and their presents were very much appreciated (see what I did there?).
Of course, because our previously vacant spare room is now a fully occupied nursery, they had booked a few nights at a local B&B (Belfield House, in case you’re interested). Not sure why that’s important, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.
As a matter of fact, very little was ‘done’ during their visit. We didn’t go and see the sights, we didn’t go to the cinema, we didn’t go for a long walk in the countryside. We just sort of sat. And chatted. And that was just fine by us. On the Friday I didn’t see a huge amount of them, in fact, because I was still working, so I left them to it downstairs to chat some more and marvel at the wonderous bundle of joy that is our son. After all, this was the first time they’d actually seen him in the flesh – a Skype video call doesn’t quite mean the same thing as holding him in your arms for real.
AM came with two surprises up her sleeve. First was a taggie blanket. If you’ve not come across them before, you’ve clearly never lived. They’re a simple blanket, except that all around the edge are as many tags as possible. The idea sprung from some bright spark’s observation that little children always seem more interested in the silky label on soft toys than the toys themselves, and exploited the fascination by making something that was more label than toy. Hence the taggie blanket. Of course, Anne-Marie being Anne-Marie, this one was hand-made. Every single tag is made of a different material. Some are narrow, some are wide, some are frilly, some are lacy, some are stretchy, some are stringy, some are silky, some are furry, some are green. Brilliant.
The second surprise we didn’t get until the Friday, because AM hadn’t finished it. Or, rather, she’d almost finished it but hadn’t put it in the frame yet. It’s a beautiful cross-stitched picture of Noah’s Ark, with Samuel’s name written underneath. It’ll look lovely hung on the nursery wall.
We also went round Tesco on the Friday, which is something the four of us haven’t done in years. Causing havoc in a supermarket: Check.
When it comes to local attractions, in all honesty there isn’t a lot to choose from. I guess that’s one of the inevitable downsides to living in the middle of nowhere. So when we took the girls to Wells, it wasn’t much of a surprise that they weren’t exactly bowled over. It is, after all, a far cry from some other cities you could go to. In fact, calling Wells a city is something of a gross over-exaggeration. It’s a small town, but anyone else’s standards. It just happens to be one of the most concentrated areas of civilisation in our rural corner of Somerset. And it has a cathedral to boot. It’s a nice cathedral, though; far bigger and more impressive than you’d expect from such an otherwise miniature town.
So we all hopped in the car and went to Wells. We wandered through town, and I made a point of telling them to take in the sights, just in case they missed them. Through town was just a short walk, and we found ourselves in the famous Wells marketplace, a bustling hive of stall-based commerce. At least, that’s what the locals would have called it. I don’t think AM or Sarah were convinced. It didn’t take long to wander round, and there wasn’t much to hold their attention. I saw some pretty clocks. Sarah found some gaffer tape. Anne-Marie bought a little 2010 diary. And that pretty much exhausted Wells. We did wander round the cathedral for a while though, not all together though because Samuel decided to choose that location as the best for a good scream (maybe he’s got an ear for acoustics).
And when we got back, I fixed Sarah’s car. She’d been on the lookout in Wells for gaffer tape because she had decided she needed to tape up the glove box door to stop it falling open. All the way down from Colchester it had been resting against AM’s shins, which apparently wasn’t all that comfortable. Turns out the hinges were loose, and all they needed was for the screws to be tightened. Gaffer tape may be the solution to all problems, but there are solutions and solutions. We then turned out attention to the screen washers, which were apparently pathetic. Sure enough, the washer tank was empty, so I helped her fill it.
We also checked the oil level, while the bonnet was open. To my horror (which I tried to hide) the engine was empty. Not just sitting on the minimum marker on the dip stick, oh no, this was barely wetting the very end. Not good. How the car survived the journey down, I really don’t know. Then again, the same thing happened with Neddy when I bought him; I drove that Mini all the way from Kent to Essex with no oil in the engine, which isn’t supposed to be possible, and it lived to tell the tale. Clearly, God works miracles even when we don’t realise we should be asking for them. Anyway, we hopped into my car and went to the garage to get some supplies, and came back and filled the Fiesta’s dry engine with several litres of oil. It was a hefty bottle, so there was still some left, which is good because she’ll have some for next time she needs to top up (which hopefully will only be a small amount next time).
And then we said our goodbyes. It had been wonderful to have them to visit. They’d kept us entertained with their banter, they’d all had cuddles with Samuel (despite a growth spurt kicking in as they arrived, which made him a little more grumpy than usual) and watched him having his bath. And on Saturday evening we all exchanged yet more hugs and waved them off; they’d spend the night at the B&B again before heading off back to Colchester in the morning.
So thank you, dear friends and sisters, for keeping us company and making us laugh and sharing our joy and drinking our drinks.