I feel a sharp tug on my sleeve as the curtains close and the coffin disappears.
“Have you read the eulogy on the back of the programme?” whispers my wife.
“Can you stop tugging my sleeve?” I ask.
“Sure,” she says, and pokes me hard in the ribs. As a mark of respect, I muffle my shriek of pain. She draws me in close and whispers angrily, “It says, ‘Live everyday. Smile more. Sing. Dance. Be happy’. We should honour her last words by doing something spontaneous. Let’s forget about the kids and just go out and get drunk.”
“But what?” she asks.
“We’re in Watford.”
I immediately try to change her mind, which in itself, is quite spontaneous.
“I think the underlying message of the eulogy,” I say, “is not about spontaneity. It’s about people making more effort to be nice to each other.”
“Bollocks,” she whispers, before adding, “I’ll arrange a babysitter; book a hotel and we’ll go into London for the night and get pissed.”
I’m no fool. She’s arranging a fun night out to annoy me. My wife knows that when I drink booze my feet swell up. I spend most of the night trying to stop her dressing me in sandals so that she can see the swelling in real-time.
We manage to find a vacancy at the Holiday Inn. Luckily, it’s the last room they have available. I drag her suitcase through the lobby. The plastic wheels sound like a train thundering down the tracks as they run over the gaps in the floor tiles. I see my wife holding court with a gaggle of female receptionists. There seems to be some confusion. My wife is gesticulating wildly with her arms and I overhear her say, “They swell up like balloons.” Four receptionists look warily at my feet. One of them waves. I wave back.
We arrive at the room. I try to swipe the key card.
“Let me do it?” she says.
“No. It’s my turn,” I say and keep on swiping. “You can have a go after the next funeral.”
My wife snatches the card, swipes it once and we enter. I flick the kettle on and she starts getting ready.
“Give me an ETA on this. How long are you going to be?” I ask.
“I’m ready. Just doing my hair. Get your jacket on and we’ll get off.” I put my jacket on.
“Ok. I’m on the launch pad. You?”
“Yes. I’m ready,” she snaps, walks purposefully towards me, looks me dead in the eye and says, “Hang on, I’ll just change my shoes.”
Eventually we head into London. The night is a blur. I remember stumbling out of a cocktail club. I also remember strangers asking me how I’d managed to get in to a swanky cocktail club wearing sandals.
I wake up groggy. One hour later, my wife, my headache and my swollen feet head off for breakfast. We leave the room and spill out into a rabbit warren of narrow corridors. I take the lead and wife shuffles behind. Soon, a large gap opens up between us.
“It’s left!” she shouts. “Turn left!”
“No. It’s a right turn to the breakfast room. If I go left, it takes me down to the spa,” I say and look behind me, but she has vanished.
Ten minutes later I arrive at the breakfast bar. My wife is already seated and drinking coffee. A curtain flaps behind her and a waiter scuttles out. He looks at me, coffee ready to pour, and says, “How was the spa?” they both laugh.
“Stop telling the staff about my little quirks,” I say. “There’s a watress over there who looks like she’s out of the loop. Maybe you should tell her about my piles.”
I feel a sharp tug on my sleeve as the curtains close and the coffee man disappears. She draws me in close and whispers angrily, “Don’t look now, but there is an American at the self-service pancake machine. He’s not letting anyone else use it. That’s so rude.” Throughout the rest of the meal my wife stares at the Pancake Man. The tense silence is occasionally broken by my wife whispering, “He’s making another one. The bastard!”
“Stay strong. Remember the eulogy,” I say. “‘Sing. Dance. Be happy’.”
“I’m going in,” she says, “It’s Hammer Time.”
In memory of our dear friend, Carrie. We sang, we danced, we were asked to leave the breakfast bar.