Friday 6 September 2019

The Perfect Wedding

by Dawn Knox



Betty woke early the morning of the wedding.

At last, the day she’d longed for had arrived and the weather looked like it was going to be wonderful.

Everything would be perfect.

The rehearsal in All Saints’ Church the previous evening had gone well although Betty made a mental note to ensure Sydney and Ichabod Bunch, who was going to be giving her away, were to be kept apart. They’d almost come to blows because Sydney hadn’t liked it when Ichabod had taken her arm as he led her up the aisle. 

“You don’t need to maul her,” Sydney had said and it had taken Reverend Forbes-Snell to calm him and explain Ichabod had behaved with propriety, in a way which would make Betty feel at ease.
“You wouldn’t want her to feel nervous, or indeed to trip, would you, Mr Jugg?”

And Sydney had assured the vicar he wouldn’t. 

Betty, still lying in bed, ran through the entire service in her mind and then got up and showered. Florrie and Mary would arrive soon ready for their makeover. Persephone had booked someone who would make the bride and bridesmaids look ‘simply divine’. And shortly after, Ollie, her nephew would come and take the first of the wedding photos.

Betty was impressed when the make-up artist who Persephone had described as having a ‘magical touch’ arrived a few minutes before nine o’clock. At least she was punctual.

“Morning,” she said in a singsong voice when Betty opened the front door, “I’m Bella Carrossetti from Bella’s Beauty Box - Beauty in Basilwade or Wherever You Are. I believe your daughter’s expecting me.”

“My daughter?” Betty asked in surprise.

“Yes,” Bella peered at her from beneath heavy, false eyelashes, “Aren’t you the bride’s mother?”

“No! I’m the bride!”

“Oh, thank goodness for that!” Bella’s thick but perfectly-shaped eyebrows drew together, “I haven’t allowed enough time to make up anyone who’s not on my list today. Right, lead the way. I’ve got another wedding to do at midday.” 

Betty took her to the bedroom where Mary and Florrie were waiting. They both blanched and stiffened when they saw Bella. 

“This is Bella,” Betty said.

“Yes, we’ve already met.” Florrie threw Mary a meaningful glance. 

“Oh yes, I remember you ladies! You ran that knitting club that closed down, didn’t you?” she said to Florrie.

“Florrie still runs a knitting club. It hasn’t closed down,” said Betty.
“Yes, it has!” Florrie and Mary said together.

But Bella was engrossed in taking her makeup and brushes out of the box and arranging them on the dressing table. 

“Who wants to be first?” she asked scrutinising each face in turn, “I usually do the one who’ll take less work first but you all look like you’re going to need my maximum attention.”

“What a rude and tactless woman!” Betty said as soon as Bella had gone.

“I know,” said Florrie, “she came to one of our Knit and Natter sessions in the community hall. That’s why it closed and reopened as Blankets and Blarney in my house.” 

“Still,” said Mary, peering into the dressing table mirror, “she knows her stuff. She’s actually made my hair look quite nice and the concealer she applied has covered most of my freckles.”

Florrie and Betty gazed into the mirror, turning their heads to view themselves from all sides and both nodded with satisfaction. 

“Well, shall we get dressed?” asked Betty, “Harris’ll be here with the car soon, to pick us up.”

Florrie and Betty were too absorbed in their own reflections to notice Mary’s blushes which, whilst muted somewhat by the layers of concealer, still flared brightly, causing her complexion to go a deeper shade of pink than her dress.  

“I’ll go!” Mary said when the doorbell rang. She grabbed the voluminous skirts, ran downstairs and threw open the door.

“Oh!” she said in disappointment. 

“Hello, I’m Oliver Primm. I’ve come to take Auntie Betty’s wedding photos. Is everyone decent?”

“Ah, Ollie!” said Betty from the landing, “Come on up, we’re ready.”

As Oliver galloped upstairs, Mary poked her head around the front door and scanned the empty street. It was much too early for Harris to be there but a girl could hope. With a sigh, she closed the door and went upstairs for the ‘Primping Photos’ as Betty had called them. 

Mary shot downstairs when the bell rang a second time, only to find Persephone and her young son, Ulysses, dressed in a miniature suit with a top hat under his arm. 

The young boy scowled at her, as if daring her to agree with his mother that he was the height of cuteness and that Betty was going to adore him.

“I had no idea he’d look so delectable in top hat and tails,” Persephone said, “I’m thinking of renting him out at the weekends for people’s weddings.”

From the boy’s sulky expression, Mary suspected that was unlikely to happen. 

She’d got to the top of the stairs with the wedding planner and page boy when the doorbell rang again and pointing the way to Betty’s bedroom, she grabbed her skirts and rushed downstairs. Surely this time it would be Harris…

It wasn’t. It was Brenda Baskin with the bride’s bouquet and bridesmaid’s posies which Mary took into the kitchen. She’d just finished standing them in jugs to keep them upright when the doorbell rang again.

It was Ichabod Bunch, dressed in a smart suit, top hat and the capacious, black cape he wore during his shows.

Mary showed him into the front room and made him tea, then after a sneak peek out of the front window to see if Harris had arrived, she went back upstairs. 

When Harris finally knocked, Ichabod Bunch beat Mary to the door. 

“You look beautiful. A real dream,” Harris said as he helped Mary out of the car when they arrived at the church.

“Stop it!” said Florrie, “If you keep making her flush like that, the heat’ll melt her makeup and it’ll all slither off.”

Betty had other things to worry about. “Is he here?” she asked anxiously, “Has Sydney arrived yet?”

“I’ll go and have a look,” said Harris and as he hurried up the path to the church, Mary watched him with adoration in her eyes. 

“What d’you reckon about those two, Ichabod?” Florrie whispered, “Is there another wedding on the cards?” 

“There’s always another wedding on the cards, dear lady,” said Ichabod in an otherworldly voice. 

“Oooh!” said Florrie, staring into his eyes. 

Harris came out of the church and gave the thumbs up sign to Betty, who’d been holding her breath. She sagged with relief. Getting married hadn’t been Sydney’s priority and she’d had to nudge him a bit to get him to propose. Suppose now the big day had come, he’d changed his mind? He could be quite stubborn when he set his mind to it. So, Harris’s signal lifted a great weight. 

‘Shall we?” Ichabod tossed the cape over one shoulder and offering Betty his arm, they walked up the path, followed by Florrie and Mary in their pink dresses, then Ulysses with his hat tucked under his arm, out of which, peeped Wormwoman. Oliver stood to one side, taking photos and Persephone was next to him, hands clasped together – although whether in rapture or supplication, it wasn’t clear. 

“Mum?” Ulysses said pointing to the edge of the churchyard, “Did you order a turkey?”

From behind a large, stone tomb, strutted an enormous bird which appeared to be dragging something behind it. Catching sight of the bridal party, the bird raised its iridescent tail feathers fanning them in an elaborate display and shaking them as if quivering with delight. 

“Persephone!” said Betty, her eyes nearly popping out of their sockets, “How marvellous! Where on earth did you hire a peacock? Oh, you wonderful woman!”

“I…I…” said Persephone, staring at the bird. Then gathering herself, she added, “Oh you know…” 

As if on cue, the peacock joined the end of the line and followed the bridal procession up the path to the church. 

Ichabod opened the door slightly and peeped in to signal to the organist, Mr Sykes, the bride was ready and that he could begin the Bridal Chorus, when Mrs Myers, the churchwarden, rushed over.

“We’re not quite ready,” she whispered.

“It’s Sydney, isn’t it?” Betty squealed, “He’s changed his mind, hasn’t he?”

“Not as far as I know,” Mrs Myers said looking over her shoulder at the bridegroom and best man waiting at the altar, “It’s the vicar.”

“He’s changed his mind?” Betty asked, “Is he allowed to do that?”

“No,” said Mrs Myers, “of course he hasn’t changed his mind about performing the ceremony! He’s just lost his reading glasses, that’s all. He’s gone back to the vicarage to try to find them. Probably just as well or he’ll end up reading the wrong words and performing a baptism or burial. But don’t worry, he shouldn’t be long.”

Betty put her eye to the gap and peered through. Sydney was indeed at the front with Toby, both of them looking very smart in their top hats and tails. 

“Can you see Sebastian?” Florrie asked.

“No. I can’t see Derek either,” said Betty.

“Thank goodness for that!” said Mary, “that man’s a monster.”

“Here, let me look, Betty,” said Florrie, “You’ll mess your headdress up and you don’t want to be seen before your grand entrance.”

They swapped places and Florrie opened the door wider.

Mrs Myers appeared again, “Don’t worry,” she whispered, “Reverend Forbes-Snell won’t be long.”

“We were wondering where the ushers were,” Florrie said, “only we were worried the church would be lopsided with the bride’s family all on one side and only a few of the groom’s family on the other.”

“It looks fairly even to me,” said Mrs Myers, “I’ll go and see the ushers.”

Sebastian appeared at the door a few seconds later.

“Well done!” Florrie said, “where did you manage to get so many people for Sydney’s side of the church?”

“We did the ‘knit one, purl one’ method of seat arrangement,” said Sebastian. 

“What’s that?”

“Sent the first group to the bride’s side and the next to the groom’s and so on.”
“But they’re all muddled!”

Sebastian shrugged, “So what? Most of them didn’t seem to know each other anyway. You were worried about it being wonky – and now it’s not.”

“Well, yes, I suppose so.”

“Anyway, I’ve got to go, I’m teaching Derek how to knit. He’s already checking his watch. If I don’t keep his mind off the time passing, he’ll be outside at the bus stop.”

‘What’s going on?” Betty asked, “Is it all going horribly wrong?”

“No, not at all,” said Florrie, “other than the vicar being late, it all seems to be perfect.”

“Mrs McSquirtle! Mrs McSquirtle! Where are you? I can’t find my reading glasses!” Wilbur Forbes-Snell yelled as loudly as he could. “Dratted woman!” he muttered under his breath, “Oh, Hettie, why did you desert us?” 

“Are you callin’, Reverend?” Mrs McSquirtle said coming out of the kitchen with the tea towel as if he’d caught her in the middle of drying up dishes. She had in fact been searching for the key to the cocktail cabinet where the vicar had taken to hiding the brandy. 

“Yes, Mrs McSquirtle! It’s an emergency! I have a couple waiting for me to perform their wedding ceremony and I can’t find my reading glasses. You don’t know where I left them, do you?”

Mrs McSquirtle placed her hands over her apron pocket, inside which the glasses lay hidden and pretended to consider, “Hmm. They could be anywhere. The last time you lost them they were locked in your desk.”

“Were they? I don’t remember that!” Wilbur took the keys from his pocket.

“Although,” said Mrs McSquirtle you might have left them in the bathroom. Give me the keys and I’ll see. You look upstairs. It’s most likely they’re in your bedroom.” 

“I’ll check my desk, you go upstairs.”

“I would, Reverend, it’s just my shrapnel wound,” she said holding her foot out and wiggling it.

“Oh, all right!” Wilbur said, handing over the bunch and with his robes gathered in one hand, he took the stairs two at a time. 

Mrs McSquirtle was in the dining room before the vicar had reached the top step and she’d opened the cocktail cabinet, removed two bottles of brandy, locked the door and hidden the bottles under the table. 

Then, returning to the hall, she shouted up the stairs, “I’ve found them, Reverend!” And taking the glasses case from her apron pocket, she placed it on the palm of her hand.

“Bless you, Mrs McSquirtle! What would I do without you? I won’t need dinner, by the way, I’ll be at the reception in the church hall,” he said as he took them and rushed back to the church. 

Mrs McSquirtle removed the cocktail cabinet key from the ring and put the bunch on the vicar’s desk in his study. 

Then returning to the cocktail cabinet, she helped herself to a glass of ‘medicinal’ gin and taking the two bottles of brandy from under the table, she went back in the kitchen and hid them under the sink.
She’d forgotten about the wedding. Oh well, there was no point cooking for one – not that she had much in the house anyway and if it was a large wedding, there was bound to be plenty of spare food. She might just wander over later and see if they needed a hand. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d joined the end of a queue for the buffet at a reception in the church hall. But first, she’d have a fortifying glass of ‘medicinal’ brandy. 

Wilbur dashed across the churchyard, his robes flapping, and he arrived at the altar red-cheeked and out of breath.

“So sorry! I do apologise!” he gasped, “Is the bride here?”

Sydney nodded and looked fearfully over his shoulder.

“If you’re havin’ second thoughts, now’s the time to scarper,” Toby said. 

“As best man, you’re supposed support the groom,” said Wilbur, his lips pressed angrily together.

“I am, mate. Trust me, I am supporting him. I’ve been down the aisle three times and wished I’d scarpered before I got to this bit.”

Sydney’s breath came in short, sharp bursts and his eyes swivelled as if looking for escape.

“Although, havin’ said that,” continued Toby, “if I had scarpered, those women would’ve hunted me down and killed me.” He placed his hand on Sydney’s shoulder, “Yes, you’ve let it get this far, so it’s probably best if you carry on.”

“Sydney?” Wilbur pinned him with a hard stare.

Sydney swallowed and nodded.

“Like a lamb to the slaughter,” Toby whispered cheerfully. 

Wilbur cleared his throat and peered over the top of his reading glasses to Mrs Myers at the far end of the church who was waiting to open the door. She nodded, then looked at Mr Sykes seated at the organ with his hands poised over the keyboard, ready to play. She nodded pointedly at him. Then as she stepped forward to open the door, the organ began and familiar notes drifted out into the echoing church. The guests fell silent as everyone swung round to see the bride and her party. 

“Oooh! Doesn’t Betty look beautiful?” said Aunt Edie to the other members of the Willows Retirement Home who Matron had delivered earlier that day in the minibus. She’d not been happy about letting them out of the home but the wedding invitations had seemed genuine. Before she’d let them go, she’d insisted on searching them for spades, shovels or any other digging implements. 

“We’re goin’ to a weddin’, not a do-it-yerself funeral!” Len had complained, “Why would we want spades?”

“I don’t trust you near a graveyard,” Matron said. 

“You were wrong the last time when you thought we were digging up the dead,” said Myrtle, “and you’re wrong now. We went down to Slee-on-Sea to go sailing, not grave-robbing.”

“Oh, don’t think I’m not looking for sailing equipment at the same time as I’m searching for spades,” Matron said. 

“We’re just going to Betty’s weddin’!” Len said, “I don’t know why you have to make everythin’ into a drama, Matron.”

“It’s not me making things into a drama, Len Malone. And I don’t want any of your blue comedy routine performed at the reception! Is that clear?”

“Yes, Matron!” Len said with a salute. 

“Glory be! Is that my Mary?” Mrs Wilson exclaimed, pushing her spectacles further up her nose, “I’ve never seen her look so nice.” She nudged the man next to her and pointed out her daughter. 

“Are you still single? I’ll introduce you after, if you like,” she said. 

“Aah! Look at the funny little page boy!” Myrtle said to Dora, “Have you ever seen such a scowl on a small boy?”

“What’s that following the page boy?” Dora asked.

“It looks like a peacock,” said Len.

“Isn’t it amazing what they can do with animals these days?” Dora said.

“Why, what’ve they done to it?” Dora asked.

“Trained it, of course.”

“Is it real?” Myrtle asked.

“Of course, it’s real,” Dora said, “…Isn’t it?” 

“I wonder if it’ll raise its fan?” Len asked, prodding the feathers with his foot as it passed.

The peacock turned its head, fixed Len with a beady eye, then throwing its head back, it screamed, “Oh-ow! Oh-ow!”

The piercing shrieks soared towards the ceiling, bringing the organ music to an abrupt halt.
For a moment there was silence which was broken only by Charlie Chubb’s high-pitched giggle coming from the vestry where Mrs Myers insisted he remain during services.

As if in answer to Charlie’s laughter, the peacock opened its beak wide and shrieked again.

“What’s going on? Is someone hurt?” Wilbur asked, craning his neck to see around the bridal party who were proceeding up the aisle. 

“It’s a peacock,” Len shouted back although his voice was drowned by the, “Oh-ow! Oh-ow! Oh-ow!” sound which bounced off the walls, then collided with the echoes that reverberated in the rafters. Guests looked around in confusion.

“Somebody get that thing out of here before it deafens us!” Mrs Myers shouted, climbing on a chair with a hymn book in either hand, ready to bat it away should it turn round and go for her.

From the organ loft, Mr Sykes was unable to see what was causing the racket and he stood, enraged that anyone or anything should interrupt his musical flow. He scanned the pews for the noisy offender who was disturbing him, then spotting the peacock, he held up his hands in horror.

“Get that creature out! I’m allergic to birds. Oh, my hands! My hands!” he sobbed although no one heard over the shrieks of the enraged creature. 

“Somebody do something!” Wilbur yelled, grabbing his robes ready to flee should the peacock get as far as the altar.

It was Ulysses who took the initiative by dropping his top hat over the bird’s head. True this did little to calm the peacock which screamed even louder and thrashed about frantically but it muffled the sound slightly and the fact that it could no longer see gave Len the confidence to pick it up, tuck it under his arm like a set of bagpipes and rush outside. With one hand, he whipped off the top hat and with the other, he propelled the peacock away from the church – but not before it had pecked his finger, drawing blood. 

Len swore loudly. Then crossed himself three times. 

He hurried into the church, slammed the door and made his way back to the pew, to the applause of the congregation.

“That was very brave,” said Myrtle.

He sank down on to the pew and held up his hand to show her the peck wound. 

“Matron’s never going to believe I was attacked by a peacock,” he said gloomily, “She’ll probably say it’s the Mark of the Beast.”

“Don’t worry,” said Myrtle, “the photographer got the entire thing on video.”

Wilbur cleared his throat loudly and pointedly. 

The congregation fell silent.

Charlie Chubb continued to giggle hysterically, having disobeyed Mrs Myers orders and opened the vestry door a crack to see what was going on.

Mr Sykes sobbed quietly as his hands swelled up like sausages.

“Dearly beloved…” began Wilbur. 

Oliver Primm was beginning to despair. It was one thing taking photos of the bride and her bridesmaids while they posed in his aunt’s bedroom and quite another attempting to capture the formal family groupings outside the church – which is what most people expected from their wedding photos. Keeping a class of thirty, six-year-olds under control was simple in comparison to positioning the guests in a pleasing and well-balanced arrangement at his aunt’s wedding. 

It was like herding ants. As soon as he took his eyes off anyone, they moved. 

And the hats! So many large, elaborate creations which concealed smaller guests with their lace, feathers and flowers. 

As soon as he’d arranged everyone in an attractive grouping where he could see all faces, someone announced they were off to the toilet. 

The only person who didn’t seem reluctant to be in his photos was a small, barrel-shaped woman dressed in black who he didn’t recognise. She shouldered her way to the front on several of the shots where she smiled, posed and winked for the camera. It was refreshing to find someone who obviously enjoyed being photographed and Oliver, assuming she was a well-loved relative, asked Betty if she’d like him to take a photo of the two of them. 

Betty professed not to know the woman and it was only when Reverend Forbes-Snell caught sight of the small woman who was posing like an Egyptian sand dancer in front of the group, it appeared she wasn’t a guest at all. 

“Mrs McSquirtle! What are you doing?” the vicar had shouted, to which she’d yelled “Peacock!” and pointed towards the wooded area at the edge of the churchyard. In the ensuing chaos, small, plump Mrs McSquirtle had disappeared and it had taken Oliver some time to convince everyone she’d been mistaken about the reappearance of the bird and to get them back into order again. Even worse, he’d hurt his back helping several of Aunt Edie’s friends off the table top tomb which they’d somehow managed to scramble on to, in their efforts to escape the peacock. 

He quickly flicked through the photos he’d taken on his camera, mentally ticking them off the list.
Bride and Groom.
Bride, groom, best man and bridesmaids.
Bride and bridesmaids.

There were a few where he’d have to do a bit of judicious cropping and remove the groom from one of the pictures with photo-editing software. Betty wouldn’t want a reminder of the incident which almost turned into a punch up between Sydney and the esoteric gentleman in the cloak. 

Thankfully, he seemed to have sufficient photos. And it was just as well because most of the guests had lost interest and were now wandering towards the church hall for the reception. 

“Wipe that sour look off your face, Sydney!” Betty whispered to her new husband as he glared at Ichabod who was making a speech. 

“…And, finally, I’d like to toast the newlyweds. I predict much happiness and joy.” He raised his glass, “Let’s drink to Mr and Mrs Jugg.”

“Mr and Mrs Jugg!” 

“You’ll note he didn’t say he predicted we’d have much happiness and joy. He just said he was predicting there would be much happiness and joy. Charlatans like him never come out with anything specific. It’s all sweeping generalisations,” Sydney said to Betty.

“Oh, Sydney, don’t be such a crosspatch! You’re so suspicious! Ichabod was being pleasant. Now, please be nice,” she said as her husband rose to give his speech. 

He stuttered and stumbled his way through his thanks and with a nervous look at Toby he sank back into his seat. Public speaking definitely wasn’t his thing but he knew his brother was more confident than he had a right to be, and guessed Toby wasn’t daunted by the thought of giving a speech. He also suspected he was about to be ridiculed. And if the number of pages Toby was unfolding was anything to go by, his humiliation was going to be prolonged and profound. 

Entries in his Book of Grievances were also going to be prolonged and profound although he’d probably put off doing them until tomorrow. He was sure Betty wouldn’t let him sit up tonight writing until he’d finished recording everything.  

And there was still the indignity of the first waltz to be endured. After that, there wouldn’t be much more to suffer – the wedding would practically be over. Thankfully. 

But in the meantime, he was at Toby’s mercy and there was nothing he could do about it except smile and wait for him to finish.

“…Hold a grudge? Let me tell you, my brother, Sydney’s, won medals for grudge-holding…” 

The guests laughed. 

“Yes,” Toby continued, “I remember when Syd was three—"

“Shpeech!” shouted Mrs McSquirtle banging the handle of her knife against the table and holding up her glass of champagne. 

“I’m doin’ a speech,” said Toby crossly.

“Rightio! Well, now the shpeeches are done, letsh have cake!” she shouted, then fell over sideways.

“Mrs McSquirtle!” said Wilbur, rising from his seat, spotting her scrambling to her feet at the far end of the table and glaring at her, “What on earth are you doing here? Have you been drinking? You can’t simply turn up at a wedding uninvited!”

Sydney saw his opportunity to shut Toby up and he grabbed it. “Don’t worry, Reverend, she has been invited.” 

“Has she?” whispered Betty, “Who is she?”

“She’s my… err… cousin. A distant cousin,” said Sydney loudly, “And she’s got the right idea, let’s cut the cake!”

“I didn’t know she was our cousin! And I ‘aven’t finished my speech!” said Toby. 

Sydney shrugged, raising his hands in a gesture of helplessness, “Oh dear. Never mind. Now, who wants cake?”

The guests cheered.

“Right, let them eat cake!” said Sydney cheerfully, grabbing Betty’s hand and leading her to the three-tiered chocolate gateau. 

Oliver took a series of photos of the bride and groom, starting with their hands on the large, silver knife with its tip poised over the chocolate icing, and finally, the blade buried to its hilt. As he checked each one, he noticed the small, round woman, who was apparently Sydney’s distant cousin somewhere in the photo behind the newlyweds. More photo-editing, he thought with a sigh although perhaps he’d leave her in the photos. She added a bit of interest, especially when she struck that Egyptian sand dancer pose although her attempt at crowd surfing had fallen rather flat. Literally.

It appeared that lying horizontally whilst being passed from hand to hand over the heads of a crowd wasn’t a concept most of the guests at the wedding were acquainted with and when the small, rotund woman had swallow-dived onto a group of them, they’d not been prepared. Or perhaps she hadn’t been crowd-surfing at all. Some said she’d simply climbed up the DJ’s stack of speakers and had toppled off.  Luckily, no one had been hurt. 

As soon as the food had been cleared away, the dancing had started, beginning with Betty and Sydney’s waltz. Oliver made sure he had plenty of shots of that and then his colleagues, Laetitia Gibbons and Ruth Abraham, had led the line dancing. He’d not forgiven them for that embarrassing evening he’d spent with headteacher, Miss Skate but he had to admit, for old dears, Laetitia and Ruth were pretty nimble on their feet and he made sure he had a range of photos of them with the guests trying hard to follow the steps. 

And then, just as his camera battery was about to run out, the bride and groom thanked everyone for coming and the evening wound up. 

He was packing away his camera, when that nice usher, Sebastian, had suggested they meet up for a drink in the Petulant Partridge the following week. 

Now, to go home and download everything off his camera. 

“So, if this marriage doesn’t work out, can I get my money back?” Sydney asked as they sat at their kitchen table after the reception.

“What!” Betty spluttered, spilling her tea.

“Only joking!”

“I should hope so too, Sydney Jugg!”

He smiled at her and patted her hand, “You know, Mrs Jugg, that wasn’t such a bad day, was it?”

She returned his smile, “It certainly had its moments!”

“I know! I hope that wretched wedding planner doesn’t charge you for the peacock! Although it was rather entertaining! Especially when Len Malone tucked it under his arm and ran outside with it like he was playing rugby although I thought Matron was a bit harsh when she came to pick the residents up.”

“There was no need for her to frisk all the Willows residents before she let them on the minibus.”

“It’s a shame those two old people got locked in the broom cupboard,” said Sydney, “It’s lucky they didn’t have heart attacks, getting stuck in a confined space at their age. I wonder how it happened?”

“Oh, don’t worry about Dora and Rex, they’re used to it. They spend a lot of time in broom cupboards.”

“Why? Are they obsessed with cleanliness?”

“I wouldn’t say so,” said Betty, “it’s more of a… erm hobby.” She quickly changed the subject, “Wasn’t it nice that Mary and the chauffeur seemed to be getting on. Mrs Wilson was overjoyed. She cornered the churchwarden and provisionally booked All Saints’ for a wedding next April. But it’s best we don’t tell Mary that.”

“My cousin, Derek, and Florrie seemed to be getting on well too. He was still at the reception chatting to her, long after the last bus had gone.”

“Your other cousin, Mrs McSquirtle’s, a character. I can’t believe you’ve never mentioned her before. She’s quite a livewire.”

“Hmm,” said Sydney vaguely. 

“I wonder where the peacock went. Someone said it was only calling out like that because it was looking for its mate. I hope he finally found her,” she said squeezing Sydney’s hand.

“I expect he did. Basilwade’s not a very large place.”

“Mmm. Not very large, no. But I love living here. It’s a friendly town, isn’t it? People meet people and become friends and then through them, they find more friends until they’re all friends together…”

Sydney tipped his head to one side as if considering the matter.

“I mean,” continued Betty, “it’s like Basilwade is a place where a giant hand dropped a bag of magnetic balls.”

Sydney considered this in silence for a moment. “Is it?” he asked, finally.



“Well, the balls would roll all over the place but gradually, they’d join up into pairs and then into small groups until the whole lot was stuck together in one lump.”

Sydney considered again. 

He tried his best, imagining magnetic balls rolling through the streets of Basilwade but it was no good, he didn’t have a clue what Betty was talking about. And anyway, if magnetic balls had been in a bag, wouldn’t they all be stuck together? When the giant hand dropped them over the town centre, wouldn’t they simply have caused a crater? Obviously not in the world Betty was imagining.

“Jolly good,” he said finally, hoping that Betty would be satisfied with that. This, he told himself, is the mysterious nature of marriage. There would probably be lots of times in the future when life would become unfathomable and he’d just have to find strategies to cope. Perhaps diversionary tactics would work. 

“So, are you going to make a full English breakfast tomorrow, Mrs Jugg?” he asked wearing what he hoped was his most winning smile.

Links to previous stories in the series:
1) A Question of Timing:
2) In MaryWorld:
3) Knit and Natter:
4) Mint Pink:
5) Sydney Jugg’s Book of Grievances:
6) Is there Anybody There?: 
7) Going Freelance: 
8) So App-ealing:
9) No Saints at All Saints’:
10) A Meal of Biblical Proportions
11) It is Better to Give than to Receive 
12) Superhero Worship
13) Playground Justice
14) Politically Correct at Christmas
15) The Life Coach
16) The Hen Night
17) The Stag Do

About the author 

Dawn’s first success was with a short horror story published in a charity anthology entitled Shrouded by Darkness in 2006. 
Several years later, she had a Young Adult book (Daffodil and the Thin Place) and a single author anthology of speculative fiction stories (Extraordinary), published as well as several historical romances, set mainly during and between the two world wars.  
She has written two plays about the First World War, one of which commemorated the beginning of the war and was first performed in England in 2014 and then in France and Germany. The other play commemorated the end of the war and was performed in England in 2018 and in Germany 2019. 
Using her World War One research, she has also written a book entitled The Great War – One Hundred Stories of One Hundred Words Honouring Those Who Lived and Died One Hundred Years Ago.

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