Thursday 11 July 2024

Alice and a Love Story by Judith Skilleter, tumeric tea

Alice is thoroughly fed up with other people’s hen parties and weddings. She has been to a number, more than she can remember, over the past fifteen years and is horrified at how much she has had to dip into her savings in order to attend other people’s events. Some of the hen parties have been where she has been matron of honour for the upcoming wedding and in these cases a lot of the financial responsibility has fallen onto Alice’s shoulders. Alice is a romantic and to her mind love and marriage is more than extravagance and excess.

Alice has yet to have a hen party or wedding of her own and that suits her just fine. She has had a number of boyfriends over the years but never one she could commit her life to or indeed share her flat with. She loves her independent if not solitary existence. She owns her own flat and it is like a comfort blanket that surrounds her with warmth and security; she loves coming home after work to find everything in the same place and evenings and weekends where she potters are something she would not want to give up. Nevertheless, she has lots of friends who are less solitary and invite her to their various matrimonial events which she always enjoys but she wishes they could be less expensive. For heaven’s sake, you could afford a deposit on a house and more with what it costs to have a hen party and wedding, not forgetting the stag do. And what Alice finds very sad is that each event has to out-do the previous event so even more money is, in her opinion, wasted,

The best hen party was her pal Nell’s – two days and a night in Edinburgh for six close friends. There were no T-shirts announcing the event to all and sundry, no daft hats, no balloons and none of those childish things that you blow and they unfold noisily annoying everybody nearby. They had caught an early train and enjoyed a late breakfast with prosecco at Valvona and Crolla, a famous shop and delicatessen. They then went their separate ways - two to the zoo, two shopping and Alice and Nell to the National Gallery of Scotland – until afternoon tea. This was enjoyed with more prosecco in the posh hotel where they were staying and where JK Rowling finished the Harry Potter series.  Then out for dinner after which they danced the night away until 11.30 in a night club.  They were too tired to dance beyond 11.30; it had been a long day. Next day the six went to see the Royal Yacht Britannia at Leith, had a lovely lunch and then the train home.

It had been the perfect hen party. Much better than the drink laced hen parties that she remembers and shudders at the memories. At one hen party the bride-to-be fell in love with another girl, came home and cancelled all the wedding arrangements and went to live with her new girlfriend in Madrid. They have now been together for ten years and have two adopted children. At another party, in Prague, a fellow bridesmaid fell and broke her ankle, (Prague is just too cobbley) and it was Alice who spent most of the weekend in a Czech hospital with her. It had rained, monsoon like rain, for all of the Milan hen party. And the hen party in Split must have been prophetic as six months after the very extravagant wedding with string quartets and all sorts the happy couple decided they were unhappy and split

When she is not organising or attending hen parties and weddings Alice works as a librarian at her local university and all day she is working with important academic books and journals. Alice loves her job and she loves the invisible absorption of facts and figures for which she has no understanding whatsoever but she reckons it makes her more than ready for a high level pub quiz- no knowledge is wasted knowledge. Her job involves ensuring that the books needed for the university courses are up to date, well stocked and, if borrowed, returned on time. Alice enjoys romantic fiction, not bodice-rippers, but well-written love stories. After a day working with heavy academic and often technical books she needs to find a balance somewhere and she finds this with romantic fiction.

Her favourite book is Love Story by Erich Segal, first published by Hodder in 1970, and Alice has her mother’s much read and much sellotaped copy. She loves this book despite the sad ending. It has everything – parental disapproval, parental control, class divisions, the importance of money, poetry and love that overcomes all these and many other hurdles apart from illness and death. When Alice is ill and has to spend a few days at home,  the Love Story book and film are her go-to help every time and they always aid recovery. She adores them both and could probably remember every word spoken in the film by every cast member.

One day she was in the library sorting out books for the Theoretical Physics degree a student came up to her desk and asked “ Do you have the Waning of the Middle Ages?”

Alice replied “Do you have your own library?”

The student looked baffled, and looked around as if to check where he was “But this is my library” he said.

At this Alice burst into laughter and said “I’m so sorry, of course it is your library, I will see if we have it and if not we can borrow it for you.”

She went on “I was miles away and what you said to me were the first words between Oliver Barrett IV and Jennifer Cavilleri in my favourite book, Love Story. I’m really am sorry?

“So what happened to them?” asked the student.

“Oh, the usual, they fall in love, they marry and she dies.”

“Oh, I’m called Oliver, at least it is my surname. I’m Philip Oliver”

“Now that is spooky, Jennifer’s dad, a baker, is called Philip”.

All this time Alice had been tapping away at her computer “Found it, your book will be here on Monday Mr Oliver. Best if you come in after lunch as deliveries are usually late morning.”

“Thank you. What happened after their first words, in your favourite book that is?” asked Philip Oliver.

“They go for coffee”

“OK when is your break on Monday, Let is continue this spookiness.”

“That would be very nice Mr Oliver, thank you. Say 2pm Monday?”

“Please call me Phil. What is your name?


“See you then Alice.” Philip Oliver then smiled at Alice and left the desk.

What have I done?” thought Alice to herself as she returned to Theoretical Physics.

Phil and Alice dated and fell in love and were married six months later. She did not have a hen party – no matching T-shirts and no hats, but she and her pal Nell had a spa day together. Neither did she have a huge event wedding. It was just Alice and Phil, immediate family and close friends. It was a registry office wedding where Phil had prepared a few words to make it more personal and where, of course, Alice recited a few lines from Walt Whitman’s Song of the Open Road, which had been spoken by Oliver Barrett IV in Love Story.

…. I give you my hand!

I give you my love more precious than money,

I give you myself before preaching or law;

Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me?

Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

And they did, and, unlike Jennifer Cavilleri, Alice didn’t die.

(With huge thanks to Erich Segal and Walt Whitman)


About the author


Judith Skilleter is new to writing fiction after a long career in social work and teaching. Her first children's novel The April Rebellion, has recently been published. Judith is a Geordie, who settled in East Yorkshire forty-five years ago and is married with four grandchildren. 

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