You may have observed my disappointment at Gill not attending the party and therefore not being able to present her with the Beatles photograph. When I got home that night I saw an email from her which she'd sent on Saturday morning. (I didn't check the mail, having many other things on my mind). She had injured her back moving furniture for her daughter and was unable to drive - but she would do the utmost to get to the do. Unfortunately she couldn't make it.
Nigel and I felt in those circumstances that we should take the picture to her. I phoned and arranged a date and time.
So a couple of days later, SatNav tuned in, we set off for Snarestone.
I've never been on a drive with Nigel before and I wondered how two hours (four if you count the return journey) in his company would go. Would there be periods of silence wherein each of us would be thinking of something to say?
I needn't have worried, of course, because in the brief opportunities afforded me by Nigel having to draw breath I managed to get a few words in edgeways - most of which either went in one ear and out the other or over his head altogether.
We finally arrived in the village, with my ears ringing, but the house wasn't where it was supposed to be. The lane was dotted with cottages and country houses and appeared to be in no particular order. We drove up and down but the numbers just disappeared. So we drove to roughly where we guessed it would be and stopped. Nigel did the decent thing and let me get out and knock on any door to make enquiries. Just as I was rounding the car, Gill rushes out the front door, throws her arms around me and gives me a big smacker on the cheek. (Hard luck, Marland, that's what you get for being feckless).
We were invited into the house and introduced to David, her husband, who also made us feel very welcome. There was a delicious aroma emanating from the Aga and I secretly hoped we were on the guest list of diners that lunchtime. David then tactfully got on with his work around the garden as I suppose he knew we had loads and loads to talk about.
Ice cold bottles of beer then appeared followed by that satisfying sound of clink, pop and hiss of caps being prised off - the sound of which I shall never tire. Sadly, since I was driving, I had to be content with just the aural stimulation which meant, consequently, that Marland would be able to guzzle twice as much! You won't be surprised to learn that I wasn't disabused of that conclusion.
We sat down and talked....and talked. Throughout this Gill would get up and open the oven door to see how the pork joint (as we then discovered) was doing. After several such inspections she extracted it, sizzling and spitting, and began to carve.
Yes it WAS for us - I was salivating already. Having declined the full Monty of vegetables in favour of sandwiches (Marland gave me a dirty look) we sat down to eat. It just had to be the best pork I have ever eaten. The reason, I found out, was that David was a major player in the pork industry and a master butcher to boot. Nice one, David.
Then came time for the presentation of the photograph. Gill was visibly moved, as she had been all afternoon, try hard as she might to conceal her emotions. She then related the story of that evening, all those years ago.
The afternoon passed all too quickly and it was time to return home. We all promised to keep in touch - a promise we hope we will not break.
Oh, I almost forgot, one final note - at some point during the afternoon Marland produces his reunion poster as if by magic out of nowhere and asks Gill to sign it. He bloody kept that quiet. Now he has a truly unique poster - the ONLY one with a complete set of signatures.
The Long and Winding Road.
Like a cat who's got the cream.
Marland's schoolboy dream finally becomes a reality
David and Gill