The Spring Fair started a week late in Fordham this year. A mark of respect for the Death of our longest serving Mayor Allan Moss. When the vans and lorries carrying the stalls and rides started arriving in Long Marsh Field, the children began to get very excited and there was little else they wanted to talk about. Luckily it coincided with a late Easter so the half term would still be around the same time as the Fair. Something that has been worrying the kids for days. I had only been teaching at St. Claire’s since last year and hadn’t been to one of the Spring Fairs before, having missed my first one by just a few days but for some reason it provoked more excitement and gossip, more flushed faces and longing than Easter, Birthdays and the Summer Holidays. Only Halloween and Christmas were more readily and eagerly awaited.
Dave Lewis from the only Garage and Taxi company in the village had asked me to go with him. We had been for a drink together not long after I moved here and several dates since, to the only two restaurants in town and drinks in each of the pubs at the four compass points at the crossroads side of the village. The Hart, The Lost Lamb, The Pig and whistle, known as the ‘The Pig’ and The Shepherd’s Crook. Although I was greeted quite warmly upon my arrival, young Teacher and all that, new blood, they kept saying, I wasn’t really accepted, I felt, until Dave and I started ‘stepping out’ together.
I had only been in Fordham for a few days when I noticed the brakes felt a little soft on my old Peugeot. Dave was the only person at the Garage and told me I needed new shoes but that I got a new arrival and Teachers discount. When he smiled he had little crinkles at the edges of clear blue eyes and a warm red mouth. He needed a shave and a meal, he looked skinny in his overalls. It was only later that week when we met for a drink did I realise his overalls were just too big for him and he was actually in amazing shape. We chatted easily, he told me how he had taken over the Garage after his Father passed and he and his brother and a distant cousin now ran it alongside a taxi company, mostly serving holiday makers getting back from the pubs in the village to the local B&B’s and campsites. His company was… restful. After so long in London surrounded by men who just wanted to talk about their own importance/artistic vision/how they alone saw the ‘real world’, It was nice to actually met someone who didn’t use the time that I was speaking to think about what they were going to say next. I told him about my Fathers fatal heart attack when I was 11 and how we lost my sister in the now famous, or infamous coach crash in France in ’89, which killed almost 30 kids on a School trip. My Mother’s stroke which really saved her life in a way and kickstarted her new life in Florida with my Step-Father Kyle.
Before long we were ‘stepping out’ three or four times a week. I had sunday lunch with his family twice a month, they were warm and so welcoming, his Brother was a total clown, seeming never to take anything seriously but in private was really very astute and intelligent. His mother was the epitome of ‘a Village Mum’. Plump and a great cook, warm, friendly, slightly too fond of sherry and naughty puns and dropping hints about Grandchildren with the subtlety of Silent movie pianos. I adored her.
We missed the first day of the Fair as Dave’s Mum had a Hospital appointment at St Agnes’ in Wendsfield, I offered to go with them but he wouldn’t hear of it. So on the Saturday, the sort of ‘official’ First day, even though the rides were open on the Friday, Me, Dave, Col, Dave’s Mum and Bill , his brother and his Girlfriend June stood on the sunny side of Long Road and watched the parade. My cynical London friends would have made nasty remarks and ruined the whole thing for me but when Dave slipped his hand into mine I felt a flush of warmth rush through me and looked up at him and smiled. I never thought of myself as one of those women but Dave was taller than me with broad shoulders, a hairy chest and always smelled of clean skin. No moisturisers or aftershaves. No hair products or lotions. Don’t get me wrong he is no Neanderthal. He is sensitive and articulate and… I think I fell for him the day we were at my little cottage watching Amelie. He had never seen it but we watched it without subtitles, I didn’t even know he spoke French and at the end as they ride off on Nino’s scooter a little tear rolled down his cheek. That was the first night we spent together, after we had… after we made love, we sat up in bed drinking tea and eating cheese on toast. I had never known such warm calm.
At the fair we held hands to the smiles of almost everyone in the Village and the jealous glances of one or two women who would have stabbed me to be in my place. At about 10pm Col said she was ‘pooped’ and was going to catch up with the girls for a nightcap at The Hart. By general consent we all agreed it was a better plan than watching teenage fumblings on the dodgems and behind hot dog stands. Dave and Bill brought over trays of drinks while June and I talked about driving up to London for a day’s shopping. It was all so silly and girly and well, fun, planning a shopping trip. June and I had grown very close over the last few months and I realised my initial assessment of her as a ‘village girl’ was just as wrong as my thinking that Bill was just a clown. She was smart and being the only girl in a family of 5 brothers made her tough and independent. I was halfway through telling her about which shops I thought she would like when she started grinning and her eyes seemed to sparkle, like the light was bouncing off them.
When I turned Dave was on one knee with a little box in his hand. His Mother was sat with her hands clasped to her chest, grinning like the proverbial Cheshire Cat.
Me Dave and our five year old son, Ben, named after my Father were standing outside The Hart waiting for the parade. I hear Ben shout “Nama!” Before I see our new Mayoress Colleen Lewis emerge from the crowd, waving and shaking hands. She grins unapologetically as she lifts Ben down from Daves’ shoulders and hugs him. “Ooooh! How is my best boy?” “Nama smells like booze!” Ben says giggling. Col looks about in comic surprise. “I had two, you grass!.” And hands him some lollipops. She kisses Dave on the cheek and strokes my hair before she puts her hand on my tummy. “Sorry. I always hated it when old ladies did this.” I put my hand over hers. “I don’t mind Col.”
The wedding was small but perfect. We didn’t want all the traditions and pomp. Everyone just wore their ‘Sunday’s’ and I wore a cream silk dress June and I found in a Vintage shop in Birmingham. The Pig has a big room out off the main bar and a few rooms for out of towners. My Mum and Kyle flew in from Miami and were treated like visiting dignitaries. It was the most stress free wedding I have ever been to. And I was the Bride! Our Honeymoon was two weeks in Canada, someplace we had both always wanted to go. I can honestly say I have never been happier. Of course we row, we don’t agree, we are both too messy for the other and we nearly killed each other when I was pregnant. But I love him. It’s just that simple. He is the first person I want to see in the morning and the last person I want to say goodnight to. When I was pregnant we said we didn’t want to know. We wanted it to be a surprise but a junior Doctor let it slip without realising we didn’t know. On the drive home from St. Agnes’ Dave reached over and took my hand and said. “What about Ben, for your Dad?” I cried for the last twenty miles and when we got home Dave made me a sausage sandwich and I fell asleep in his lap.
Col is still stroking my slightly expanding bump. I smile at her as Dave takes Ben off to use the loo. It’s only then I notice that she has tears in her eyes. “Oh God Col, what’s wrong?” She rubs her hand across her eyes. “Oh nothing Love. I’m just a silly old woman. It’s just… You make him so happy. You gave us Ben and now another on the way.” Here tears are now flowing unchecked. “I always thought.. After Dave and Bill’s Dad passed away… I just worried about them so. And look at them now. And you and…” I pass her my hanky. I can’t help myself. “It’s a Girl. We were thinking Lilly, after your Mum.”
The following Sunday Me, Dave, Ben, Col, Bill and his new fiance June, Mr Shepherd, Col’s new beau from the planning office and Maud who lives alone down the road are halfway through dinner when Bill stands to make a toast. “Mum, everyone. June and I have set a date. So keep the last Sat In May free. We are getting married.” There are hugs and cheers and Col breaks out a bottle of Cava. I say no and so does June with a slight wink to just me.
When I was a little girl I used to read stories about big families and their ups and downs and celebrations and woes and I thought I would trade everything I have to be part of a big Family. Sure it isn’t all honey and roses, we fight and fall out and make up and go shopping and laugh and cry and watch soaps (My Mother would be horrified) and go to pub quizzes and gossip and just live. But I come home to Dave and Ben and Lily. Nothing else matters.
I’m standing by the sink drinking coffee watching Ben try to teach Lily how to teach Scooter the dog to fetch sticks, even though Scooter is ignoring them both, he only responds to Dave, when the man himself puts his arms around my waist. “Mum says she’ll have the kids tomorrow night, the whole weekend if we like. I thought we could drive up to Foldcester and stay at that B&B you like?” I put my arms over his and feel the heat rising through his Tshirt. “Or we could stay here and just pretend we went away?” He pulls me just a little bit closer. and starts to kiss my neck. “Urgh! Gross” announces Ben as he crashes through the doorway with Lilly in tow. I laugh and hand out wet wipes. “Lunch in five.”
My Boys and my little Girl are all eating soup and Dave’s latest batch of homemade bread and talking and eating and laughing and I can’t help but smile.