December 3rd, 2019

Vernon Coleman

You cannot deliberately create special or memorable days. They usually just happen. Serendipity rules. But with a little thoughtful planning it is possible to manage the circumstances so that a day has a greater chance of being special and I like to think that our plans for today played a small part in making it one of those days we will both remember for ever. But the biggest influence, of course, was God.

For a start, God was kind to us.

We went to Bicton Park and He gave us one of those gloriously sunny, crisp winter days which are perfect for walking in the countryside.

Since it was a trifle chilly to eat outside (even for us) we decided to eat our picnic in the car. I had asked for marmalade sandwiches and a small flask of lapsang souchong tea. Antoinette made the sandwiches and put them in a small brown paper bag upon which she wrote `Paddington Bear’. I always refer to Lapsang souchong as bonfire tea because the smell reminds me of bonfires. I decided today that no drink works better in a hot flask.

Then we went to St Mary’s church which was, as it usually seems to be, quite deserted. It was colder inside the church than it was outside, but that didn’t matter. We read the Prayer of Thanksgiving which I had written and I gave Antoinette an eternity ring, as a commemorative symbol of our first 20 years together and a haiku which I had written:

Music, toys and cards
Give smiles and joy, no question
Love’s the gift forever

We then left, before we froze, and put £10 each into the donation box by the door as a `thank you’ for the loan of the church. Our next important anniversary will be our 25th. I pray God is kind enough to take us there and to give us a similarly joyful day.

And then we set off to wander around Bicton Park.

The first thing we saw was a pair of robins. As Antoinette pointed out, you don’t usually see two robins together in December. These two, presumably a pair, were the best of chums. And then, a minute later, we spotted two Red Admiral butterflies sunning themselves on the bark of a huge oak tree. You don’t usually see butterflies out and about in December either. Moreover, these didn’t have that battered look that seems common among winter butterflies. These looked fresh and full of colour and life.

And then we walked.

If you like trees, which we do, there is no better place in England to see them than Bicton Park which has a magnificent collection of the biggest and the oldest trees anywhere. The Park was almost deserted but seemed alive with squirrels enjoying a veritable feast of acorns and beech nuts. It was good to see that the squirrels there are left untroubled. Other woodland owners, more barbaric, slaughter them, in barbaric fashion, in order, I suspect, to encourage the introduction of red squirrels which are seen as commercially more attractive.

Afterwards we bought a huge artificial snowman in the gift shop.

And then we went home.

On the way Antoinette remembered that she was due to pick up a prescription for the tamoxifen she takes to stop her breast cancer spreading. She had put in a request ten days earlier and it usually takes the best part of two weeks for the system to turn a prescription into a bottle of medicine in a paper bag but we thought we’d try. And to our amazement the pharmacy had the medicine. A small miracle to complete the day.

In the evening I lit a roaring log fire starring branches of a silver birch which had died, and we watched John Ford’s `The Quiet Man’ starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara - surely one of the most romantic films ever made. Tomorrow we will watch `The Thin Man’, with William Powell and Myrna Loy. Yesterday evening we watched `African Queen’ with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. Those are, I think, the three most romantic movies ever made.

What a simple, joyous day. What a memory. In my experience the very best days are so often simple and uncomplicated.

It’s when people try too hard that things go wrong. We had a relatively short journey and there were just the two of us. We had no complicated restaurant or hotel booking to worry about.

And, whatever Mr Dawkins and company might say, you need to have God on your side, of course.

Copyright Vernon Coleman December 2019