Having managed to drive past one another no less than twice, and her car having missed our rendezvous entirely, I first met Christine ‘For Reals’ in a baking hot, glassed-in bridge over a motorway. We hugged straight away and I shyly said hello to the friend who she’d spent the past couple of days with, then we all giggled as we shared our various stories of how complicated it had been to actually MEET (NB – if you are ‘Murican, don’t try to drive in England. We do it differently. It will confuse the heck outta you).
All the way home, as we nattered, there were surreal moments where we’d sneak a look at each other and screech “I can’t believe this is REALLY HAPPENING!” – I mean, we’ve only been planning this for about a YEAR!
And it really did happen. So here’s the tale you’ve all been waiting for…
It began, as all good, English stories should, with afternoon tea.
We went straight round to Mum and WonderAunty’s house, partly because Christine and WonderAunty have been developing a sweet email friendship (behind my back?!) and because their house has the *perfect* garden to host something like Afternoon Tea. There was much more chattering and comparison of Things English and Things American as I prepared the repast
There were homemade scones and strawberry jam and clotted cream (which, Christine assured me she will tell you is actually VERY yummy, in spite of sounding gross), there were cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off (for tradition’s sake), there was a biiiiiiig china pot of tea, there was Eton Mess (chopped strawberries, whipped cream and crumbled meringue mixed together into a heavenly pink perfection) and to round things off, a large, homemade chocolate cake.
We chatted and I mentioned the beach, and we very suddenly all decided to go there. Christine and I arrived first, having driven through gorgeous early evening sun, and we went for a long, delicious walk of talking and sharing important things and silly things and having absolutely WONDERFUL chats. Then the others turned up and it all dissolved into silliness and paddling in the sea and taking a million photos and laughing and laughing.
On the way back, I drove us in a gorgeous loop through the New Forest National Park, where we saw wild ponies and wild cows (a new concept for C) and the beginnings of sunset and English Gentlemen playing Cricket on a Truly Real Cricket Green in front of a Pavillion (can pretty much guarantee *they* had some kind of strawberries about them, or picnics) and home via a small town absolutely steeped in Old Houses and Beautiful Architecture (and a Maserati garage…).
Then, because it was fun and because pigs and history, I took Christine to my New Favourite Bar – The Pig in the Wall (a sumptuous, eclectically decorated ancient hotel, built into the city walls, where they serve the most DELICIOUS cocktails, and the menus are stuck into pig-rearing books) – where we had cocktails. On empty stomachs.
Apple Bellini for Christine (Sparkling wine and apple puree)
Coconut Daquiri for me (White rum, coconut liqueur and lime juice)
We rolled outta there, too, and walked up through the Old Town under a warm, starry sky, to see some History (her mind was blown because in ‘Murica, y’all just don’t KNOW what something from the 14th Century looks like…well, Christine does now…) and decided that because it had been too late and too early and too complicated for a meal, we should just go for gelato.
It was perfect.
And then after some consternation over her husband’s flights (which caused a huge upset, but got fixed in the wee hours of the morning, when I was still up) Christine went to bed and I stayed up and blogged.
The next day we were both kinda subdued and although we enjoyed further chattering on the way to the airport, that feeling of the beginning of the end was starting to show. That and tiredness, probably.
We parted with a hug and a smile and the wonderful thought that next year I get to visit her.
It was a morose journey home, in spite of all the happiness, because in thinking about my trip to America, and the wonderful friends I’m going to meet for the first time ‘For Reals’, and how much it delighted my heart to meet Christine in person, and how hard it was to say goodbye, I can only assume that my Bloggy Tour of America is going to end in utter heartbreak because I will be leaving behind, perhaps forever, people whom I love very dearly, and by then we’ll have an additional year of friendship under our collective belts.
At that point I *almost* decided that it might be too painful, and maybe I shouldn’t come over after all, but Christine’s Song appeared, as if by magic, on the radio, and I decided that in spite of all the sorrow, it will definitely, definitely be worth it. Just like this was.