Preparations for the barn were drawing to a head. All the shopping was done. The guests had been allocated to drivers, to cars. I knew who was bringing what games, and roughly what the plans were for food. Now it was time to get cooking. The menu consisted of bean chilli, and spaghetti Bolognese. For 25. Yikes!
Woody arrived, and got stuck into his work like a legend. He made the meal in kilo batches, which we then transplanted to larger vessels for storage. Shortly afterwards Laura arrived to collect her boots.
“Sweetheart, would you mind taking me to the shops? I need to buy as many baguettes as I can.”
“Of course not.” She grinned. “Come on then, get in.”
Bruce had borrowed two massive pans from Sand Bar, which were more than large enough. “It’s humbling,” said Woody (who is rarely humbled), “when four kilos of mince, twelve tins of tomatoes, and all of the other ingredients – three hours of cooking – when you do all of that, and it only comes a couple of inches up the pan… I’m done.” It smelt amazing, especially with my smoke-free, newly sensitive nose. It was a titanic performance on Tom’s part. The bean chilli was much easier to prepare, chop, chop, chop and then drop it all in.
We loaded Pippa’s car, but the boot wouldn’t shut. The catch wasn’t catching. Shit. A hiccup? At the last minute? Just what we didn’t need. Pippa called her dad. Bruce and I fiddled. No joy. “Dey-yere!” A deep voice called out. “Dey-yere!” It was coming from the mouth of what seemed to be an old bluesman, a black man who was sixty if he was a day, from the builders’ van next door. “Dey-yere!” he got out, and pointed at one of the massive pans. He pushed the pan an inch further into the car, and closed the book. It clunked shut. “Dere.” He smiled a gappy smile. We smiled back. Then we got into the car, tuned into Rock Radio, and started to drive.
Laura’s present was, she’d said, to be opened as soon as I got to the barn, but we agreed I could open it when I got into the car. It was this: