Twenty seven years ago today the pre Union Homestead union of The Milk Maid and The Bean Counter was made official making today a thing we, as a couple, are not particularly gifted in the art of celebrating: an anniversary.
It’s not like we didn’t want to be like our contemporaries and mark this momentous occasion in the time accepted, late ’80’s, kiwi couple way (soppy cards written by someone unknown to us both who pens those horrendous rhymes for a living, a bunch of flowers delivered to the workplace, and gifts based on some list everyone else seemed to know by heart), we were simply unable to. Something in our couple-psyche made the whole deal impossible; we just couldn’t keep from giggling at the cards, blanching at the cost of floral tributes plus delivery, and becoming indignant at the whole predetermined gift theme thing.
Fate also had its part to play in derailing things.
Our first anniversary was celebrated, and we use that term loosely, with a 20p bag of candyfloss and a couple of mugs of instant coffee. Two weeks into our big OE, we were living in a caravan in the backyard of a family friend in a Whitley Bay, Northumberland waiting for our hard earned savings to arrive and the adventure to begin. This was still the era of travellers cheques and telegraphic transfers, a supposed 24 hour process. However four days into waiting, we were still getting an emphatic shake of the head from the lovely folk at the bank. As the days marched by and our desperation became more apparent, the bank staff’s demeanor underwent a process of change: brisk impersonal to impatience, exasperation, slight embarrassment until, on the fifth day (anniversary day), The Milk Maid cried. Like a magical key, those tears unlocked Action (with a capital A). London was rung and those lofty folk confirmed that our funds had indeed arrived four days earlier and were currently “in transit”. In transit? Yes, a cheque payable to the stipulated bank account had been drawn up, signed, placed in an envelope and posted to, first, Newcastle and then on to our wee branch.
“Can you come back here tomorrow? Say 10am?” the poor man relaying this information asked us. We pointed out that tomorrow was Saturday, a fact he assured us he was aware of. As we walked towards the bank the following day we could see it was firmly closed. Was he having us on? No, there he was, almost unrecognisable in his civvies, getting out of a slightly battered Austin Princess. In short, he handed us an envelope containing a hundred pound in cash, told us to go and enjoy our weekend and he’d sort it out on Monday. We had a lovely weekend in Carlisle courtesy (we think, but it was never properly explained) of the social club of the Monkseaton branch of Lloyds Bank. This is a story that gets funnier the further away we get from the experience.
We only tried one more year and then gave up for good. The flash, expensive Italian restaurant in downtown Christchurch took our booking for a table for two celebrating an anniversary with enthusiasm. What they neglected to mention was the remainder of the restaurant was booked out for the pre-Christmas knees up of a renown, leery media organisation – okay, it was Television New Zealand. Even the guy with a violin playing (for some inexplicable reason) Lady of Spain, a free rose and box of chocolates didn’t redeem an evening spent watching inebriated minor celebrities dropping their trousers.
Tonight things are continuing according to tradition. A text from The Bean Counter talks of a day turning to custard and outlining a collection of medium sized disasters sure to delay his departure homeward.
“How bout I pick up fish and chips on the way home?” he concludes.
Sounds damn near perfect.