“The Captain’s Daughter” is a romantic comedy centred round a television series in production. Possibly for anyone else a fellowship at London University entailing a sociological study of the dynamics of a workplace group would not result in a masquerade as the 21st-century Marilyn Monroe, darling of the tabloids, and singing, tap-dancing telly actress—but Rosie Marshall from Sydney, Australia, isn’t anyone else! Five-foot-two, all curves in the right places, a pearly-pink skin topped by a mop of blonde curls, and an incurably optimistic temperament.

By turns giggling madly or bawling her eyes out, the unquenchable Rosie stumbles from crisis to crisis, trying to conceal that the fact that she’s actually doing the telly stuff for her research, falling completely, but apparently hopelessly, for a dishy but much older and very up-market real Royal Navy captain, falling into bed with a dishy British actor…

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Episode 18: It's A Wrap



Episode 18: It’s A Wrap

    The algebra’s hash is soon settled. And she does actually understand, she finishes the rest of the sums all by herself and gets them all right. John’s starving so after he’s had a shower and changed we’ll have a nice hot lunch. When he comes back down to the kitchen, smelling of his sandalwood soap, in his big navy Navy jumper and the navy cords, mmm, she explains that it’s going to be some of the meat curry I made yesterday.
    His shoulders shake. “Rosie did?”
    “Not really, I just did what she said.”
    Those blue eyes are twinkling like mad. “That I can believe!”
    “I think she took it in, though,” says Imelda seriously.
    The mouth does that thing. “Mm. Good show.”
    “You better cook the rice, Imelda,” I say uneasily, getting it out.
    “Yes.” She takes it off me firmly. “You wouldn’t think a person could ruin rice, would you?” she says to John.
    “I think I would, Imelda,” he murmurs. He watches with interest as she cooks it, using her mum’s best tricks. “You could do that, Rosie.”
    “No, I couldn’t. Or can’t, she’s tried me on it.”
    “It’s beautifully dry and fluffy,” he approves, testing it.
    “Yeah, that was one of the bits I got wrong.”
    His shoulders shake. “Mm. Sherry, darling?”
    I’d actually forgotten there was grog in the house, cripes, it musta been a week and a half.
    “No,” says Imelda immediately.
    Uh—oh. Widely reputed in popular mythology not to pass the placenta though it is—er—no. “Um, no, I won’t, ta.” Unfortunately I’ve gone very red.
    He raises his eyebrows slightly but ambles out to get himself one. Bummer, it’ll be that dry stuff he got through Seve, once you get used to the fact it bears no resemblance whatsoever, not even a generic one, to the mis-labelled muck ya get back home, and get used to the peppery undertaste, it’s ace.
    The kitchen table was still a sewing table as of the instant he walked in through his own front door but during the shower we whipped the rubbish off, the redecorating now being finished, and Imelda, warning me not to try to lift it, banished the sewing machine to a cupboard—pant, gasp! So we’re able to sit round it and have it, also the broccoli curry she whips up in the mere twinkling of an eye to go with it, also the cold chutney of chopped apples and dried mint and something else and I think a bit of vinegar she whips up, and some of the hottish bought pickle.
    John says he hasn’t eaten anything this delicious since Dauntless was last in the Indian Ocean and she beams. And the lamb curry’s got yoghurt in it, right? Right! she beams. He’s starving, all right, he engulfs huge quantities and I say severely: “When did you last eat?”
    He looks at his watch. “Er—no idea!”
    Yeah, very funny. I bet that U.S. Navy plane was bumpy as Hell, too, but he wouldn’t of noticed a thing.
    I’m starving, too; after a bit he remarks on the fact that I seem to be extra-hungry.
    I’m taking a third helping of the meat. “Yes.”
    “Didn’t you eat any dinner last night, darling?”
    “Yes, ’course I did.”
    “Yes, but she threw—” Imelda gasps and claps a hand over her mouth.
    Boy, talk about letting cats out of bags! Have a Cat-Out-Of-Bag Medal, Imelda Singh. Not to say a Foot-In-Mouth Ribbon. I might’ve known, they’re all like that at that age.
    “I’m pregnant,” I say flatly over the kitchen table to my Ancient Lover in the company of a little teenager he barely knows.
    There’s a horrible pause. Then he says calmly: “In that case it’s just as well I substituted Vitamin C tablets for those American travel sickness pills, isn’t it?”
    My jaw drops. “You didn’t!”
    “Mm.”
    “John Haworth! You—you officious shit! I mighta thrown up all the way to Blighty!”
    “You didn’t, though, did you? The power of suggestion,” he murmurs.
    “What if Bridget had felt sick and I’d given one to her?” I cry.
    “Then she’d have stopped feeling sick, that’s what placebos are for.”
    “You wanker! Get up!” I shout.
    He gets up, smiling slightly.
    “Stop smiling! Get into the lounge-room, I’m gonna have a piece of you!” I shout.
    “Excuse us, Imelda, this is an almost matrimonial row,” he murmurs.
    I give him a bloody good shove and he takes my elbow in the famous grip of steel and steers me out.
    “Foot-in-mouth syndrome,” he says calmly, closing the door. “It’s her age.”
    “Shut UP! I believed in those fucking pills!” I shout.
    “I know. Stop swearing.”
    I take a deep breath. “Why did you do it?”
    “Because I didn’t believe a word of your protestations that your period might well be two weeks late, and I thought better safe than extremely sorry. –There was a warning on the accompanying documentation not to take those things if you might be pregnant,” he reminds me.
    “Documentation!” I scoff.
    “Very well: slip of paper, if you like.”
    I’m speechless.
    He grins, and comes up very close and takes hold of my upper-arms. “Mm, these are as soft as ever. –That first time in the flat in D.C., was it?”
    “You oughta know!” I snarl.
    “Mm,” he says, pulling me against it. Ooh, lovely, I can feel all my indignation, not to say plain fear, melting away into a warm puddle… “Don’t you want it?”
    I pull away. “Of course I flaming want it, you moron!”
    He looks wry. “Then perhaps I’d better give you this now. Rather than later.” He digs in his trouser pocket.
    I look away, I don’t want to look in the direction of It, it fuddles my brain. Yes, I do, I can’t help looking— “Eh?”
    He opens the little box. Diamonds in the shape of a flower, the prettiest ring I ever saw. I’d be more convinced if it didn’t match those wanking earrings I never got. “And?” I growl.
    “Look, Miss Eyre, this is becoming very tedious. Will you marry me and legitimise our offspring, or not?”
    “That’s not FUNNY!” I shout, bursting into floods of tears.
    He just pulls me against him and lets me sob it all out. Then he propels me over to the fireplace, sits in his big chair and pulls me onto his knee. “Will you?”
    “Mm.” –Sniffle.
    “Good.” He puts the ring on the third finger of my left hand. “And to allay any suspicions that might surface in that relentlessly logical and paranoid mind of yours, I want you to look at this.”
    I'm admiring the ring. “Mm?”
    He produces a neatly folded paper from the shirt pocket, under the jumper, it’s all warm…
    “Read it.”
    I glance at it, it’s a flaming invoice.
    “Notice the date,” he says with a laugh in his voice.
    It’s a receipted invoice from your actual Tiffany’s in your actual New York, dated last November, for one diamond engagement ring, briefly described, one bracelet of single row of small diamonds, set of diamond earrings... God Almighty!
    “Don’t look at the prices,” he says on a guilty note.
    “John, for Heaven’s sake!”
    “They’re not big but they’re rather nice. If you ever need to sell them, darling, take them to a really good jeweller’s in London. Well, realistically it’s unlikely, but anything could happen.”
    “Yeah, the bottom could fall out of that stock portfolio of yours, if there’s anything left in it. What about the kid’s schooling, won’t you want it to go to a wanking private school?”
    “Given that I wasn’t very happy at my wanking private school, though as you know I was a conservative little conformist, no, not particularly,” he says smoothly. “Boy or girl.”
    “Oh,” I say limply, sagging.
    He gives me a big hug and then a big kiss, mmm-mm. Unfortunately with Imelda in the kitchen we can’t do anything further and he tips me off his knee and says: “Better pop back, darling, she’ll be getting anxious.”
    “Yeah.” I watch numbly as he stows the invoice away in one of the little drawers of the big desk. “Why didn’t ya give me them all together, back in D.C.?”
    “Mm? Oh.” He turns slowly, and grimaces. “Tactics, Rosie. They’d have worked wonderfully if you were an enemy fleet, I assure you. I overlooked the fact that you’re a woman. Not to say a human being. Er—well, it was stupid, but I felt that if you accepted the damned bracelet and earrings, it would be a Good Sign.” He rubs his chin. “Overlooking several important factors, you don’t need to say it.”
    “You nit!”
    “Quite. Shall we go back?” He takes my arm and we go back.
    “It’s all right,” I say quickly to Imelda, holding out my hand.
    “See? I knew it would be!” she cries. “Ooh, it’s lovely! –Congratulations,” she then says in a strangled voice, remembering her manners, but avoiding his eye.
    “You can call him John,” I prompt.
    “Um, yes, congratulations, John!” she squeaks, still avoiding his eye.
    “Thank you very much, Imelda,” he says nicely. “And perhaps we could drink to it in a nice cup of tea, since Rosie can’t have alcohol?”
    We drink to it in a nice cuppa, plus and some of the sweets the kids made. The rasgullahs got a wee bit singed but being John you’d never guess he’s noticed.
    After we’ve put the dishes in the dishwasher she reminds me I said she could go over to the Potters’ place this afternoon. John’s just asking me if I did when Harry turns up on his bike, talking of instant crushes, to collect her. Obviously he can’t double her up the hill, he’s as thin as a lath, he’s at the gangly stage, but she nips on behind anyway. We’ve gone out to the front gate, we watch for a bit. He lasts about a yard up the hill, then they both get off and walk. And John steers me firmly back inside: it’s brass monkeys out there, even though we've slung our coats round us.
    Quite some time later. “It’s nice not having to use a condom,” he murmurs.
    “Mm. And not having your period. The combination of them doesn't outweigh the bloody morning sickness, though.”
    “Ugh, Lor’. So you are sick?”
    “Sick as a dog, any time from six-thirty until tennish. But I’m lucky, lots of women get it all day. Mrs Singh and the doc both think it might wear off after about another six weeks.”
    “Six weeks!” He thinks he’d better talk to the doctor but even if he uses his captain’s voice there is nothing he can do about preggy. So he needn’t bother. But he’d like to talk to him anyway.
    “Look, he's not in Harley Street, he's in Ramsbotham Street down the road from us, he's Doris Winslow’s doctor, and his waiting-room was filled with pregnant mums, and I like him!” I shout.
    “You like him? He is a qualified medico?”
    “Very funny!” He doesn’t reply so I say firmly: “Are ya gonna let me have him?”
    “If you want him. Er, and if he checks out,” he admits on a guilty note. He sits up slowly. “Can you hear— Tim! CUT THAT OUT!” he bellows.
    Oh, shit. “I haven't really been spoiling him,” I mutter as the whining and snuffling at the door stop. “It’s just that if I have a lie-down during the day, or, um, a lie-in in the morning, he’s sort of got into the habit of coming in with me.”
    “Lying in in the morning?”
    “The ensuite’s very handy, it’s easier on the whole than going down to the ki— Oh, ya mean Tim?”
    “Of course I mean Tim, you paranoid woman!” He gets out of bed, groaning, and goes to open the door. “What was all that about?”
    Tim looks up at him slavishly.
    John passes his hand across his bald pate. “Oh, come on, then. –Call him, for God’s sake, he doesn’t believe me,” he groans.
    I wouldn’t believe you, either, if you’d of bellowed at me like that. “Tim! Come on; good boy!”
    He gets on the bed and snuggles up against my stomach. John goggles at us.
    “Get into bed, you’ll catch your death!”
    “What? Oh.” He comes over slowly.
    “The thing is, he’s better than a hottie against my tummy: it makes me feel better.”
    “Whilst still not stopping you throwing up, I suppose? Mm.” He gets back into bed.
    “Doris says I get the nourishment, I’m eating fine the rest of the day.”
    “Mm,” he says on an odd note.
    “Anyway, the doc wants to see me when I go up for my first rehearsal.”
    He wants to know when, and he says he’ll take me, and he’ll ring Mike and explain.
    “No, I—”
    “I will ring Mike.”
    Is this some sort of weird macho thing? Why is he insisting so much? “All right, ring Mike.” He snuggles up like spoons…
    There’s a woodpecker in the lounge-room, it's pecking away at that wanking olive-oiled wainscoting. Peck, peck. Peck, peck. Come on, Woody, peck harder, ruin the wanking— Uh?
    John’s sitting up, blinking. “Come in!” he shouts. Blimey, we both musta nodded off, that proves he came in a bloody Navy plane, he reckons he can always sleep on a commercial flight, and he certainly proved it on the flights to and from California.
    Imelda pokes her head in, looking shy but determined. “I hope I didn’t wake you up, only I thought you might like some dinner.”
    “No, I thought you were a woodpecker,” I explain.
    “Ignore her, Imelda!” He pulls the covers up over my chest. “We’d love some dinner, and we’ll get up. Can you take Tim downstairs?”
    Before I can say she isn’t that used to Tim, yet, she’s come across to the bed and is hauling his limp form off it. “Come on, Tim! Bones!”
    “Wuff!” They race out.
    “When she first met him— Never mind,” I mutter.
    At this he laughs so much he cries. I ignore that and go into the ensuite. He follows me and has a pee, how can they just do that? Well, the blushing violet types can’t, of course. I reckon John actually enjoys peeing with me watching him, he does it often enough.
    “You don’t need to watch,” he notes mildly.
    “Yes, I do.”
    He sniggers and comes into the shower with me. Just as well he hasn’t got anything left down there, because we gotta go down and— Oops, yes, he has.
    “Save it for tonight, you idiot!” I hiss.
    “Aw,” he whines. “Just a friendly one?”
    “No! Ssh! She’ll hear us!”
    He goes into a terrific sniggering fit so I get out and leave him to it.

    Sunday. After a very nice night, except for the bit where he wouldn’t start until we’d tiptoed along to make sure Imelda was asleep—flat on her back, snoring lightly; since the little night-light she bought in Portsmouth was on he got a good gander at the room and his jaw sagged ten feet, though he still managed to whisper wasn't she sweet—after that, then, I slept like a log until seven-thirty this morning, at which point— You guessed it. Don’t think he’d really believed me. Well, he does now. He got very worried but I kept telling him it was natural and when we got downstairs Imelda told him it was natural… He’s still determined to talk to the doc, though. He rang the Singhs last night and told them not to send Greg down to collect her, he’ll drive her up, and now he rings Mike and tells him not to collect me tomorrow, he’ll drive me up.
    That’s potty, John, we’ll be going back and forth like— So he decides we’ll stay at the flat after we’ve dropped Imelda off and that gets the gracious L.R. Marshall seal of approval. “Yeah, that’s better, ya Pommy nong.”
    So he oversees the packing of my bags and officially admires Imelda’s room and checks to see she hasn’t forgotten anything and blah, blah, he has a really busy morning including ringing everybody he knows to tell them we’re engaged. Admiral Sir Father and Lady Mother first, gee, they aren’t thrilled.
    His sister Fiona bursts into tears but turns out they’re tears of gladness and she wants to talk to me. Yikes. So she sobs into the phone: “Rosie, dear, I’m so glad! He’s been so lonely.” So I say uneasily: “Yeah, good, only ya do know who I am, do ya, Fiona?” and she blows her nose and says briskly, sounding much more like herself, “Yes, of course, my dear. Norman and I laughed until we cried at your last performance on Parkinson. I don’t think there was any sector at all of the Great Viewing Public that could possibly have been offended by it, was there?” So she’s more like him than I thought. And I say: “No. But all I did was keep to the script.” And she laughs like anything and starts to cry again, so Norman comes on the line sounding almost definite. “Rosie? Warmest congratulations, my dear. We’d given up on the old boy, you know.”—There’s a soggy protest from the background. He ignores it.—“Fiona and I would very much like you to think about having the wedding reception here.” This time there’s a soggy agreement from the background, crikey. He’d like to speak to John so I hand over the receiver thankfully and collapse into a chair.
    Then he rings Terence—he’s temporarily at home, his flat, I mean. After a bit I realise John’d quite like to a have private conversation with his only brother so I go out to the kitchen and just sit. He comes to get me and I have to go through Terence’s congratulations and concern over the up-chucking, why did he have to tell him that? And he’s looking forward to being best man, and he finally rings off.
    “Is he really gonna be best man?”
    “Mm? Of course, darling. Though we’ll have to schedule it for his shore leave,” he says with a twinkle.
    I wince, that soft “sh” sound. “Yeah.”
    “Um, Rosie, it is the groom’s privilege to choose his best man.”
    I KNOW THAT! “Yeah.”
    “Stop scowling, sweetheart.” He’s dialling again. “Hullo, Susan, my dear.” Corky lets the woman answer her own phone in her own house? Turns out he’s in the garden burning branches or some such crap. I retire to the kitchen again… Corky and Susan send their very best, darling. I bet. And Linda seems to be assuming she’ll be a bridesmaid.
    “Look, I know your lot are all C. of E., but I’m a heathen, your flaming English vicar won't wanna marry me!”
    “I’m divorced,” he says mildly. “Registry Office?”
    I sag. “Yeah. Raewyn and Sally know where it is. Their friend Bev got married there.”
    “Good. I’ll just make a few more calls, darling…” Yeah, yeah.
    Imelda surfaces from checking John’s checking of her room and bathroom and hisses: “Is he still on the phone?”
    “Yep. Oh—ya wanna ring the Potters?” She nods hard and I get up and go in there and say loudly over the old-boy crap: “Hey, other people live here, too, ya know! Imelda wants to say goodbye to the Potters!”
    Lunchtime, thereabouts. We’re just gonna have it when Velda pops in. We have managed to see a bit of her but of course with Duncan home, or at least in port, he has to be on duty part of the time, we didn’t want to inflict ourselves too much. One of us didn’t. Terrific congratulations, has to admire the Ring, blah, blah, at which point it surfaces that Imelda thinks she’s gonna be a bridesmaid. It’ll be Registry Office, Imelda. But you can still have them! Bev and Tony did! Her little Sandra was a flowergirl! Yeah, according to Sally in floating purple see-through nylon, it was Goddawful. With, this is possibly apocryphal but possibly not, purple silk irises on the head. Sandra’s six.
    Finally Velda goes, admitting regretfully that with me and John to look after him, Tim’ll probably be all right in the flat. And we get to have lunch.
    …Boy, I needed that.
    He loads the Jag very carefully, he’s already checked its whatsits even though it was being kept safely for him down the Navy dockyard in its usual place with the usual devoted working-class slaves tenderly caring for it. And we finally get going only an hour later than John had planned, Imelda and Tim in the back, it’s hard to say which of them is more rabidly excited. She knows the way, now! Yeah, right.
    Funnily enough John doesn’t stop at every second caff or McDonald’s clone to let us stuff our faces. But at last it is time for tea, also, coincidentally, we’re just near a very nice place— It’ll be a wanking dump his parents always stopped off at. It is. Posh tea shoppe of the sort that has tables and chairs in its huge garden overlooking dunno. Stream? The huge garden is leafless and desolate, the white plastic chairs, how downmarket, being stacked against a wall. Imelda notes sadly that it’d be nice in summer. Then the cakes arrive and we both cheer up. Yes, John, you were right, that was totally yummy!
    At the Singhs’ Imelda gets greeted like the Prodigal Son and wriggles indignantly and scowls. And bursts out with the news. Mrs Singh is so pleased she has to mop her eyes, though studying the Ring closely, and Mr Singh, Greg and Richpal all grin like anything and wring John’s hand. And both parents shut Imelda up about being a bridesmaid…
    And we finally get home. Aziz is on duty by himself. He grins like anything and fends off two excited photographers and an autograph hunter. When we get in Tim sniffs suspiciously everywhere. Ooh, help: it’s not just that it’s all new, he must be able to smell Buster!
    “Where’s Rupy?” asks John as he unpacks.
    “Dunno. Um, do ya think this bed is big enough? It is a double.”
    No, but we’ll manage for a while. That means get in to Harrods and buy a new one first thing tomorrow, folks— Oh, ya read my mind.
    Pretty soon there’s a tap at the door and he jumps ten feet. “I thought you claimed that policeman—”
    “Yeah, yeah, keep ya hair on.”
    “Very funny,” he says limply as I go to open it.
    Doris, of course. Without Buster: she saw us from her front w— All right, ya got that, sorry. She’s just popped up to see if there’s anything we need?
    “No, John packed everything except the kitchen sink, thanks, Doris.”
    “Rosie, please ask Miss Winslow in.”
    Oh, la-de-da! Heck, Doris doesn’t mind me, her Dad was a bookie’s runner at one point in his brilliant career, we got a lot in common. But I ask her in and say untruthfully I was just gonna make a cuppa, does she want one?
    At this he says very nicely, holding out his hand: “I’m so sorry, Miss Winslow, I think Rosie’s forgotten we've never actually met. I’m John Haworth.”
    “Oh, haven’tcha— Sorry,” I mutter.
    They shake hands and Doris chirps, beaming, that it’s so lovely to meet him and he replies with a smile that's it lovely to meet her officially, at last. And Rosie has some news for her.
    “Huh? Ya want English Breakfast or Earl Gr— Oh, sorry, Doris. Forgot.” I hold out the hand bearing the Ring and she goes into a paroxysm of delight, even though she musta guessed, why else have I let him come back to the flat with me? (Don’t answer that.)
    Later. We finally get to have some dinner. Chips and fish fingers. He doesn’t seem to mind. Meanwhile Tim has had his dinner and is blissfully asleep in front of the electric heater.
    … Where can Rupy have got to? –John, he’s an adult, he’s not padlocked to my wrist. He mighta gone round to Tony’s: he does sometimes on a Sunday evening, depending how much partying Tony mighta done after the show on Saturday. Or, who knows, he mighta helped with the partying, in which case they’re probably both still zonked out.
    We watch telly…
    Isn’t it a bit worrying that Rupy’s not back yet? –No.
    We watch telly…
    Rosie, aren’t you worried that that Rupy’s not back yet? –No, and I’m going to bed, I’m sick of sitting here listening to your responsibility hang-up!
    Er, very well, he’ll just walk Tim. I’m about to tell him to look out for muggers. I take another look at the shoulders and don’t bother. I give him my keys and go to bed.
    … Middle of the night. “What’s that?”
    “Either Rupy coming home or a burglar, and go to sleep, John, I’ll be up at har’ past six spewing my heart out, I wanna get some REST!”
    Immediately Rupy taps at our door and calls: “Hullo, there! Is that an engaged row?”
    So I sit up resignedly and John puts the bedside light on, having appointed himself to that side of the bed, and calls: “Yes! Come in, Rupy!” And Rupy comes in.
    “Wuff! Wuff!” –Stop that, Tim! Friend!
    I pat Tim comfortingly and note: “You know him, silly, it’s Rupy. –Go on, Daddy, ask him where he’s been all night.”
    “Shut up,” he says, grin, grin. “You can congratulate us, Rupy, if you can bear to.”
    Of course he can, and he has to see the Ring, ooh, lovely, darling! Ooh, doesn’t it match— Er, gulp. John says kindly Yes, it does, and they’re in the dressing-table drawer. Uh—are they? Cor. We better get a safe. Rupy says we’d better get a safe and John says mildly yes, as they shake hands even though it possibly isn’t the Done Thing to shake a bloke’s hand when you’re sitting up in bed next to your fiancée with your chest naked. Especially when the other bloke’s eyes are very artfully made up, like they are.
    “Happy?” I say evilly. “Can we go to sleep, now?”
    We go to sleep.
    What with everything, it isn’t until we’re due to go to rehearsal on Tuesday, which isn’t until eleven o’clock, John having previously rung Henny Penny and spoken to Brian in person, pointing out that I’m unfit for anything until at least eleven, that it starts to dawn. What with showing me that invoice, a very ungentlemanly thing to do… And absolutely insisting on speaking to Yvonne when I phoned her to break the good news… And come to think of it, he sounded bloody funny when he spoke to Brian, too. But surely Brian wouldn’t have— Um, well, protecting his investment?
    He was ready hours ago but he’s fiddling round in the bedroom, probably making hospital corners, or something, who cares, let him if he wants to. I go in there and stand on one leg. “Um…”
    “Yes, darling?”
    “Don’t take this the wrong way, John. Um, did people—um, anybody—ring you and, um, tell you I was preggy?”
    He straightens. “I was wondering if that was ever going to dawn.”
    I’ve gone bright red. “You knew all along! And I was killing myself having to tell you!”
    “Yes; it was the killing yourself aspect that prompted your friends to ring me, you cuckoo.”
    I stagger over to the bed and collapse on it, hospital corners an’ all. “So that was why you showed me that bloody invoice!”
    “Of course.” He sits down, too. Lovely manners, you see: he’s not gonna tower over me. I already know he’s not a sitty-down person at all, in his natural state.
    I swallow. “Well, um, who?”
    “They did all swear me to secrecy, sweetheart. Er—well, just don’t let on you know, all right?” The blue eyes twinkle at me.
    “It should be easy for me, don’t say it,” I groan. “Who?”
    It’s all in his lingo, of course, nevertheless I get a pretty good idea of what was actually said. Rupy was the first. Quite some time back, darling. He knew it was none of his business, but he thought John would rather know than not, and I was working myself up into a terrible tizz, and I’d started being terribly sick every morning, and if that secondment of John’s was to go on for a further period, he sincerely doubted I’d be able to cope. Evidently John admitted to him that he had his suspicions, being as how my period was late and I was clearly lying when I claimed it was often late. And in the unlikely event they extended the posting—I dragged this bit out of him, he wasn’t gonna tell me—he’d resign his commission.
    “You nong! You’d be bored to tears, there’d be nothing to do except the flaming gard—” No, there wouldn't, Greg’s gonna be doing that for him, he doesn’t know any of that yet. “Um, garden.”
    He appreciates my concern, very funny. Who was next?
    Doris. She knew it was none of her business, and of course they hadn’t actually met, and normally she wouldn’t dream of interfering between a couple (she probably did say that, like I say, she’s about as up-market as me), but Rosie had been working herself up into a terrible state, and I was really very sick. (This woulda been after I chucked up all over her bathroom: who can blame her?) He told her about the ring and about his crass stupidity, his expression, in not giving it to me immediately. Cor. And she quite understood that a man feels timid and unsure of himself, her expression, at a time like that. Cor.
    So was that it? No, funny little smile. Yvonne was next. He thinks she was rather drunk, but that was Dutch courage.—Eh?—Explains carefully.—Goddit, goddit, had to nerve herself up to speak to an English upper-clawss captain that’s as dishy in his way as Sean Connery. She bawled, too—that’s hardly surprising, we got quite a lot in common, even down to the yellow curls. Only hers are better managed. She knew it was none of her business, but somebody had to say something, and Lily Rose was in a terrible state. Right. He assured her that he’d bought the ring and would be home as soon as he could. At which she said something bitter about the Navy that he doesn’t repeat verbatim. Well, her brother missed their sister Cath’s wedding, he was gonna be one of those blokes that helps people sit on the right sides.—Usher, darling.—Right. (His ship was in, ya couldn’t of guessed, the Gulf.)
    “I suppose I owe them one. More than one.” I cop a gander at the funny little smile. “You don’t mean there was more?”
    Yes. Brian and Penny Hendricks together, ringing one evening from home. Shortly before I was due to go down to the cottage, darling. They were very concerned about me, I was looking very pale, and perhaps John didn’t know, but I hadn’t been very well, lately. –“Give me the phone, Brian, stop beating about the bush, the poor man will be imagining all sorts of things!” John said quickly he was only imagining I was pregnant and Brian said to his wife: “He knows. See? Told you he didn’t sound exactly thick,” and she wrenched the phone off him and gushed all over John. Very kind underneath it. Eventually Brian got to speak again and apologised abjectly and warned John about the little yellow knitted things. And reading between the lines they went into some sort of macho peer group thing. And he offered their house for the reception. “No Press,” John says just as I’m opening my great mouth. Cripes.
    I’m just starting to say Well, would he prefer Brian and Penny’s house, which is huge, or Fiona and Norman’s, which is smaller, if more tasteful, when he says there was one more. Huh? Thinks: Velda didn’t know. And I kept the chucking-up bit from Bridget. Unless Rupy told her. Would Barbara have worked up the guts? She knows him, but that cuts both ways.
    He puts me out of my agony. “It was Mike, sweetheart. He rang from Portsmouth, after he’d dropped you off at the cottage.”
    “I told him it was a natural—” Yes. Not that. I’d worked myself up into a lather. I had not! Yes, I had, Rosie: the poor man was very concerned. And gave John a piece of his mind. Yikes. Mike’s got an Irish temper, his mum was Irish. So John assured him he’d be home in a few days and he’d bought the ring some time since. Going into a macho peer group—yes.
    I just look at him limply.
    “That was the lot,” he says mildly.
    I just look at him limply.
    “They love you, you cuckoo,” he says mildly.
    At that I burst into a huge, snorting storm of sobs. He just pats my back and gives me his hanky. Eventually I’m better enough to admit that there could have been a slight factor of looking after his investment in Brian’s along with the genuine concern, I'm not denying it was genuine! He just says mildly that that had occurred, and mixed motives are not uncommon, and we’d better go. And Dave buzzes to say the taxi’s here, so we go.
    It’s not at Henny Penny, it’s just in a rehearsal room, so we’re spared the entire staff gushing at John. Not everybody’s in my scenes and of course we’re not nearly ready to film, yet, but as Rupy’s already there and has told them everything, we get rapturously congratulated by a very pink Barbara (there with a watching brief in case the paparazzi have followed me), a tearful and much pinker Yvonne, pinker still when John kisses her cheek (there with a great big suitcase of approved gear in case the paparazzi ditto and I’m not dressed or coiffed or made-up right), Garry Woods (thinks it’s about time and tells John so, that bluff sea-doctor manner is natural to him, type-casting, though of course in real life he’s not a misogynist), a blushing Darryn (ugh, that five o’clock shadow is hideous, and the grown-out hair is vile, Rupy was right all along), a blushing Damian (taking notes for Brian, who doesn’t trust Paul Mitchell when given his head), and finally, an awkwardly grinning Paula O’Reilly who does want to see the Ring, actually, yes. Lovely! (Think she was expecting a tasteless Rock.) John’s very pleased to meet her, congratulating her on the dialogue, especially those delightful one-liners. She goes as red as Yvonne. Strewth.
    Paul just says: “Yes, congratulations, Captain Haworth. Nice to see you again,” and John takes the wind out of his sails by smiling nicely and asking him to call him John. But he manages to say, as Barbara, Yvonne and Paula, not to say Rupy, again cluster round the Ring: “Can we get on with it?”
    It’s the touchingly romantic Telling Daddy Captain scene. John has already pointed out we haven’t yet had the Telling Rosie’s Parents scene, so that’s slated for later today.

Scene, the Captain’s Day Cabin. Captain Harding discovered working at his desk. Pan left. Enter Commander, in Number Twos, and Captain’s Daughter in an abbreviated sunsuit.
COMMANDER: Morning, sir. Wonder if I could possibly have a word?
CAPTAIN: Of course, Commander. –Hullo, my pet, did you want something? I’m a bit busy just now; could you come back later? (As Michael, mistakenly): “I say, Paula, wouldn’t it read better if I said ‘Come back later, mm?’”
PAUL (not addressed): “NO! Just read the lines, Michael!” (Nothing.) “Give her the cue, for God’s sake!”
MICHAEL (as himself): “Oh, sorry.” (As Captain): –back later?
CAPTAIN’S D. (breathlessly, don’t do it): Um, no, actually, Daddy Captain, I’m with Ludo—um, Commander—um—Ludo!
COMMANDER: Yes, actually we are together, sir.
CAPTAIN (tiredly, doesn’t do it): Look Ludo old man I know you mean well but if it’s another of those damned country houses of your relatives’ I think she’s rather fed up with the whole show.
PAUL (interrupts): “Must you run your words together like that?”
MICHAEL (as him): “Sorry, old man, thought we were running through for words?”
ME (as me): (Sniggers).
PAUL: “Stop that, Lily Rose! –Get on with it!”
COMMANDER: No, it’s not that, sir. (Takes Captain’s D.’s hand—doesn’t do it.) Actually, with your permission, sir, of course, Janey has done me the very great honour of agreeing to be my wife.
CAPTAIN’S D. (breathlessly, don’t do it): Yes! Isn’t it lovely, Daddy Captain? I love him awf’y, awf’y much!—(I can see John wincing in the background.)—Do say you’re pleased! I couldn’t ever, ever, ever love anyone else as much as I love darling Ludo!
PAUL (interrupts): “Don’t squeak, woman!” (Testily, to Paula): “Are there three ‘evers’, there?”
PAULA (tiredly): “Yes, Varley’s own.”
PAUL (shrugs): “Get on with it.”
CAPTAIN (rises—doesn’t do it): My very dear Ludo! Janey, my pet! This is wonderful news! (Comes round desk, shakes Commander fervently by the hand—doesn’t do it. Kisses Captain’s D. on forehead—doesn’t do it.) Wonderful news! And when did this all happen, eh?
COMMANDER: Oh, quite recently, sir; we discovered down at Beaumanoir Hall that the two of us had more in common with each other than anyone else there! Didn’t we, darling Janey petty-pet?
JOHN (in the background: looks sick.)
CAPTAIN’S D. (breathlessly, don’t do it): Oh, yes, dearest, dearest Ludo! They were such a lot of stuffy-puffy bores, Daddy Captain, you wouldn’t believe! And one thing led to another (archly: don’t do it), and so we just discovered that it’s darling, darling Ludo for me, and silly little me for him, and has been for ages and ages, weally! Didn’t we, dearest Ludo Commander?
JOHN (in the background: chokes.)
ME (As me): “Hey, Paul, is that ‘weally’ a misprint, do ya think?”
PAUL: “No! Stop interpreting the bloody script! No-one here’s impressed by your bloody Ph.D., you know!”
MICHAEL (mistakenly): “I don’t think she’s had to actually lisp before, has she?”
PAULA (acidly): “Very possibly not, but a fatuous tit—pardon my French, Lily Rose—that says ‘awf’y, awf’y’ with three consecutive ‘evers’ can presumably come out with anything, however nauseating. And before you ask, it’s Varley’s. And look out, there’s worse to come.”
JOHN (unguardedly): “There can’t be!”
PAULA (very pleased: thinks he’s fab, thinks she’s hiding it): “Of course there is, John, the wedding episode is pure saccharine swimming in treacle. Lithpth and weally’s all over the shop.”
PAUL (fed up): “Shut UP! And GET ON WITH IT!”
CAPTAIN’S D. (resignedly, not in the script): Don’t you think it’s positively magical, Daddy Captain?
CAPTAIN: Positively magical indeed, my dearest child!
JOHN (involuntarily): “God!”

    See? Romantic, wasn’t it?
    I musta nodded off driving home to the flat because I’m waking up in bed. John comes in with a tray: very rare singed steak, chips, and broccoli. Yum!
    He’s back: slice of cheesecake—yes, darling, he and Rupy are having theirs; yes, they are going to have a brandy, and no, Rosie— Thought not. Oh, well, this cheesecake’s extra.
    He’s back again with the news that Rupy’s gone out and a glass of milk, sigh. The brain has got back into gear, so I ask how all those people that rung him to tell him I was preggy got hold of his secret unlisted American mobile number.
    “Mm? Well, Rupy knows it, darling, and you have got it written in letters a foot high by the phone. I should imagine Doris had no difficulty in realising whose number it was. And Hendricks must have it on file, I think?”
    “Yeah, he made me give him a contact number when I said I was going to America. Only what about Yvonne and Mike?”
    “Mike said he got it out of, I quote, that moo that works in the boss’s office.”
    “Karen.”
    “Yes. I’m sorry, I'd forgotten her name. Yes, and come to think of it, though Yvonne was very muddled and it was in the middle of the teary bit, she did mention Karen. Convinced?”
    I nod convulsively.
    “Convinced by the invoice that the baby has nothing to do with my wanting to marry you?”
    I burst into snorting sobs, gasping: “Yes—you—nana!”
    I bawl for ages so he fetches me a hottie. The gulping’s stopped and he makes me drink another glass of milk, warm this time. He’s gonna walk Tim, I’m not to be frightened when I hear him come back. Cretin. He goes. I’ll just snuggle down for a bit…
    “’Sa time?”
    “Half past eight.”
    I blink groggily at him. “That all?”
    “In the morning, darling, you’ve slept right through!”
    “You cretin, John, I missed it and now we can’t do it, I’m gonna be sick!” Am I? No. I sit up slowly. Yes—blast! I make a run for it.
    He comes in and supports me and cleans my face up and cleans the basin. “Most married people miss it occasionally, Rosie,” he says mildly. “Especially at times likes these.”—Thinks: Yeah, but “most married people” haven’t got blokes that disappear to sea for months on end, have they?—“Stop scowling, Rosie, we’ll have plenty of opportunities.” I don't stop scowling but I go back to bed and wait it out…
    It’s the doc today so he comes with me, makes me show the doc exactly what the tap entails, and gets the assurance I’m as fit as a flea and if that’s as far as it goes I’ll be all right for a few months unless contra-indicated, any and all anomalies to be reported, blah, blah. Eventually I'm allowed to get a word in edgewise, and point out that it’s gonna be more soft-shoe, Jack Fargo, the choreographer, has got a bit of sense, and I’m not very good at that so he won’t give me anything demanding. Good, they both say. Two seconds later they’ve discovered they both went to the same school! The doc hasn’t got so much of the accent but it turns out he was a scholarship boy… I’ve stopped listening. I might’ve known. God!
    Later. At home. I’m sat down at the dining-table with a fresh writing pad and a pen. But I can never think of anything to put on a list!—Start.—Dubiously I start…
    Comes back. Looks over my shoulder. The list says:
Rupy
Miss Hammersley
Doris.
    He sits. “Yvonne,” he says firmly. Folks, it’s not just the having rung him up in spite of being shit-scared of an upper-clawss Royal Navy captain, though that is a large factor, it’s the yellow-haired, blue-eyed busty factor, too. Oh, well, he is a red-blooded male. “Bridget, Barbara, cuckoo. –Come on, Rosie, think!” Quickly I write “Terence.” “He’s the best man, idiot!” Don’tcha put—? Oh. Cringe. He prompts: “Your friends from the neighbourhood?” I write. The page now looks like this:
Rupy                               Unlisted
Miss Hammersley         Terence (B. man)
Doris                                Imelda (B. maid)
Yvonne & Li                  Linda C. (B. maid)
Bridget
Barbara (& Jimmy P. if in port)
Txxxxxxxxe
Mike & Gwenda
Linda G.
Karen
Mr & Mrs Singh, Rhonda & Jimmy, Tiffany, Greg,
  Richpal & wife
Raewyn & Sally
Mr Machin (prob. won’t come if working day)
Barry (prob. won’t be allowed if working d.)
Mr & Mrs Wu (won’t come if working d.)
Louise Wu (will come, usu. ignores her Dad)
Mr Goldman (if not Fri. arvo or Sat.)
Gray & Maybelle (too far for her?)
Brian & Penny
Michael Manfred (offended if not asked)
Can’t think.
John’s lot.
    After a bit he asks what constitutes a working day in Mr Machin’s and Mr Wu’s terms and I reveal glumly that they’re never closed.
    “Mm. We’ll put them down as to be invited but will probably refuse.” He marks this on the list. That’s what I had, anyway. “What about your friends from the village?”
    “Um, yeah, only it’s a long way, John.”
    “I think most of them will make the effort.”
    After I’ve listed Velda (& Duncan Cross if in port), Jack Powell, the Stouts, the Potters in toto, and added the persons that he thinks of as the butcher and the hairdresser and the one he doesn’t think of at all—John! Georgia’s the apprentice at the hairdresser’s!—he just looks at me limply.
    “Them Garden Centre people and them ghastly tea shoppe people and that posh baker, they’re not village. Nor’s the arty-tarty shop.”
    “Don’t scowl, darling, and don’t use an accusative pronoun in the nominative voice like that, it sounds silly.”
    “I can’t do LISTS!” I shout.
    I’d better have a lie-down and then we can have dinner and then “we” simply must ring my parents. Yes, folks, if you hadn’t already guessed it, that is the particular fly in the ointment this arvo.
    “Stop managing me, you’re not the captain of me.”
    “Would you rather I rang your parents?”
    YES! Whaddareya? “They don't even KNOW you!” I shout, running into the bedroom.
    He follows without hurrying. “Rosie, we can have the wedding in Australia if you prefer.”
    “No, because all my friends’d miss out!”
    “Mm. That reminds me, must add your Aunt June and Uncle George to that list. And I think Joanie and Seve will be able to come over for it, it’s not their busy season, is it?”
    “No. Um, I forgot: Mark and Norma Rutherford. He probably wouldn’t care but Norma’d be hurt if I left them out.” He nods, and goes out. I just sit here, brooding…
    “Drink this.”
    “What is it?”
    “Fortified orange juice, drink it.”
    I drink it, UGH!! “That’s MUCK.”
    “Yes. Have a nap.” He goes. I lie down but I’m NOT gonna have a nap, it’s not even afternoon tea-time and we haven’t done hardly anything today!
    … Bummer, must’ve nodded off.
    “There you are. Shall we get this telephoning over and then think about supper?”
    “Don’tcha mean High Tea?” I sneer.
    “Certainly, if you prefer,” he says, unmoved. He picks up the phone and brings it over to the sofa on its new giant cord. (Look, he got it out of Rupy that one of the residents is a retired electrician— Oh, forget it. Super-Efficient is his middle name and I knew that all along.) Weakly I tell him he can listen if he likes and he sits down beside me with his ear to the outer side of the receiver.
    Shit, it’s Dad! Thought he’d of already pushed off to work. “Hi, Dad, s’me.”
    “I’m glad I'm not responsible for your phone bills any more.”—Gee, thanks, Father.—“What’ve you done now?”
    I’m about to shout “Nothing!” Ulp. “Um—got engaged,” I mumble.
    There’s a short silence. Then he says: “What about that book you’re supposed to be finishing?”
    “I am! It’s not an excuse to put it off!”
    “I hope not. Who is it? Not that weak-faced Scotch actor we saw on the idiot-box the other night, I sincerely hope?”
    “I’d call him soft-faced rather than weak-faced.”
    “So it is? –MAY!” (That’s Mum.) “Get in here, your bloody daughter’s gone potty!”
    “No! DAD! Are you listening?”
    “I think your bloody mother’s putting the washing out, she’s decided Ma ’Arris isn’t the only one in the street that can martyr herself every bloody day of the week at the damned Hill’s Hoist: dunno what the Hell I bought that bloody great dryer for. –MAY! Will you get in here, it’s Rosie on a trunk call!”—Possibly the only living human being in the universe that doesn’t use the Yankified “long distance”, good on him.—“If it’s not Weak-Face McTavish, who is it?”
    “It’s John, you idiot!” I shout. “And don’t pretend I never said anything about him!”
    There’s a short pause, during which I can hear doors banging and Mum saying: “Will you get out from under my feet, you stupid brute!” –Not Dad, the cat.
    “Is Kenny there?” I say weakly.
    “No, you needn’t expect him to do your translating for you.”—I can feel John shaking slightly, dunno if that helps or not.—“Look, if this is the one I think it is— It’s Rosie. She’s got herself engaged to some Pom.”
    “You’re a Pom yourself!” I shout.
    “Not any more, thank God. Below freezing and floods? –Stop bawling, May, for the Lord’s sake! You don’t even know who it is, yet!” I can hear sobbing and I think she's trying to say something through the sobs—yes, she is, because he shouts at her: “Not Weak-Face McTavish! Just shut up and let me listen!”
    “Want me to speak to them, darling?” John murmurs kindly.
    You couldn’t do worse than me, that’s for sure. Boy, is this a touchingly romantic scene! “Uh, no, I don’t think he’s twigged who you are, yet.”
    “Is he there?” says Dad in my ear.
    “Yeah, who ‘d ya think I'm talking to? And this is, as you so rightly pointed out, a trunk call.” I ad in his lingo.
    “On your form up till now, I assumed it was Rupy you were talking to.”
    “He’s still at rehearsal. It’s tea, um, high tea time, sort of, here.”
    “Look, stop wittering, you’re as bad as your mother!” I am not! “Who the Hell is he?”
    “I said! John! He’s the one I went to America to see!”
    “The one that was in Yank-land over Christmas,” he says to Mum.
    “I knew it!” she wails, fresh burst of sobs. “He’s old, Jerry!” –Dad’s name’s Jeremy but the Aussies automatically started calling him Jerry and I don't think he’s ever used his official name except on official dokkos since he landed.
   “Your mother reckons he’s old, how the fuck old is he?” he says tightly.
    “I sent you the pics! You saw! He’s not that old!”
    “Don’t you dare bawl, one of you’s more than I cope with at any one time, thanks. How old?”
    “He’s had a birthday. Fifty-one,” I say sulkily.
    “Bloody Hell! He’s your mother’s age!” he shouts. “Are you MAD?”
    “He’s three years younger than Mum and all right, I'm MAD! But he’s not a fuddy-duddy with his head in the sand like you pair of blinkered hidebound—”
    John wrests the receiver off me. He’s long since got out of me what their names are. “Hullo, Jerry? This is the elderly John Haworth speaking. I gather May’s in floods? She’s started now, too,” he says, cool as a cucumber, as I dissolve in floods.
    In two seconds flat it’s a male peer group and Dad’s eating out of his Royal Naval hand, the cunning, manipulative, devious manager of men that he is. Don't think Mum actually stops bawling, but she comes on the line and he puts all this warm into his voice and says: “May? How lovely to speak to you at last.”
    After which the fat lady sings and we can all go home. Well, practically. I do get a dose of “Dear? Why didn’t you tell us it was getting serious?” from Mum, followed by: “Your father seems to like him,” followed by: “Joanie seems to like him very much.”—Oh, God, has Joanie written to them about us? Coulda said anything at all, depending how much sangría she’d got inside her at the time.—Followed by: “But isn’t he a bit old for you, dear?”
    “No, he isn’t a bit old for me, dear, we've got the same sort of minds, and he’s not a blundering thicko like all those yobs that you and Joslynne thought I shoulda got engaged to, there’s a chance that the marriage might last more than one minute!” In the background Dad says: “Is she shouting again? Well, I’d say he’ll put a stop to that in damn quick order, seems to be able to handle her. Maybe just as well he is twice her— uh, an older chap.”
    “Yes.” –To him, not me. “–That’ll do, Rosie, don’t shout at your mother. I only want what’s best for you.”—I roll my eyes desperately but don't say anything.—“Are you there?”
    “Yeah. We thought we’d get married right away, maximise what time we’ve got.””
    “He’s not ill, is he?” she asks fearfully.
    “No! Honestly, Mum! He’s fit as a flea and he does all this jogging and fighting and stuff.”
    “Fighting?” she quavers.
    Bummer, I’ve forgotten the word. “Like boxing only not serious,” I say limply.
    “Sparring,” says John calmly.
    “Yeah, sparring, Mum. Like in the mornings when he’s at sea he goes for a jog round the deck and then he does the sparring stuff with Bo-son!”
    “Rosie, dear, you’re not getting mixed up with your series, are you?”
    God Almighty! One of us is daft as a brush, here, but it isn’t L.R. Marshall.
    Suddenly Dad comes on again. “Ignore that, Rosie. Daft as a brush.”
    “That’s just what I was thinking,” I say, sagging.
    “Yeah. Happy, are you?”
    “Very.”
    “That’s good. And when can we expect the patter of little feet?”—“Honestly, Jerry!” Apart from the accent, she’s Margot from The Good Life to a T.
    Cautiously I say: “Well, we aren’t gonna wait.”
    “No, I wouldn’t. You realise he’ll be over seventy before it’s seen its twenty-first?”
    “Um, yeah, but he’s got lots of money, Dad, they pay their senior captains really well in the Royal Navy and he’s got a share portfolio and everything. Not that he wants it to go to a wanking private school.”
    “Public, you nit.”
    “Eh? Oh. Public. Well, he doesn’t. But I mean, suppose he does drop dead before it’s grown up,”—poor John is heard to swallow, he didn’t expect even L.R. Marshall to be that blunt, even in the bosom of her loving family—“there’ll be plenty for the kid.”
    “Ye-ah…” says Dad slowly. “I wasn’t thinking of that so much. It takes a lot of stamina to bring up kids.”—I tell him John’s got stamina and I’ve got loads and he sighs.—Then he says: “Hasn’t he got a grown-up son?”
    I don’t explain, I just say: “Yes. There’ll be plenty, even if we have half a dozen kids. And he reckons he’ll leave the cottage to me, because Matt’s settled in California.”
    “Darling, should I speak to Jerry about this?”
    “Go on, but,”—I hold my hand tightly over the receiver and hiss, pointing at my tum—“don’t mention—!” Point, point.
    Gee, he gets it, he shakes his head, smiling, and says to the receiver: “Jerry? John again. Has she always been this direct, or is it just a reaction to us wanking Poms?”
    That cuts Dad off in his flow, naturally, so John then takes charge of the conversation, which gets very boring and monetary, and as I don’t give a stuff if he hasn’t got a bean in the world, and I’m quite prepared to clean floors to feed the kid if we both go broke or he drops dead, I stop listening…
    “Eh?”
    “They’d like to say goodbye.”
     “Oh, righto. –’S me again. Who’s that?”
    “It’s your father, Smee.”—Gee, wit.—“Take care of yourself and try not to give the poor bugger too much of a hard time, okay? I’ll try and talk your mother into coming over for the wedding.”
    “Um, she doesn't like flying, Dad.”
    “I know. Anyway, we’ll see you for the honeymoon. Oh—you do know we’ve had that new wing finished?”
    “Yeah, even if ya both hadn’t written me an entire book on the subject Aunty Kate sent me The New Wing The Video.”
    “She would. Well, she’ll be glad it’s not Rupy, she wondered if you’d realised he was one of them.” While I’m still choking hysterically he hands over to Mum.
    “Hullo, dear, are you there?”
    No, I’ve hung up and gone to China! Jesus! “Yeah. Don't bawl.”
    “Honestly, Rosie! Now, try to be good, dear, and don't give the poor man a hard time.”
    “Mum, he knows what I’m like.”
    Dubious silence.
    “I love him, you nong!” I shout.
    “Good,” she says simply.
    Abruptly I burst into floods of tears and John takes the receiver from my nerveless hand and says: “At least she’s finally broken down and admitted it, May.”
    I can hear her say, clear as clear: “She’s terrible, John.” Why isn’t she bawling?
    “I know! But somehow, I love her, too!” he says gaily,
    “Yes,” says Mum in a trembling voice, hah, hah! That got to her! “Well, I’d better let you go, John. Take care. And don’t take any nonsense from Rosie, will you? She’s always thought she could wind men round her little finger. Well, her father’s always spoilt her rotten.”—“Bullshit!” from Dad, very loud, in the background.
    “Don’t worry, May, she’s behaving herself. She may have a brand-new pair of roller skates,” he says primly, “but I’ve got a brand-new key that she rather likes.”
    At this my ever-bawling mother gives a loud and startled and distinctly dirty snigger and chirps: “Oh, good! Well, keep it up, John!” By God, she said that on purpose! My jaw drops ten feet.
    He winks at me. “I’ll try! Bye for now, May!”
    “Bye-bye!” she trills, and hangs up.
    He hangs up. “I’m told the norm is that they get even riper when the first grandchild’s on the way. Not to you, of course, you’re merely the vehicle.”
    My ears are still ringing and I merely gape at him.
    “I thought that went rather well.”
    I recover the power of speech. “Your bits, did, yeah. Well, thank God you are a devious manipulator with the combined powers of the Sirens, Disraeli and Baron Munchhausen.”
    He blinks. “Thanks. I think. Er—why drag poor old Dizzy into it? His way with the ladies?”
    “That, too. No: ‘Never apologise.’”
    He breaks down in a terrible sniggering fit and I bash him unmercifully with a cushion. “And don’t think Dad won’ta seen through ya, even if he did let himself be sweet-talked!”
    “I don’t think that for a moment; I’m looking forward to meeting him.”
    Yeah, maybe. And her, bet she has her hair set for the occasion.
    “Rosie, don’t scowl! Didn’t it go off better than you expected?”
    His bits, yeah. “Look, just don’t pour the charm on with Mum, okay? You’re mine, not hers. And before you start, you are the same generation, even if I do recognise that wanking song—and I woulda said it was out of your period—and I don’t want to find myself on the outer with an older-generation peer group aligned against me, thanks very much!”
    “Er—no,” he says slowly. “That could very easily happen…”
    “Yeah. So watch it.”
    He agrees to watch it and we go amicably into the kitchen to start making supper. We start with boiled eggs. Rupy comes in just as we’re sitting down to them and cries: “Big boilers! With soldiers! Why didn’t you wait for me?”
    “Didn’t know when or if you'd be back. Make yer own: the egg pot’s still there.”
    He’s just sat down with his boiled eggs and toast when the phone rings.
    “Don't answer that!” I scream.
    They both pause, bums just off their chairs.
    “It’ll be Aunty Kate, Mum will’ve rung her: they’ve had time for a good confab and for Mum to bawl her eyes out.”
    “Rubbish,” says John briskly, getting right up.
    Rupy, on the other hand, sinks into his seat. “John—”
    He doesn’t listen, and of course it is. By the time there’s indications she’s stopped bending his ear I’m prepared. So I hold up the list pad, turned to the next page: “NO WAY. I’M IN BED, EXHAUSTED AFTER ALL THAT REHEARSING.”
    “Er—oh. I’m terribly sorry, Kate, but she’s popped off to bed, exhausted by today’s rehearsal with that bully Paul Mitchell. I'll see if she’s still awake, but I don’t think—” Goes over to the passage door, opens it, waits, closes it, comes back and says coolly: “I’m afraid she’s asleep, Kate.”
    Rupy and I just goggle at him with our eyes on stalks.
    Eventually, after he’s lied coolly about Rupy not being back yet, she lets him go, and Rupy croaks: “John, dear, you were wonderful!”
    “Did you think the two of you were the only ones who could tell a lie without blinking?”
    We subside, smiling palely.
    “Anyone for little kosher rolls with English cheddar?” he says calmly.
    No, well, Real Life does tend to be like that. Touchingly romantic, it ain’t.
Scene: The Wedding. Enter Captain’s Mother and Father, looking cool.
NAVAL UNIFORMED USHER: Which side, please?
FATHER: (murmurs. Usher shows them to Groom’s side.)
MOTHER (sotto voce): Really!
FATHER: Ssh!
Music. Enter more guests. Pan over guests. Close-up of Groom and Best Man in naval uniform. Cut to door. Enter Admiral, with medals, supporting Lady Guest 1 and Lady Guest 2. Close-up of medals.
NAVAL UNIFORMED USHER: Which side, please?
ADMIRAL (jovially): Oh, Bride’s, definitely, Lieutenant!
Cut to close-up of Mother and Father, seated.
MOTHER (cranes neck): Surely that’s— Well, really! I suppose that's all that can be expected!
FATHER: Ssh, my dear. I suppose they can be classed as her friends.
MOTHER (compresses lips, is silent).
Cut to close-up of Admiral, Lady Guest 1 and Lady Guest 2, seated.
LADY GUEST 1 (looks round pleasedly): Isn’t this pleasant?
LADY GUEST 2 (eagerly): Yes, they’ve done it up really nicely!
ADMIRAL: Jolly nice. (Looks at front of room): I say, here we go! Good Lord, it’s a woman!
LADY GUEST 1: Ssh, dear! I believe they often are, these days.
Music swells. Cut to view of entrance. Enter two bridesmaids in ruby velvet suits, long-skirted, and platform-soled shoes. Each wears a ruby velvet pill-box hat and carries a small posy of puce-centred frilly white orchids. Track back as bridesmaids proceed up aisle. Music swells. Cut to view of entrance. Enter Bride in cream velvet suit, long-skirted, and cream suede courts. She wears a cap of cream feathers and carries a bouquet of cream rosebuds. Small diamonds at ears and wrist, pearls at neck. Track back as she proceeds up aisle. Guests crane necks and smile. Cut to back view of bridal party as she joins them.
GROOM: (turns head, smiles).
Cut to close-up of Lady Guest 1, in tears. Cut to close-up of Mother, looking cool. Cut to view of bridesmaids. Smaller bridesmaid in tears. Taller bridesmaid, now holding bride’s bouquet, fumbles to give her a handkerchief.
BRIDE (turns, produces handkerchief from pocket of cream velvet jacket): Here, Imelda, take mine.

    It was like that—sorry. The excruciatingly narrow skirts of those ruddy suits were their choice, as was the ruby velvet. I wanted cream wool, not velvet, but wasn’t allowed to get away with it. It’s only once in a girl’s life (we hope) and you want to have something special to look back on. The frilly orchids were their choice, too, but I think you’ve probably guessed that. John insisted on paying for them and on giving Imelda and Linda each a small string of pearls, they thought they were the cat’s whiskers. And on giving me a double string, much larger, I was embarrassed and he called me Miss Eyre again.
    The eventual guest list had got so long, people such as Sheila, and Paula and her nice Jack, and Arthur and Mrs Morrissey of course having to be added—though John stopped me from inviting Della, making the point that then I’d have to invite the whole of the Dance Studio—that we had to split it into two: actual ceremony versus reception only. And we had to accept Brian’s offer of their house for the reception: there was no way they could all have fitted into Fiona and Norman’s place.
    We got a short sermon, unrequested, but the knowledgeable, such as Raewyn and Sally, tell me that Registry Office services are always like that these days, more churchy than the church ones. Miss Hammersley cried softly throughout, tears of joy, and Lady Mother remained cool and unsmiling throughout, no surprises there. Fiona cried tears of joy when the groom was allowed to kiss the bride. He kissed me properly, it was very exciting but also very embarrassing in front of that crowd, I could feel my ears going bright red.
    When we came out some cretin had jacked up a Royal Naval guard of honour, how hideously embarrassing! John didn’t seem embarrassed at all, he was grinning like mad. And the Press loved it. So did those of the next bridal party who’d got there a bit early and were hanging around outside hugging themselves in their coats. (Early April isn’t warm in Blighty, don’t you believe a word about that crap of “Aprylle with his shoures soote” or “Oh to be in England now that April’s here”. T.S. Eliot had it about right: “April is the cruellest month.”)
     Of course accepting Brian and Penny’s offer meant that we had to be rather firm about the augmentation of the guest list, like: not Derry Dawlish, Brian: John has met him and he can’t stand him. Turned out Brian had no idea D.D. had inflicted himself on us down at the cottage that time after the Chipping Ditter Festival and he went very red, poor guy. The house looked wonderful, masses of flowers, evidently Brian insisted on paying for a large portion of it, even John couldn’t stop him. They’ve got two huge reception rooms that can be thrown into one at need, so they were. The tables and chairs were hired, of course, Penny always does that when she has to entertain. And her usual caterers; they were thrilled to do a wedding, according to her. She consulted me over what to eat, yikes, I didn’t know what a wedding-breakfast lunch ought to consist of! So I asked Fiona to help and she was thrilled to be involved. She and Penny had a lovely time alternately vetoing each other’s suggestions or crying: “Of course, my dear! Delicious!”
    The disposition of the guests at the tables turned out to be a bit odd, like, Miss Hammersley, Doris and the Admiral with Maybelle, Gray and Vanessa—post-op, she’s had the blues so he asked her to be his partner to cheer her up, and she cheered up wonderfully. She looked great in a white wool suit with silver buttons and just a bit of Chanel-type silver braid and a fab picture hat, white wool with bits of silver veiling, that would’ve done Joan Collins proud. More bridal than me, really. After a bit John broke down and asked me very quietly if that was a man in drag at Kenneth’s table, so I was able to reply: “No. That’s Vanessa, doesn’t she look great? She used to be a man.” Which effectively silenced the poor bloke. At the other side of the room poor Yvonne, looking splendid in a new bright blue wool suit and a new hairdo, and complete with a grinning Li, was saddled with John’s old school mate from Harley Street (oh, yes) and his toffee-nosed up-market wife. As the reception wore on the old mate got more and more genial (so did Li) and the wife got colder and colder… Barbara was all right, though: I made sure that her and nice Jimmy Parkinson (the Naval Uniformed Usher) got put at the same table as Bridget. She didn’t bring a partner but as Darryn didn’t either, I made sure he got put at that table, too. There was a stiff-necked Navy couple with them, true, but I done all I could. Corky and Susan Corcoran and a very bored John Corcoran who was granted a day off school for it were inflicted on the poor Wus (they actually came! Red-letter day!) and Barry Machin. (His dad wouldn’t close the shop but he let him come, largely because Barry threatened to go and work for the next newsagent, three blocks over: he's been head-hunting, evidently he wants someone reliable that knows the ropes and Barry’s that, all right.) Gradually as Corky’s attention wandered and Susan started to get sloshed, John and Barry were able to get themselves round quantities of fizz and go into a male teen peer group.
    Unfortunately the Father and Mother of the Groom were at our table but so were Brian and Penny. (I let Brian give me away, he was dying to. Michael fancied it but I didn’t take his hints.) Although Brian and Penny aren’t out of the top drawer, they’re apparently civilised enough for Lady Mother to chat graciously to. Father Sir Admiral absorbed huge amounts of champagne and then after the speeches (I draw a veil there) started on the brandy and got almost jovial. Given that her eye kept returning to him.
    Escape came at last and, having been prompted to throw the bouquet, I heaved it pointedly at Yvonne (something’s got to get Li off his chuff and proposing, the poor woman’s thirty-five, and what about her biological clock?) and we ran down the front steps, me in Miss Hammersley’s dead minks over the bridal cream suit, and collapsed, in the case of one, into the Jag. And off, in a hail of rice and more tears of joy from Miss Hammersley, Doris, Fiona, Yvonne, Bridget, Barbara, Joanie, Imelda, Tiffany, Mrs Singh, and Vanessa.
    Ten yards up the street he stopped and removed the collection of tin cans from the back bumper and wiped the “Just Married” off the back window but I was expecting that. Then we set off again. Just to the cottage, who wants to spend their wedding night in a wanking hotel when they’ve got a lovely cottage to go home to?
    Next on the agenda is the better part of a week on wanking planes. We’re going via California to see Matt, of course. Also because John doesn’t want to risk taking me through the Middle East and India and Hong Kong and having me get a tummy bug on top of the preggy. The break in Washington is, quote unquote, only to help get his replacement up to speed. Yeah, right. Puce and magenta cows all round, the bloody Schumaker woman has already rung him, long distance, to say she’s arranging a small reception, Lady Norwich pronounced Norrish has already rung him to say she’s arranging a small dinner… God.
    “Happy, darling?” the nong says, patting my knee, as we settle back in our seats in the first of many jumbos to come.
    I lie…
    Sydney airport is streaming with humidity, whether the air-con’s on the blink or they’re too mean to turn it on in April, don’t ask me. It’s taken us two hours to get through Baggage Claim and Customs even though most of the plane was filled with Aussies coming back from their Easter trips to Rotorua. No-one to meet us. We look round blankly at the seething mass of people meeting other people…
    “You did give them the right flight and like that? And time? You do know they’re off Summer T—” Yes, he does. Well, in that case, Mum’s back-seat driving from the front seat has sent Dad over the edge of the motorway, or the off-ramp sign blew down with the last storm or… “Hey, John, you did tell them it was Air New Zealand for this last leg, didja?” Er… He thinks so, darling. Shit. “We better sit down and wait: they’ll of gone to Qantas or British Airways.”
    We sit down and wait…
    Kenny pants up, sweating. “Why the fuck were you on Air New Zealand?”
    “That was the most convenient  flight from Auckland,” explains John, standing up.
    “Yeah, and why the fuck didn’t you check with the airport?” I snarl, remaining seated. There’s still no sign of Mum and Dad.
    He ignores that. “Mum thought you must’ve been in an accident!”
    “Kenny, all you had to do was read the board and see what flights had come in from Auckland,” I say in a bored voice.
    “I imagine that eventually dawned,” murmurs John.
    Kenny glares at the both of us impartially. “Yeah, right, and we’ve been all over the flaming airport!”
    “Have they extended it again?” I ask with friendly interest.
    “No! They’re gonna build a new one!” he snarls.
    “And the rest.” Well, they’ve recently built an Olympic Village over one mooted site, and the next mooted site has had the kybosh put on it for reasons solely connected with Influence and Politics, and there’ve been huge residents’ protests over the next mooted or possibly the previous mooted, and according to Dad this has been going on since 1956.
    “Shut up, Rosie! Gimme that bag!” he snarls.
    “No, it’s not heavy.”
    “Take the pink one, Kenny, it is heavy,” says John, giving up any pretence of expecting that a Marshall is ever gonna introduce anybody to anybody. “Are May and Jerry here?”
    “Yeah, but Mum was bawling and she hadda go to the toilet,” he reveals, giving him a look of plain dislike.
    “Oh? Very like her daughter, then,” he murmurs.
    Kenny gives a short, sharp bark of laughter. “You said it! Come on, grab those bags, wouldja, I said we’d meet them back at the carpark, Dad’s had enough.”
    “Understandable,” he murmurs, hoisting his big suitcase. “Rosie, give that small bag to Kenny, please.”
    I give in and give the small bag to Kenny; this only leaves me with my carry-on bag (laptop bag, what else?) and my duty-frees. John hoists his duty-frees with his other hand and we go.
    Dunno if you’re familiar with airport carparks but the Sydney one is HUGE… John orders me to take the coat off, it’s suffocatingly humid, darling, only I’d never manage to carry it. I leave it on, red-cheeked and sweating. Kenny notes I just better not chunder in Dad’s car, he’ll kill me. Fortunately there aren’t all that many maroon Mercs in Sydney and we eventually find the right one. Thank God he doesn’t drive a pale grey Mitsubishi, there’s fifteen thousand of them here.
    Yep, she’s bawling, all right.
    “Hey! Mum! We’re HERE! Stop BAWLING!” I bellow, bashing on her window.
    Dad ignores this palaver completely, he gets out and wrings John’s hand, grinning. “Air New Zealand, was it? That cretin Kenny reckoned it was Qantas.”—See?—“Rosie chuck up on the plane?”
    “No, not on any of them.”
    “I wouldn’t of dared!” I point out aggrievedly.
    “What the fuck are you doing in that bloody coat, you silly moo, it’s only April,” replies my loving father. “Take it off before you explode.” I hand him the duty-frees, they’re for him, anyway, and struggle out of it. Good grief, then he gives me a kiss. “Shove it in the boot, for God’s sake.”
    He and John wedge the luggage and the dead minks in the boot. Kenny just stands there like a turd, typical.
    “It was cold in England,” I explain lamely as Mum gets out, throws her arms round me and guess what. God. “Stop bawling, Mum, we got here safe and sound.”
    That’s not why she’s crying, it’s lovely to see me again, sob, sob, and the video of the wedding Rupy sent was lovely! –Sob, sob. Yeah, well, if she wasn’t shit-scared of flying—stomach of iron, they all have, as I think I mighta mentioned, it’s only fear that stops her—she coulda been there and enjoyed the sensation of being looked at down Lady Mother’s aristocratic nose in person. (Don’t say it.)
    “Yeah. It wasn’t his, it was a professional one, they made loads of copies.”
    Of course, and my Aunty Kate rang to say hers had arrived safely and it was lovely! Well, at least Aunty Kate didn’t pop over to Pongo to be there in person, one mercy, though I personally woulda quite enjoyed watching her being looked at down— Yeah. And why didn’t we send one to my Aunty Allyson?
    “Mum, she lives right here in Sydney, I thought you’d show her yours.”
    She’d like to have her own copy, dear. All right, we’ll send her one. She can put it on the shelf next to the videos of Cousin Wendalyn’s huge white wedding, Wendalyn’s and Shane’s honeymoon in Bali (the swimming-poolish and touristy bits, whaddareya?), Baby Taylor’s christening, Baby Taylor’s first (well, early) steps, Baby Taylor’s first birthday, Baby Taylor’s second birthday, the gap for the third birthday when Wendalyn and Shane were busting up messily, and Wendalyn’s second wedding, to Bryce, not as white but on the whole just as elaborate, featuring Little Taylor as a flowergirl (yes, it’s a female name in Oz) in huge shocking-pink frills and wet pants. (Not as potty-trained as was claimed, right.) The video of their honeymoon in Rarotonga didn’t come out right, which was all his fault.
    Mum bawls all over John after he’s kissed her cheek and then there’s a short argument over who should go in the front seat which Kenny more or less settles by bellowing: “For Pete’s sake go in the front! Dad, ya know what she is in cars, make her go in the front, unless ya want her chundering all over you!” So I go in the front.
    After a while John murmurs: “How far is it?” And Mum chirps happily: “Oh, not far, John, dear!” And Dad chokes slightly. Fair warning, eh? So two hours later we’re finally here and John looks round dazedly. Well, it’s a sort of middle-income suburb, not really outer but outer-ish, not nearly far out enough to get the bushfires, thank Christ. A fair number of trees. Most of the houses are about as old as ours, um, hang on, I was just starting secondary school when we came so, um, fourteen or fifteen years old? Sydney’s spreading so rapidly that the suburb started to go up-market when we weren’t looking and some of the original houses have been replaced by wanking cream or terracotta palaces, they look bloody peculiar on a fifth of an acre, and some, like ours, have been modernised (windowsill-less rendered cream exteriors, whaddelse) and extended. Mum says proudly doesn’t the new wing look good, so we agree, what can ya say?
    The new pool of course is in the L formed by the new wing and the old house and as Kenny points out, that flaming frangipani that she insisted on drops leaves in it from late December through June but she won’t be told. And no, there isn’t really any back garden any more, John, only the drying green, but she wanted it and Dad let her have her head, fundamentally he doesn’t give a fuck. –“Ken-nee!” from the hinterland where she’s getting lunch regardless of whether we want it or already had it. “Stop that swearing!” Kenny just eyes John drily and shrugs.
    Our bedroom in the new wing’s really nice if you like Year 2000 hotel décor and it’s got French doors opening onto the pool area, only owing to the Australian swimming-pool regulations what they actually open onto is a two-metre stretch of up-market cream pavers and a childproof iron-railed fence nearly as tall as I am. She’s painted it pale turquoise, mind you. Goes good with the deeper turquoise of the giant oblong pool and the pale turquoise guttering, yep. Of course the old part of the house had to be super-duperised to match but what the heck, Dad’s got the dough and if she wants to spend it like that, he doesn’t care.
    John’s watching dazedly as Kenny removes his shirt and kicks off his rubber thongs (flip-flops to some), goes through the gate, conscientiously closing it after him, and jumps into the pool in what he assumed were shorts, coming to past the knee with giant pockets on them and being worn in a public place like they were, but are possibly swimmers, being a nice bright blue floral pattern on white.
    So I wander into the kitchen to look as if I’m helping, she won’t let me, of course, she never does. All giant grey granite bench tops and featureless white Melamine cupboards with industrial-look plain metal handles. (Flattened hoops, geddit? Thoughtcha had.) The floor’s blue-grey slate but she’s given in to the extent of putting down a couple of Joslynne’s Mum’s hand-made rag rugs on the actual bits she stands on
    “Need a hand?”
    “No, thanks, Rosie, it’s all under control!”
    It always is. “I see Joslynne’s Mum gave ya some rugs. How is she?”
    “Daft as a brush, dear.”
    Right; no change there. She elaborates but I don’t listen…
    “Does John eat cold chicken, Rosie?”
    “Uh—dunno. He eats hot chicken, though, so I s’pose he does.”
    “Honestly, Rosie! You are hopeless!”
    No change there.
    She lets me carry stuff through to the “family-room” quote unquote, it’s only the old lounge-room, but she’s got new floorboards (those lock-together ones), a giant new rug that covers most of them up, Persian pattern, puce and black and blues, think it’s fake, a new suite, puce leather (Guess Who let her have her head), one feature chair, turquoise leather, new full-length curtains at the glass sliding doors, turquoise, uh, satin? Shiny curtain stuff, whatever. Oh, the dining suite’s new, too. Real wood with that icky white-stained finish and totally neutral seat covers. Vinyl. Why buy vinyl-covered dining chairs when you’ve gone to all the unnecessary expense of buying real leather— Forget it. Kenny’s told to turn the TV OFF and to put a shirt on—he does the former, ignores the latter—and we sit down to it. Cold chicken and cold ham, the weather’s been so stuffy you’d never think it was April, hot potato bake (logical, right), cold lettuce and tomato salad with Praise mayonnaise on the side, separate bowl of cold sliced beetroot because Kenny likes it, separate bowl of—uh? “That’s a broccoli and mushroom salad, dear, Joslynne’s mother made it,” she says with a smothered sigh. “Those are sesame seeds on it, and I think she said there was sesame oil in it; can you get sesame oil? And the mushrooms aren’t cooked, she says they’re better for you… The broccoli’s cooked, though,” she offers dolefully. “She insisted.” I take some, trying not to grin. Of course it’s delish.
    John eats it all, even the unadorned cold tinned beetroot, and congratulates her on it, the hypocrite. She beams… Oh, well.
    “What do you think of the family-room, Rosie, dear?” she asks proudly.
   “Eh? Oh!” I don’t even need Dad’s warning look: I lie…
    It’s all like that. John obviously likes Joslynne’s Mum’s house much better than Mum and Dad’s: full of polished wood, and peasanty hand-made rugs, mostly imported from South America at sixteen thousand times the price the rug-maker woulda got, and Joslynne’s Mum’s pottery and weaving. And more pottery she got off her potting friends or actually bought, and bits of stained glass here and there, and macramé hangers with or without plants dangling out of them, and the giant orchids that are the hubby’s only interest in life, and like that. There’s more weaving than before, she’s really into that now, but apart from that, no change. The windowsill of the bog is lined with pots of pot, no change there.
    John takes an instant loathing to Joslynne’s new bloke, even though he isn't one of the Rough Trade types she was into for a while, like nine months before Rowan was born, he’s a smooth-faced accountant, drives a Honda sports job like Gavin Kensington’s from Henny Penny. Don’t think he likes Joslynne, either. Or her gear: she’s quite tall, sallow like her Mum, naturally dark-haired and thin. The hair’s a deep auburn, the sort that’s got purplish lights in it, and four inches of the sallow skin are displayed between the hem of the bright yellow sleeveless knitted top and the lowered-waisted, flared and embroidered Year 2001 jeans that I personally have never laid eyes on heretofore on anything above the age of twenty. True, the navel ring and the small tattoo of a dagger beside it (Rough Trade period) would be enough to nauseate any sane man, let alone a Royal Navy senior captain. On the way home from her place he asks me on a grim note whose house that is and I admit it’s Joslynne’s: she finally got her share of the giant palace she and the up-market hubby and the toy poodle used to live in and her dad gave her a hefty loan, largely to stop her moving back in with them, and with a huge mortgage, she managed the house. He’d rather thought so. Can’t she see that that fellow is taking advantage of her? No, she can never see anything wrong with her men until it all goes sour. He sighs; he quite sees.
    Aunty Allyson and Uncle Harry come over for tea and we’re invited there so she can inflict Wendalyn and Bryce and Little Taylor and Baby Kieran on John, and in short it’s all exactly like you thought it was gonna be, folks. Added to which, Sydney doesn’t put on any of the nice blue days it can do in April, it’s solid grey murk. Either humid murk or drizzling and humid murk. We go to Taronga Park Zoo with Joslynne and her kids, I get over-tired and he carts me home. We go to the Opera House… We go to the actual opera. Did I enjoy it? “Um, no, but I’m ignorant, John.” He laughs, squeezes my waist very tight, and says that that makes two of us, then! Gee, I thought it was rotten, go to the top of the opera appreciation class, L.R. Marshall! Ulp. Haworth. We go to a play in a very uncomfortable little theatre miles from anywhere, the acting’s quite good, the play itself is excellent, the scenery and costumes are woeful and we get lost trying to get home, Dad let him borrow the car.
    We go to the races at Randwick with Dad on several occasions and a good time is had by all, in particular as Dad refuses to let John put anything on anything except his tips, the bets being put on with another bookie, and he wins quite a lot of money. Fixed, no doubt. Dad will’ve laid off heavily, ya got that. We don’t go on a boat trip on the harbour, my tummy can’t face it. In desperation we go to Vaucluse House on the bus. “Very pretty.” It’s not even old, to him, dates from Victorian times. We go to Elizabeth Bay House. It gets the thumbs up: “a perfect little William IV gem.” Yep, no argument there. Would I like a house like that? No, I like our cottage. He laughs and squeezes my waist and we wander up to the Cross and find a lovely Indian restaurant for lunch… The curate’s egg, quite.
    Make it to Paris, day in a nice hotel, I’m so whacked I merely sleep. Never mind, Rosie, we can hop over to Paris any time. This would be true if I'm ever gonna go on a plane again after I get home, which I’m not. Finally make it to a strange English airport in the middle of nowhere, don’t ask, don’t ask, he’s got it all efficiently jacked up, the car’s waiting for us... Collapse into front seat of Jag. I’ll just have forty winks: he reckons we’ll be home in no ti…
    Where am I? I look frantically round a completely strange bedroom. Lovely palest cream wallpaper scattered with darling pink rosebuds on little short stems with tiny leaves. Wonderful matching under-curtains, frilled, just like Imelda made for John’s spare room, am I at the Singhs’? Heavy fawn velvet outer drapes, drawn back, it’s daytime, is it tomorrow? Pale fawn cotton duvet with a frill of the curtain material, edged with two narrow stripes, one dull brown, one pink. Gorgeous sheets and pillowcases, a big rosy pattern, all different shades of pink on a tan background, just like Doris’s sofa! Um, I’m not at Maybelle’s, am I? No, her roses were different. Where am I? I sit up and stare groggily at wide, dark floorboards scattered with dark Persian rugs… Uh, that oak dressing-table looks familiar, although that big crystal vase with the bunch of pale pink rosebuds in it doesn’t, and nor does that wonderful crocheted lace mat. Um, are those John’s silver brushes that he never uses? …Yes, think so. But I can’t be at the cottage, these doors are pale cream and the windowsills are pale pink!
    There’s a snuffling noise at the door and then it opens and Tim bounds in, “Wuff! Wuff! Wuff!” John follows slowly, carrying a silver tray… We can’t be at home, he doesn’t own a tea-set of white china scattered with little pink roses.
    “John, where are we?” I quaver as he shoves Tim over and sits down on the edge of the bed, putting the tray carefully down on the beside tab— Is that his trophy tray?
    “We’re home, darling!” he says, beaming. “Need to pee?” I do, so I stagger in the direction of where the ensuite would be if we were home. It’s our ensuite, all right: Fiona’s taste, all pale blue tiles and that funny wiggly semi-translucent shower door…
    It must be a dream, mixed reality and fantasy, y’know? “We can’t be home,” I say uncertainly, getting back into bed. Tim licks my face ecstatically and I hug him automatically.
    “Stop that, you brute!” Oh—Tim, not me. “Let Rosie have her tea! –Of course we are, darling.” He’s poured, he knows I like it weak, he hands me a cup.
    “John, this isn’t our tea-set,” I say in a trembling voice.
    “Yes, it is, sweetheart, it’s a wedding present from Terence. Wedgwood, see?” He picks up his saucer and turns it over for me. Wedgwood? I almost drop my cup.
    “John, if I use this for everyday I’ll break it,” I say in a trembling voice.
    “Then I’ll buy you a new one, or he will: he seems almost as keen on you as I am!” Grin, grin.
    “But where did all this stuff come from?” I ask in a trembling voice.
    John takes my cup and saucer off me and puts them back on the tray. “Don’t you like it?”
    I nod, tears slip down my cheeks.
    “Then there’s nothing to cry about! Well, Fiona, Tuppence, Doris, and Mrs Singh and I put our heads together, with more than a little help from Imelda,” he says with a laugh in his voice, “and decided that with a little co-ordination of wedding presents it could easily be done while we were away.” He scratches his chin. “If I recall correctly, the bedlinen is from Doris.”
    “Yes, it’s like her sofa,” I say dazedly.
    “Mm.” He pats my knee and gives me his pristine hanky. “The frilly curtains are from Mrs Singh and Imelda, and the new duvet is from—er—me. Mrs Singh and Imelda added the edging. Fiona and Norman had the outer curtains made and managed the wallpaper.”
    “Mm, tasteful,” I agree soggily, blowing my nose.
    “Of course! Jack Powell did most of the actual work, he was very keen to.” He gives me a dry look. “Including the painting. The crystal vase on the dressing-table is from Tuppence, it’s been in her family for a very long time, and it’s Waterford, darling.”—I’m looking at him in horror.—“You have heard of Waterford crystal?”
    “Yes! John, I’m sure to break it!” I gasp in horror.
    “Perhaps we might put it in the sideboard except for the times she comes to visit, mm?”
    I nod fervently.
    “You do like it all?”
    I burst into tears. “I—love—it—ya—nong!”
    He leans forward and hugs me strongly. “Then don’t cry, Rosie!”
    “There’s new lamps and everything!” I gulp.
    “Dusky pink shades, a matched pair!” he says with a laugh in his voice. “Bridget and Barbara: they clubbed together.”
    “And all these lace mats,” I utter.
    “Mm? Oh, yes! That was the woman who wore the green crochet hat with the, er, sparkly thing on it at the wedding, sweetheart.”
    “Mrs Morrissey. She does wonderful crochet,” I croak numbly, snuffling.
    “There you are, then! Wipe your eyes and drink your nice tea.”
    I manage to drink my nice tea out of delicate Wedgwood rose-pattern bone china. My lip starts to wobble again.
    “No more tears,” he says firmly. “They did it because they wanted to give you something you’d really like.”
    “No—yes. Not that! You let them do it!” I gasp.
    “Could I have stopped them?”
    “Very funny. It—it was so horrible before,” I admit dazedly. “And—and now it’s all rosy!” Shit, what a bloody stupid thing to say! I stare at him numbly with my mouth open.
    “So it is! All Rosie!” he chokes. He squeezes my hands tight.
    “So, um, it’s not too, um, feminine for you?” I ask in a trembling voice.
    He grins. “No. Just walking into the room is a bit like getting into you.”
    Gulp! Dunno if that was the effect Miss Hammersley and Doris would’ve intended! “You couldn’t have envisaged that, though.”
    “No, but I like the way it’s turned out!” Grin, grin.
    “Yes. Thanks for letting them,” I say in a trembling voice. “I love you.”
    This isn’t The Captain’s Daughter The Sequel, so he doesn’t reply with a hugely romantic speech. He just stands up and starts taking his clothes off. “Can’t be bad,” he says in what sounds suspiciously like the L.R. Marshall vernacular.
    We got a long way to go yet: I gotta finish the nationalism book, and the filming for the fourth series, not to mention the bloody songs for the fourth series, not to mention have the baby, and I know the Navy’s gonna send him away pretty soon, ten to one he won’t even be able to be here for the birth, and I can’t see Rupy standing in, and I haven’t even mentioned my idea for the long-term village study and getting Greg to masquerade as his gardener, or told him that Prof.’s offered me that permanent fellowship with only a little teaching—
    But I done pretty good, I come a long way, baby. A very long way, when I look back to that girl that stood shivering on Joanie’s doorstep working up the guts to work the bloody door phone, and all those months when I was sure he’d never look at me as long as I lived… So I guess you could say, at least for now, it’s a wrap.

CUT.
ROLL END CREDITS.


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