I went out to lunch yesterday.
Big deal, I hear you cry. You’re always out to lunch! Well, not quite true, although it does seem to happen at least once a week. Yesterday, however, I was out to lunch with my husband and we were meeting some very old friends who live in the next county.
The men arranged it. John and Vic, his old school friend, talked about it on the phone a couple of months ago and yesterday was the first occasion we could all manage. The previous evening, John rang Vic to confirm and said he had booked the table for 12.30. Vic said great and that he and Helen would probably get there around 12 noon. Brilliant. We decided to do the same.
It took a bit of scurrying. Our friends are usually on time, whereas we can always be relied upon to try to fit too many things into the hours before we are due to go somewhere, hence the scurrying. We threw ourselves into the car at the last possible second, aimed it in the direction of the pub we were due to meet at, approximately seventy miles from us and twenty miles from where our friends live. We arrived with a minute to spare and parked in an empty car park – triumphant – we had beaten them! We wandered into the pub, ordered coffee and sat down to wait. We watched the landlord and his girlfriend cutting pumpkins into nice shapes and drank our coffees. The car park began to fill up. Customers wandered in to order drinks and food.
As I said, Vic and Helen are not given to being late. At quarter past twelve, I was beginning to be twitchy and I had a terrible thought.
‘You did say we were meeting here, at The Swan’?
‘Of course I did.’
‘Only last time we met, it wasn’t here.’
‘Yes, it was.’
‘No,’ I informed my now doubting husband. ‘The last time we met it was at The Red Lion.’ His face was a picture. The Red Lion is seventy miles from Vic and Helen, twenty miles from our house. We have met at both places a couple of times. They are both very nice. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. The Swan sits under a huge viaduct and has a nice walk, so if the day is pleasant, we don’t spend the entire time eating. The Swan is closer to their house, The Red Lion closer to ours.
I began to snigger. I pictured Vic and Helen, ensconced in The Red Lion, whilst we sat in The Swan. Surely it wasn’t possible? We had driven into Essex to meet them. Had they really passed us at some point along the road and driven into Suffolk?
John went outside to ring Vic and was back two minutes later informing me that he didn’t have the mobile number and had just rung their house phone. I pulled out my phone, only to discover that Helen’s number must have changed and I was not getting any reply. No way to contact them. Half past twelve. By twenty to one, the landlord was looking at us a little oddly. Been in his pub forty minutes, had lunch booked for twelve thirty for four people and all we’ve ordered is two black coffees.
Hoping it amuses him as much as it is amusing me, I explain what I think has happened, adding that the men will never again be allowed to make the arrangements if it all turns out to be true. We all dither for another ten minutes or so. Then he asks if we have any way of contacting them and we confess that we do not. He offers to call The Red Lion and ask the landlord there if he has two strays sitting around looking a little lost.
He does. Eventually, the phone is transferred to me and I have a swift conversation with Vic. What shall we do? Do you want to come to us or shall we drive back into Suffolk and come to you? Or will we sit in solitary splendour in our separate places and vow never to meet again? They will come to us. It is now one o’clock.
Forty minutes later, they arrive and we all have a good laugh at the stupidity of it. By this time, we are all starving. As a result, we order far too much food and stuff ourselves stupid. The walk is now mandatory to shake down the vast quantity that we have eaten. As we walk, we discuss the lessons we have learned:
1. Confirm the venue and time by text or email.
2. Make sure we all have up to date telephone numbers for one another.
3. Never let the men organise anything again!
4. Helen and I agree that at their expense, I have a post for my blog: The (Almost Missed) Lunch!