Updated: Feb 1, 2020
Chapter One: The Wedding
Like most journeys of any significance, this one began at a wedding. The heady mix of Pimms and lemonade in large quantities, rare British summer sunshine and the presence of a bride and a groom, meant that conversation and the bravado were flowing.
I am not a huge drinker and the Pimms had gone straight to my head. Back in my hey day, I thought nothing of swigging gin and bitter lemon straight from the bottle. The trick was to keep the mouthful of gin in your mouth as you swapped bottles and then take a swig of bitter lemon as quickly as possible, that way you felt like a sophisticated grown up rather than a down and out. My best mate at the time, a rather bright young, talented woman called Kris and I would take our gin swigs as we purposefully walked towards whatever house party we could find that weekend. In those days, we found parties by osmosis rather than social media.
Back then, alcohol didn’t make me feel sick or dizzy and the loud opinions that spouted from my foul Mancunian (someone from Manchester, it’s in the North, so it’s gritty) mouth made no impact on my companions because we were all fifteen and all pissed too.
Times were now very different. As a forty-something woman..... let’s cut the crap right now: as a forty seven year old woman, at my friend’s wedding I was throwing caution to the wind and drinking happily all day and well into the evening. The self-imposed brain filter which moderates my language and my rather forceful opinions was now switched off. My slightly concerned husband kept looking at me pointedly whenever I opened my mouth, indicating that I’d probably taken things too far already.
It is true, that without my filter firmly in place, words like ‘fuck’ and ‘cunt*’ do tend to fall freely from my potty mouth so its probably best that in polite society, I remain sober, tipsy at best.
These were the shoes Pip was wearing on the day of her fourth wedding. It provides you with an indication of our mutual attitude towards sensible footwear.
Back to the wedding.
My friend Pip was getting married for the fourth time. By this stage in her marital exploits she was making Zsa Zsa Gabor looking like a steady Eddie. With three grown up kids under her belt, none of whom were at the wedding, she had been there, done that and got several t-shirts.
Pip and I had met entirely by accident, or if you believe in unicorns, the universe put us together. She applied for a job I happened to be recruiting for and as I was interviewing her, I learned that she was intending to get married at The Globe Theatre. I was so impressed that I hired her immediately. Neither of us lasted long with that particular company, but happily our friendship did and so here I was, at her wedding.
It was not The Globe Theatre, but somewhere reasonably posh in middle England with the sun shining, the Pimms flowing and a sense of freedom which stemmed from being away for the weekend without kids. Pure bliss.
I never did ask her what happened to the plans to tie the knot at The Globe. Perhaps that’s something to save for a future conversation.
”I was bloody meant to go to India with my mate Steph the year we both turned fifty, but she’s gone and booked a trip of a fucking lifetime with her new bloke to bastarding India and I’m not invited.” This was my opening gambit as I sat myself down next to the blushing bride (it was more of a hot flush).
Pip looked at me with her big brown eyes, (no I don’t fancy her, she just has big brown eyes) like a puppy does when it thinks you have a biscuit in your pocket. Her head was actually cocked to one side, either out of curiosity or the onset of age related deafness, it was hard to tell by this stage in the evening.
Either way, she seemed pretty interested in what I was saying, so I carried on with my plaintive rant.
”The way I see it is that when we’re fifty we will give less of a fuck than we do now...”
”Speak for yourself, I already don’t give a fuck.” Replied Pip. She had an amazing ability to consume large quantities of alcohol and still not sound at all pissed.
”People think you’re totally fucked after forty five and should be sitting at home on a circular cushion doing your knitting. I think we should go to Nepal and stay in a yurt instead. I’ve found a great trekking company that does that kind of stuff and you get someone to carry your rucksack whilst you experience the wilderness and culture of remote Nepal.”
By this stage in my rant, I’d begun to get slightly wistful.
I was already imagining exploring the hilltop Buddhist temples, arriving at dusk having trekked throughout a spectacular wilderness which had moved my soul. The monks, in my mind would be awaiting our arrival with warm chai and dishes of hot lentil dahl. The sound of the prayer wheels spinning, the prayer flags flapping in the mountain breeze and the gentle ting ting of the famous Tibetan cymbals, reminiscent of my yoga class back home were the gamut of sensual experiences flooding my imagination at that moment.
Yak’s milk had arisen in my head as a beverage I might like to try too.
Pip was still looking at me.
I paused, waiting to hear what she had to say, fully expecting her to snort loudly, laugh into her Pimms and come back with a firm rebuttal.
”Yeah, alright then.” She said calmly. This unnerved me slightly.
”Yeah, I’d be up for that.”
”Great.” I said out loud. “Oh, fuck” I thought silently.
I am not afraid to admit that I was slightly taken aback by her response. With the alcohol fuelled bravado subsiding, a sick feeling rose in my stomach which was a combination of too much fruity alcohol and blind terror. I muttered something about looking into it when I got home.
My husband sighed and gently suggested that I have a decaffinated coffee.
Pip’s version of events:
I first met Bec in a slightly surreal interview conducted in a somewhat unpleasant room at Birmingham Airport, the job was awful but on the lighter side of things, I did make a friend for life - they are few and far between and apparently crop up in grotty rooms at airports!
(it was a Portakabin pretending to be an office building)
The nuptials Bec mentions were never intended to be at the Globe Theatre, rather at the RSC in Stratford Upon Avon. I also had an insane idea to hire costumes from their wardrobe department, but couldn’t find anyone willing to attend my wedding dressed as Bottom, so that idea fell by the wayside.
I have absolutely no recollection of actually agreeing to go hiking in Nepal, I just woke up the next morning and had apparently committed to this adventure (note: most of my weddings happened the same way, so not too unusual a circumstance). As we talked and planned it seemed to become a better and better idea.
Then I had to buy the walking boots.......
*for those sensitive types amongst you, ‘cunt’ is in fact an Anglo Saxon word, found in the best known piece of written literature in the Old English language, namely “Beowulf” plus in Glasgow its a term of endearment as in ‘alright yer cunt’ or ‘yer big cunt, how yer doin?’ Context is everything when it comes to language.