"Let's have a winter BBQ!" announced Ever Patient Husband one dark evening last autumn.
"Hmmm." I replied, hoping he would forget all about it and we could all move on.
Sadly, this was not to be the case. The lack of festive activities this year, meant that the winter BBQ idea grew in EPH's mind to the point where it had developed into a fire pit extravaganza. He was like the proverbial dog with a bone and he just wouldn't let it lie, despite my dark mutterings and patronising 'yes dear' type responses.
As part of our festive calendar we decided to go for a ‘long walk’ in The Pentland Hills. Ever Patient Husband has often threatened do a long walk with me, but has always seemed a bit too busy clipping his toenails whenever I’ve suggested it. Our Festive Lockdown afforded the ideal opportunity to go en famille into the semi-wilderness that sits just five miles from our home in Edinburgh.
If you were in Derbyshire you would have been the lucky recipient of a £200.00 fine for 'not staying local' oh and no picnics allowed either.
We got up early (ish) and I packed a mini rucksack full of oat cakes and hummus (it works for Pip and I, so should work for Ever Patient Husband and Youngest Daughter). I even packed carrots for Eddie as he loves a carrot.
What sort of strange dog likes carrots? Dude looks at you as if you are insane if you offer him any sort of vegetable - although he is partial to celery - which obviously is not strange at all.
Very wisely, EPH took charge of the map. It must be noted that this was the very same map Pip and I had used on our abortive mission to climb some hills in The Pentlands. Our happy trio, plus Eddie headed towards the Harlaw car park, which appeared to be the main car park for the walk we’d chosen to do that day.
Every other family on the Southside of Edinburgh had decided to do the same walk at the same time and park in the same car park. EPH immediately lost patience and declared the whole thing a total disaster. Now, Youngest Daughter and I are accustomed to such outbursts and we patiently guided him towards a verge where there were plenty of parking spaces, both ignoring his rants about turning back and everything being a complete waste of time.
I must say I am with him on this one...I have the patience and tolerance of a HUGE thing with no patience or tolerance at all.
It was snowy, clear and cold. The kind of winters day we all dream of, with sparkly blue skies and soft winter sunshine. Within moments of starting out we all realised that what looked like a pretty winter snow scene was in fact a landscape full of deadly sheets of ice. I skittered along like Bambi on ice and managed to restrict my arse over tit falling act to just three incidents, all of which were accompanied by sniggering from my family and a patronising look from my dog who doesn’t understand why humans are so crap at walking on ice.
If there was a olympic medal for ungainliness Bec would absolutely romp it with 10’s all round
Reader, we got lost. I was not in charge of the map, but a man with an actual penis was and we still managed to get lost. It didn’t help that Youngest Daughter had ascended mountain goat like up a large hill which had taken us off piste. EPH and I huffed and puffed our way up the hill to catch her and by the time we’d reached the summit, there were no living creatures in sight apart from a few grouse and some sheep.
If he was using his penis to navigate he was doing something wrong.
We ate our picnic whilst we considered our next move, which had to be fairly swift as it was bloody freezing with only ninety minutes of daylight left. As we descended the other side of the hill knee deep in heather and snow, a sense of panic set in with EPH and YD. I, as ever was happily wading through heather and sheep poo oblivious to any kind of risk.
One of the reasons that I am never allowing you to be in sole charge of either the route or the directions again
The descent got sharper and the heather thicker until there was no going on. The hill transformed itself into a cliff and even I, through my rose tinted spectacles with stars on them realised that we would have to turn back or risk free falling to our deaths onto unsuspecting walkers below. Not wanting to inflict trauma on too many families at such a festive time of year, we turned back.
As it turns out, the walk back was uneventful and we bumped into a family who had clearly done the walk we were supposed to do, without the near death cliff experience and who appeared smug in their ability to read maps and keep control of their offspring. They were probably vegans.
Were they wearing 'hemp' clothing? That's always a dead give away....
Our reward, was the long-promised winter BBQ.
Some context is needed here dear reader. You might be thinking that this is a simple matter of a winter BBQ complete with fire pit, but you’d be wrong. Very wrong.
For two whole years, I have been asking, talking, cajoling, nagging and ranting about getting the top end of our garden sorted out. At the moment it is a wasteland of torn, black, anti-weed matting, a rusting BBQ, some broken chairs, a couple of dodgy tables that don’t match, a pergola that has fallen down twice and been nailed back together by EPH and a gazebo with no doors and a rotting floor which contains a wasps nest.
You are painting a slightly dystopian image for us here.
The doors to the gazebo flew off in a winter storm two years ago and made their way up to EPH’s joinery workshop (if you recall, he is a joiner whose business makes doors and windows - the irony is painful) and haven’t been seen since.
Their journey can be followed in the yet unwritten novella - The Mystery of the Missing Gazebo Doors....
Every time I’ve mentioned the top of the garden, EPH’s response has ranged from, ‘it’s a winter project’ to ‘we don’t know what we want to do yet’. My level of interest in the fire pit plan was therefore passive aggressive at best and openly resentful at worst.
Bless him. We returned, relieved from our ‘long walk’ (it was 8 miles!) and EPH immediately embarked upon a building project in the apocalyptic end of the garden, commonly known as the BBQ area. He re-emerged in the kitchen, rather please with himself, declaring that he had now built the fire pit and had lit it along with the rusting eyesore that is the BBQ.
I deserve an Oscar for the words that came out of my mouth at that point,
”Brilliant, I’m really looking forward to it darling.”
His little face lit up and we began taking the food, utensils and plates up to the Chernobyl section of our garden (the rest of it is beautiful, which makes the post-nuclear attack look even more annoying).
Middle Child and YD were wisely staying well out of the way in the warmth of the cosy, comfortable house until the food was actually ready, I, however, being the loving wife that I am, kept EPH company sitting around the roaring flames of the homemade fire pit, waiting the BBQ flames to die down so we could eat and have a lie down on a comfy sofa.
He had kindly positioned the fire pit at a suitable distance from the low wall he’d made out of sleepers during the March lockdown and suggested I place our garden chair cushions on it so I had a dry bottom as we both stared into the flames.
It was actually lovely. The flames were licking into the night sky, I was reasonably warm and there’s something quite grounding and spiritual about an open fire in the outdoors at night.
As we wistfully stared into the hot flames, an almighty explosion erupted from the fire pit and scalding hot masonary was flung in the direction of my face.
”Fucking hell!” I shouted. “The bloody fire pit has exploded!”
I actually can’t breathe I am laughing so much.
EPH acknowledged that it had indeed exploded with the words, ‘Yes it has.’
Is that it? I was millimetres away from a life-altering injury and all he could say was, ‘yes it has’?
A stunning non sequitur from EPH..
”What did you use to build it?” I enquired tentatively.
”Those Indian sandstone slabs we had left over from the patio near the kitchen.“ He paused and then added rather helpfully, “I don’t think they’re fire retardant.”
'No Shit Sherlock' I replied with slightly less of my customary patient tones discernable.
Things settled back down and we took up our seats once again around the romantic, yet deadly fire pit, ready to be wistful once again.
The common denominator is wistfulness...stop it
”Jesus Christ!” It happened again. I jumped up like a scalded cat as the fire exploded and yet more white hot masonry flew at me.
No comments were needed as we both waited until the fire had stopped spitting at us and took up our seats once again, having a little laugh about third time lucky etc.
The final explosion was the biggest and this time, red hot embers found their way into the pocket of my apron (I always wear and apron when I’m dealing with food as I am the clumsiest person ever) and I narrowly avoided combusting.
Apparently, I was over-reacting by this time. Really?
Steaks were consumed, marshmallows were roasted and the burns unit was narrowly avoided and we packed up and returned to the relative safety of indoors.
You’ll be pleased to know dear reader that I have now ordered the poshest fire pit on the planet from the USA which is guaranteed not to explode in my face and have put the wheels in motion to get some estimates to finally sort the end of our garden out.
Checking in with my girl friends makes me realise that some men have a propensity to put things off until their partners go insane or die. I have now decided that I will short circuit such procrastination and simply proceed until apprehended.
This has been my theory for years - although Beautiful Daughter has mentioned that perhaps that is why I have been divorced so many times...my response was that it is one of life's mysteries and we will probably never define quite why...!
It is after all easier to gain forgiveness than permission.
A truer thing was never spoken