With: Anne (born 1971)
Date: 22 July 2016
Where: Radnage, Chilterns
Some of my best friends are straight. No I'm serious. Some of the people I feel 'get me' the best actually happen to be straight and/or married. I mention this simply because I'm sure some people think I have no time for people who are in couples. Not true. I was one myself, once. One such person is Anne, who I first met in about 1999 when she was a senior administrator at the University of Sussex and I was a student union officer. My first clear memory is of Anne trying to teach me how to do a 'mail merge'. She is an administrative wizard to this day. It was Anne who showed me how to calculate in 2012 that I could - just - borrow enough additional money to buy Zoe out of Sydner Road, and it was to Anne I turned in 2015 when I needed help to calculate whether I could afford to quit my job and live indefinitely off the proceeds of renting out the house. Perhaps incongruously, she's also one of the people who makes me laugh most often. And it was to Anne I turned this summer to help me liaise with a Chilterns country pub and neighbouring campsite in order to begin organising my low-key 40th birthday weekend.
On the Friday Anne and I had arranged to meet at lunchtime for a walk (for this series) before everyone else arrived. However, concurrent family and work demands meant that Anne arrived later than planned feeling rather stressed. I had managed to cobble together some kind of tent-slop for a picnic lunch next to my tent, and Anne had brought a bottle of Champagne, so her stress soon dissipated as she filled me in on what had been happening.
When I sent this account to Anne to check one of her responses was: 'You've got to mention that the tent-slop included lentils and sardines, which caused you to produce walrussy farts all night in your tent. I wasn't similarly afflicted, thankfully.'
We didn't have very long for our walk, in fact other people had already started to arrive as we set off, but the likes of Paul and Russell were perfectly happy to relax with a Friday afternoon pint and seemed amused by the sight of me and Anne tottering off down a footpath with unsuitable footwear and a bottle of Champagne, looking ever so slightly like Edina and Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous.
I don't think we really talked about anything in particular during our walk. We were too busy being amused by ourselves and swigging Champagne straight from the bottle. After a circuit of perhaps a kilometre at most we found our way back to the pub where more people had arrived.
Thank you Anne both for your frequent practical help, for your generosity, for your openness, and for always accepting me exactly as I am. It's a great privilege to have you (and Paul) in my close circle. I can't wait to spend a proper chunk of time with you in Spain in the spring!