I turned to Younger Dad, 'we should have booked.' The cafe was full; couples, friends, children sat upon laps. A Saturday buzz lifted the intimate space. Candles on tables. Walls hidden in local frippery. The window display; a forest of wide leafed flora subduing the incoming light, now small and tip toeing. Vintage bicycles, rusted and buckled, hung from their frames, a fake canary on miniature tricycle swung from a wire; a yellow feathered trapeze. I love a bit of broken character. I totally dig the kooky. And I so wanted to eat here, in the The Bicycle Shop. But alas, it wasn't to be... an interesting ambiance often makes for a sublime menu, and in my undecided stalling - do we stay here? do we leave? - my attention was found wanting, carried from handwritten letters on a chalkboard, deposited on the thick set bloke behind the bar. Why on earth was he wearing that light blue jumper? The colour accentuated the merino curls spilling out over the v-neck, all splayed and shaggy. A dark wiry pelt. I had never seen anything like it. Ever. 'Look at that chest,' I said to my husband. 'Don't stare,' he replied, 'c'mon, let's find somewhere else to eat, we won't get a table here...'
I was so absorbed I forgot to frame the detail, the camera forsaken in my shoulder bag. We meandered around The Lanes of Norwich, taking in the sunshine; people sat at tables outsides cafes, smiling, welcoming an unusually warm spring day, the air swelling with flirtation and chit chat. Look at that spotty green bag. I want one of those notebooks... and we paused outside a wedding shop; flowing taffeta for the ladies, heavy tuxedos for the gentlemen, 'can you believe it's been five years already?' I said to Younger Dad. He held my hand that little bit tighter. In Biddy's Tearooms we sat at an old sewing machine table, surrounded by chintz and bric-a-brack; old suitcases piled in corners, a lampshade balanced on three tea cups, delicate bunting stretched across the ceiling, and we talked as a couple, about our individual aspirations, our future as a family; my pot of lapsang souchong smoky and perfect, the last crumbs of a very fine vanilla cupcake gathered in the middle of my plate, leftover particles of what seemed like a first date.
We strolled back in the late afternoon sun, blossom deepening in the retracting light, the odd fresh petal caught on the curb of the road. We stopped at an interiors shop, bought ourselves an anniversary present; a lap top table for the bedroom, made from wood, the element of this year's celebration; to write and tinker on propped up by pillows, comforted under a warm duvet. When we arrived back, the house was empty; Little A and Granny at the park. She returned half way through a film we began watching, launching herself into our arms, 'are you still staying in the hotel?' she asked, 'I'm worried something might happen to my parents.' 'Don't worry, we cancelled the hotel earlier, but Granny's still putting you to bed, okay?' 'Okay.' 'Feeling better now?' I asked. 'Feeling much better,' she replied. Maybe not this time, but the next we would stay away. One step at a time.
Pre-dinner drinks in a boutique bar; we were early for our booking, so we meandered again, around quieter streets this time. A man kept passing us by. Back and forth. Back and forth. I couldn't help but make up a story; his first wife had died a decade before, and now he was sole carer of his son and frail mother. This was his first date in a decade, he was so excited, so nervous, and yet he felt conflicted between his needs and those who depended upon him... The restaurant was an experience, billed as one of Norwich's foremost, a rare treat; desert was a pineapple sorbet with mango and coconut palm mousse, lovage jelly, spiced with mint sherbet. I had never tasted anything quite like it.
Later, light headed and contented, we cuddled up and watched the remainder of the movie on the newly acquired wooden table. Five years together as a married unit, we felt proud, all we had come through over recent years. Older Mum. Younger Dad. And we made a solemn promise, to have many many more days like this together... today had been one of the best in a long while.
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