As teenagers growing up in the country, we were lucky to have on hand two indispensable manuals for our impending adulthood: Jilly Cooper's seminal showjumping novel Riders and its gripping television sequel Rivals. Twenty years later and relevant passages still pop up, parrot fashion, in our minds in certain situations or at particular times of the year. To paraphrase the beautifully wise and insightful Mrs. Cooper in Rivals, there comes a time in May when even the most dedicated workaholic feels the first breath of summer and longs to stroll hand in hand through the fields with a new love. Well, we've reached that point this year and it's got us thinking back to one such time many moons ago.
When Pheasant Plucker was a mere slip of a girl, the future Mr. Pheasant would come a-courting on a Friday night. It was the summer and he would pull up, cheeky but slightly bashful, on an old racing bike straight from his job picking flowers on a flower farm down the road. He would arrive with armfuls of Sweet Williams that he’d picked that afternoon and been allowed to take home, and the kitchen would soon be overflowing with vases of them. Whilst the flowers were being artfully arranged, he’d grab a quick shower and then whisk the young Pheasant chick up to the village pub for Happy Hour where all pints were £1 between 6pm – 8pm. The heady flush of young love!
A lifetime later and Sweet Williams remain forever associated with youthful, romantic promise; these were bought from our local market at the weekend. Mr. Pheasant may no longer be the young lad with the snaggle-toothed smile who effortlessly charmed our whole family but the lessons he learnt on that flower farm have stayed with him and, whilst I was nostalgically putting them in a jug, he came up behind me and said: “bloody hell, they’re not ready yet. I’d have had a right bollocking if I’d have picked those”. He's not Rupert Campbell-Black but underneath his somewhat acerbic scorn, there's an old romantic at heart.