All faults I make, when I shall come to know them
I do repent.
The celebration began with a walk, a group of twelve or so retracing the circular path we’d trodden with our children so many times. For those new to the area, this was a first meeting. So this is a tarn, Mark said, looking out across our northern waters. We walked and talked, then back to the house for tea and cake and conversation.
I guess so, I say. It’s the evening do and our faces almost collide and then veer apart amongst the other grizzled heads moving to the snappy rhythms of the band. Too loud anyway to confess that I can’t put a name to this familiar face even though I’ve spent the afternoon in his company.
Later, I wander to the back of the hall in search of a drink.
Is it really him? Chris says. Tom says it is. She whispers the name with reverence and of course as soon as I hear it it’s obvious. It really is, I say, enjoying the reflected celebrity. He’s Simon’s best friend. I told you, Tom says.
I like the juxtaposition of The Clash with the quilting, Nancy says.
We bounce on, a heady mix of old friends and old music reminding us how we have loved and not quite lost over the years; and he’s there on stage still, letting us believe for an hour or two that our loyalty has paid off and we’ve all made it into the warm glow.
Aimee’s beside herself, she says. She’s his Number One fan. She knows all about him – she’s done a project on him and everything. Guess who was in the village hall yesterday evening? I said to her. Have you heard of him? She’s desperate to meet him. Do you think he’d come up here to see her?
The morning erupts in a flurry of emails and phone calls, interspersed with elaborate fantasies about the village acquiring its own notoriety on Facebook and Twitter. Eventually, Aimee is whisked away from the Co-op – I’m still in my uniform, she says – and into Pete’s car. We leave Chris standing in for her and hurtle down the hill. We don’t have long: Aimee’s shift in the pub begins at 12.
Our arrival is breathless. There’s a terrible moment when I think we might have overstepped the mark and broken some code of privacy or respect. But he comes out of the kitchen and steps smartly up to her expectations. There’s a lovely photo of the two of them in the hallway, worlds apart in more than geography and years, Aimee looking up at him and he, arms folded, returning her gaze. Laughter, chatter, cameras clicking. Then Aimee is back in the pumpkin, Nancy arrives with tulips, Mark sets off for the first of his five trains home and the party returns to the serious business of celebrating Simon and Ginny’s birthdays.
The following afternoon, heading east along the lovely South Tyne valley to pick up a southbound train, I sift through the pictures in my head: afternoon light on the tarn and the blaze of gorse, the excitement of the band’s double finale, ‘Teenage Kicks’ romping neatly into my all-time Ramones favourite ‘Sheena is…’, and a glitter of stardust settling for a few moments on the roofs and fields of Hallbankgate.