The restaurant for that night was booked. We had driven down to Devon for what my girlfriend thought was a quick break from London, to surf at our favourite beach. The engagement ring was secreted in my wetsuit. And bless our intemperate British weather: the sun blazed, the sea was calm and silken; green waves slowly peeling towards the cliffs.
Hence my absence from this slot for two days. I would have brought you all in on the plan, but my girlfriend reads i, so that would have jeopardised the surprise. As things were, I had to act quite oddly – more so than usual – disappearing off to a hedge on the A361 to phone her parents for a chat, as traffic roared past on the way to Ilfracombe.
I am an inept surfer – excellent at standing up, even more accomplished at falling off – and so at least my lacklustre performance on the board, as I pondered whether to deliver a monologue about our years together or go for the blurted willyoumarryme, did not raise suspicions of what was to come.
But it is surprisingly difficult to extract a small, precious object from a sock that was stuffed up your trouser leg, while treading deep water and trying to act normally. Thank you to the dog walker who stopped to check I wasn’t drowning.
This time of year, many of us are prone to idealising the summers of childhood – long, carefree days so hot the Mr Whippy 99 had melted before you could hand over a pound coin. (If I’m honest, several of our Augusts during the 1980s were spent sheltering behind a windbreak as cold rain drove horizontally across a Cornish beach.)
Sometimes, though, you don’t have to wait for rose-tinted hindsight to spot a perfect day. You just go to bed grinning like a fool.
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