I did think Eunice might have had a hangover after last night but she seems impervious to large quantities of alcohol and was as chirpy as ever and keen to tell me that her posterior had suffered no damage – just what I did not want to hear first thing on Easter Sunday morning. The dress she fears may not be of any use having a bite mark in it. A good excuse to buy another one knowing you I thought.
Church was a joyful occasion as we sang Up from The Grave He Rose and Jesus Christ Is Risen Today. The children had baskets of small Easter eggs and were offering them to us as we came in. As it was also Eleanor’s birthday I took her card and present with me. I always come off worse in the birthday present stakes. Last year, having given me a set of knickers that had been an unwanted Christmas present to her, complete with note and till receipt from her friend so she could swap them, I vowed I would give something equally shabby back in return but such an attitude only generates bad blood and I decided I would rise above it and bought her a box of Dairy Milk from Miss Chatwall’s which had a perfectly good date on it. “Happy Birthday Eleanor dear,” I said giving her a peck on the cheek. As she took the present off me it gave a tell-tale rattle and she said, “Oh, chocolates I see,” in a disappointed voice. “Better than knickers,” I replied and went and sat down by Eunice who leant forward and waved perkily to her.
There were hot cross buns and cups of tea at the end of the service. I could see Eunice torpedoing her way to Eleanor making a point of wishing her a happy birthday before going for the jugular only for Eleanor to say, “The Bowdlers? Yes I’m lunching there too. I think it’s partly in my honour.”
“Do you think so?” Eunice asked me when she came over.
“No, definitely not,” I replied. “I just hope the Bowdler tribe won’t be there as well.”
But they were and, of course, as a guest, I was in no position to complain. A lunch party that contains Eleanor Snailbeach and little Daisy Bowdler with her siblings is not my idea of a celebratory Easter one. Faith and Hope had prepared a wonderful meal, a huge leg of roast lamb with all the trimmings and, for pud, the most glorious sherry trifle. After last night’s dinner I did wonder if I would do it justice but I did and Eunice tucked in heartily. Surprisingly, Daisy was quite subdued, something I put down to Eunice’s presence. After she put the wind up her last year the occasional swiping owl like glance from Eunice was enough to make Daisy look wary.
It was slightly embarrassing as Eleanor clearly felt that it was her lunch and, as the meal progressed it was clear it wasn’t. There was a present for her from Graham and Faith and we did drink her health with our pre-prandial sherries but that was it. She was being coy and gracious at the table, very much the guest of honour in her own mind but came slightly unstuck when Eunice tackled her over the zip wire ride.
“Sounds huge fun,” Eunice said gleefully. “I bet you can’t wait. I do wish I’d visited later as I would love to have come along and see you fly.”
“You could have participated along with the rest of us,” Eleanor said peevishly. “It’s easy to sit on the side lines and spectate.”
“But much more fun,” Eunice replied. “Who else is doing it besides you and Cleo?”
There was a chorus of voices and the Bowdler tribe shouted, “Me!” “Me!” “Me!”
“You’re too young,” Verity said. Then Daisy, summoning her courage, pointed at Eunice vindictively and said, “I want to see her do it. I want to see her fly.”
“Don’t be rude,” Gareth told her.
Eunice gave her a knowing look and said, “If you want to see me fly you’ll have to wait until tonight when I’ll come past your bedroom window on a large bat with a bag of horrible spells.”
“The window will be shut so they can’t get at me,” Daisy said defiantly but Mistress Eunice said, “The first spell opens any child’s bedroom window in the world.”
That a got a roar of laughter while Daisy looked suitably uncertain and was stilled.
After the coffee there was a general move to leave, after helping with the clearing up. Eleanor sat looking crushed, expectations of birthday cakes and singing dashed. I felt slightly sorry, but only slightly, and said, “Would you like to come back with Eunice and me for an hour?”
“Thank you no,” she said sniffily. “I have rather a lot to do.”
“As you will dear,” I said, my conscience salved and feeling frankly grateful.
Eunice has suggested we go to the Dorothy Clive Garden tomorrow and have lunch out.