Chapter 7

Homeward Bound

The first time I stirred on Sunday was at 3:27, according to the blaring red display on the digital clock.

I had that initial disorientating sense of being in an unfamiliar room where everything was arranged the wrong way around – which was daft in a way because I’d never even slept in ‘my’ room at this hotel, having only acquired it late yesterday afternoon.  There was an undeniable naughtiness about waking up in my walk leader’s bed – like sneaking out of the dorm after lights out (to climb in bed with teacher) – but above all there was cosy contentment.

I wriggled inside his warm, solid arms, the left one of which I now knew bore a Cyprus-shaped birthmark.  He was fortuitously awake too, with morning glory rapping against the back of my thigh.  Hey, why waste it?  He squeezed me to him.  Wordlessly, we slithered into position for the inevitable second burst of sex.

The second time I awoke, it was to Lyndon, naked, serving me a cup of tea.  Were I in a cheesy sex comedy – Carry on Rambling, perhaps – I’d have uttered a comment like ‘Don’t use that to stir your sugar with,’ but this was real life and it didn’t quite seem appropriate.  Though, for the record, ‘that’ was pretty damn magnificent.

‘Thank you darling,’ I purred in parody of a married woman in bed with the Sunday papers.  I reached lazily up and pulled him back down to me.

‘You know, I feel like I’ve known you forever,’ he said languidly after another spun-out snog.

‘Me too.  Well I’ve certainly never slept with somebody on a Saturday who I’d only met on the Monday before.’

‘Oh, so I’ve turned you into a hussy then?’  He drenched my shoulder with a comically sloppy kiss.  ‘Anyway, it’s Sunday now, we’ve known each other nearly a week.  That makes it acceptable.’

‘If you say so.’

‘I do.’

We lolled against the pillows and sipped tea silently for a few moments, semi-covered by the duvet, feet entwined.  It was very domestic yet sexy.

Lyndon’s room was scrupulously tidy.  His jumbo rucksack was not slouched in a corner like mine but upright alongside the wardrobe, as though awaiting inspection, with his boot bag nestling next to it.  He’d binned the condoms and wrappers, and all the clothes that had been consigned to the carpet last night were now draped over a chair.

‘I’ll have to sneak back to my room in last night’s clothes soon, to change for breakfast.’

I can lend you a shirt and some jeans, if you like.’

‘No, you’re all right,’ I declined, perhaps unwisely.  ‘It’s only a quick scuttle.  I’d best get a wriggle on, though, as I’m sure Shane’ll be up soon for his early jog.’

‘If he sees you, you can always pretend you popped in here to look at my famous map.’

I wrenched myself out of bed, and in the process of rooting out my clothes wandered into the full-length mirror’s unforgiving vision.  Ouch!

‘You could have reminded me my hair was still half up,’ I squealed, plucking out the now-redundant hair clips and ruffling my shambolic hair over my face in mock horror.

‘I don’t know,’ Lyndon vaulted out of bed and clinched me round the waist, ‘I kind of like the scarecrow look.’  I play-thumped him.  He swept a clump of hair back from my eyes so I could see us cuddling in the mirror.  ‘We look cute together, no?’  He made me laugh by grinning exaggeratedly cheesily, as though we were modelling for a Häagen-Dazs advert.

‘See you at breakfast then,’ I said as I stepped into my crumpled frock.  It looked incongruously party-ish in the morning light.

‘Why the need to arrive separately?  I’ll come and call for you, we’ll go down together.’  He kissed me on the lips.

‘Best give me half an hour then.’  I was so used to discretion being key with him, so was thrilling inside at his eagerness to descend for breakfast tellingly together.

‘You might want to make it an hour,’ he teased, ‘to sort that hair out.’  He flicked a lug of it, and I thumped him again, laughing.

‘You can go right off a person, you know!’

I slithered down the corridor with half an eye over my shoulder, like I was about to steal a cache of shower gels from the chambermaid’s trolley (not that I have ever done that in a hotel…ahem).

My key had made it to the lock when I heard the unlatching of a neighbouring door.  I clacked my door behind me, evading an encounter whoever that was emerging from their room (most likely Shane, or Ted and Enid).

I changed out of the purple dress, showered and raked a brush through my collapsed hairdo.

I contemplated rattling off a text to Kathryn or Stewart.  For some reason the prospective message formed itself in my mind in arch, semi-literary terms such as ‘Reader, I shagged him.’  But I couldn’t do it.  Not yet.  I could just imagine Stew squealing to Jason about it in their sleeping bag, and must admit I cringed a bit.  I would share my news later, and elicit jubilant responses, but for now wanted to cuddle the thought of what happened last night to myself for a bit.

My parents and brothers were still unaware of Lyndon’s existence.  A text message was not really an appropriate means of notifying them.

As I sat brushing on my unslept-in bed, I picked up my dress with the other hand.  It still smelt poignantly of last night: him, me, wine.  I was still for a few moments, for what seemed like the first time all week, letting everything swoosh over me, then I pattered my feet, childishly gleefully, on the floor at the side of the bed.

After I’d indulged myself with that little moment, I lovingly arranged the dress into my suitcase, tucking my as yet unopened Durex box inside a fold.


By the time Lyndon arrived, I was by all appearances as wholesome as if I’d just spent an uneventful night sleeping soundly in my own bed.

It’s funny it had never occurred to either of us to call for the other all week, the way I had always stopped by for my friend Hazel.  Perhaps I’d been oversensitive to how other folks might interpret our synchronised arrival at dinner or, more tellingly, breakfast.  Today I didn’t care.  As it happened nobody batted an eyelid, though Hazel shot me a wily smirk over the bacon.  Ted and Enid were burrowing feverishly into their scrambled eggs.

Julian was charm itself, apologising earnestly for ‘that ghastly scene last night’ as he dispensed an Alka Seltzer to Enid, who looked very peaky.  A royal blue bow tie jutted over the bib of his stripy apron.  ‘Those sheets have been fumigated,’ he advised.  ‘I might keep them for decorating purposes, but my conscience would never permit me to accommodate future newlyweds in them with the knowledge of what that vile woman did on them with her chocolate.’

This thread of conversation petered out as Martin entered the dining room.  He was with Shane, who had a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle T-shirt on (I hadn’t seen one of those for years) and both of them looked sweaty.

‘I’m taking up jogging,’ Martin announced.  His voice was brave and proud.  ‘I met Shane outside and he took me for a scoot round the block.  I’m hoping this is going to divert me from the heartache.’

This news was greeted with a universal ‘Good for you’ chorus.

Later, as the debris of breakfast was cleared away and we eked out our last teas and coffees of the trip, Lyndon, teacup aloft, proposed a toast.  ‘To the Four Matthews.  We may not have champagne, but this will do.’

‘I’m sure Julian would bring us a bottle if we requested,’ Hazel said as we all clonked cups.  ‘Champagne is divine at breakfast time, but not terribly wise today when we all have to drive home.’


Once Julian had hugged us bye-bye, we were on that minibus, with the demeanour of dejected kids returning home from the best school trip ever.  Most of us were a touch hungover from the previous night’s wine-imbibing.

Lyndon and I sat together.  Were we on a real school bus, I’d have been the girl who felt all smug and grown-up because she was sitting with a boy.  I never was that girl in my actual teenage years.  It was never me ostentatiously snogging behind a copy of Smash Hits en route to the Black Country Museum or Shugborough Hall or wherever.

Ted and Enid were together too, naturally.  Enid guzzled water, and they conversed in their intimate mumbles, heads close together.

Hazel was with Martin.  She was gesticulating eagerly, and appeared to be saying empowering things to him, possibly about the future avoidance of psychotic tarts who liked to smear themselves in choccie body paint.  Whatever it was, Martin was listening intently.

Shane shared a seat at the front with Sooty, Sweep and Soo, which attracted one or two double-takes from passing motorists.  He was recounting his journey from flab to Charles Hawtrey weediness, to Clive the driver, the only person hitherto to escape the chronicles.  Clive replied in grunts.

I would much rather have walked back to Sneydley than taken the bus – partly to see the Matthews route ‘backwards,’ as it were; partly to simply prolong the holiday.  It was peculiar seeing it from a different angle, traversing the roads as opposed to rustic footpaths.  I know which I preferred.  I had adapted to the slower pace of life, observing the landscape from canal banks, meadows, even good old schwingmoors (that is such a cool word).

‘Only four weeks to go then,’ Lyndon said, referring to my job.

‘I have a feeling it’s going to be the longest four weeks of my life.’

I looked with love at our hands which were clasped in his lap.  He squeezed my hand, and I’m ashamed to say I suddenly started to cry.  Don’t worry, it wasn’t embarrassing bawling, involving snot bubbles; nor was it manipulative, to incite his sympathy.  Just a wayward tear and a sniffle.  That childish ‘holiday is ending’ feeling, coupled with the unbearable thought of another month working for that tool Adrian Raybould.

Lyndon dropped the hand-hold and put his arm round me.  I felt instantly comforted, warmed and optimistic, as though with him on my side I could never go far wrong in life.

‘It’ll be gone before you know it.  You’re going to shine in this job, Naomi.  You’ll love it.’

‘I know, I know.’  I swiped away my pathetic tear.

‘Aside from the obvious reasons, I have honestly never become so attached to a group as this one.  You’ll find this too.  You’ll make friends for life.  You’ll get the odd arse, but they’re few and far between.  Polly Dwyers hopefully strike only once in a lifetime.’


We drooped off the coach at Sneydley, where our forsaken vehicles dotted the Earlcott car park.  Once we’d retrieved our cases from the hold, Clive trundled off, leaving us to cluster, looking slightly lost in the empty area.  It was overcast and breezy, which added to the bleak ambiance.  Nobody was keen to leave first.

Ted stepped forward.  ‘Best holiday ever, Lyndon.  Many thanks.’

‘My pleasure.’  They shook hands, and Lyndon kissed Enid on the cheek, which caused her to blush.

A hug-a-thon inevitably ensued.  So did more tears – which this time did veer towards ‘embarrassing’ on the snivelling scale.  Numbers and e-mail addresses were circulated.  We had all bonded exceptionally this week.

‘That’s what I want with someone eventually,’ Martin said to me wistfully as we watched Ted and Enid saunter to their car, Ted’s arm comfortably resting around his wife’s shoulders.

‘Me too.’

‘I did think at one time that Polls was going to be the one, but obviously that wasn’t to be.  Do you know anybody nice, Naomi?’

‘Plenty.  I’ll flash your photo about among my friends.’

‘Don’t give them nightmares!’  The Ellimans drove away, waving shyly.  They had a beige Lada, with one of those Christian ‘fish’ stickers in the rear window.  We waved them off, and then Martin embraced me chummily.  ‘Seriously, Naomi, thanks for all the help you’ve given me, with, well, you know.’

I wasn’t sure I had significantly helped him with the ‘well, you know’ business, but accepted his sentiments gratefully.  ‘I’ll give you a call sometime, Mart, see how you’re getting on.  Take care.’

When Hazel squished me to her prodigious bosom, emotion was truly unabated.

‘Pull yourself together, girl,’ she sputtered, motioning ironically to her own dripping face.  ‘We’ll light up those wilds of Herefordshire in a few weeks, eh?  Best of luck with your job, sweetheart.’  She slapped me on the back in a gung ho gesture.

Shane had his long arms stretched around both of us; the outside wall, as it were, of the group hug.  ‘We ought to have a grand reunion,’ he suggested.

‘What a splendid idea,’ Hazel rallied.  ‘This time next year, on top of Machu Picchu.’

As my friends left before me, I noticed everyone’s modes of transport for the first time.  Martin had a Lexus; Shane an Astra.  Hazel blew kisses through the window of her decidedly avant-garde green and white 2CV.  There was a Bats Protection League sticker in the rear window, its logo bearing somewhat plagiaristic resemblance to the Batman one.

And so only Lyndon and I remained.  It was like the finale of a show, where most of the characters have taken their bows, leaving the main lovers last on stage.

We sort of shrugged at each other in a ‘Well this is it then’ fashion.

‘I’ll see you to your car,’ he offered.

‘It’s two feet away from us, darling, but the thought’s appreciated.’

His navy Saab was in the next space to my Ka, as it happened, which was kind of spooky since at the time of parking neither of us could have known whose car was whose.  We stood between them and entwined ourselves for a lengthy and heady snog.  Had any Earlcott guests witnessed us, they’d have been well and truly put off their breakfasts.

‘Still on for Friday?’ he asked when we finally cleaved apart for air.

‘Should hope so.  You’ll be my ray of sunshine at the end of this week.’

‘Where d’you fancy going?  I’ll come over your way if you like.  Take you out.  Know any good pubs?’

‘I do, as it goes.’

‘You PR girls!  One long booze and schmooze fest, eh?  Not much longer for you, though.’

‘You shut your face!  There’s a nice place not far from me called the Irish Harp.  Let’s go there.’

‘I’m in your hands.’

‘Ooh er!  Planning on staying for breakfast in Walsall?’

‘Hmm, depends on the service being offered.  You’ve got a lot to live up to, you know.  Don’t forget I’ve had a Bozzie breakfast this week, and fresh eggies from Alex McClowie’s wee chicks.’

‘Oh, I’ll send you round the corner to the bacon bap van.’

We continued in a similar vein for ages: flirting, necking, talking crap just to spin out our time together.

Eventually, I wrenched myself away.  ‘Better make tracks.  I’m due at Mom and Dad’s for Sunday lunch.  You’ll be invited too one of the days.’

‘Looking forward to it.’  He was being sincere, unlike certain immature boyfriends I’ve had in the past, who were sneery and defensive about the whole ‘meet the parents’ concept.

‘Mind you, I haven’t told them about you yet.’

My mom possesses typical mother’s intuition.  I was mentally taking bets on how long it would take her to notice there was a new bounce in my step and a smile on my face, and guess their cause.

‘I’d best be going myself, see if Splodgey’s OK, then re-pack for Exmoor.’

‘You be careful out on them moors.’

After another protracted kiss, I clicked open the Ka.  From my rucksack I extracted my mobile, which I placed on the passenger seat should anyone be trying to reach me in an emergency, and my sat nav.

I sat in the driver’s seat with my legs out of the car, chatting to him as I hooked up the sat nav.  I grinned, thinking of the Black Country voice on it that sounded like Shane.  I would think of him as I was guided home with ‘Goo over the roundabout’ or ‘Yow’m where you wanted to be.’

As I finally shut the door I said, ‘Love you.’  It was automatic; instinctive.

Lyndon did not appear nonplussed; in fact he replied, ‘You too.’

When he didn’t follow that with a list of other Irish rock groups, a luscious warmth flooded through me.  It was as though Fate had decreed that the declarations would be exchanged at that moment.

He loves me, he loves me!

Lyndon made me laugh doing that ‘Phone me’ gesture with exaggerated cheesiness like an X Factor contestant, extending his fore and little fingers, middle fingers curled into his palm.  His expression then turned more serious as he did a kind of wave against the window, rapping his fingertips on the glass.

I eased away, sniffling, guided by the sat nav absurdly instructing me to ‘tairn left.’  I waved like mad until I exited on to the main road and Lyndon was no longer in my rear-view mirror.

Two minutes later, my mobile beeped on the passenger seat.  I opened the text message while poised at the next convenient traffic light.

‘Missing you already,’ Lyndon had written.

‘Daft sod,’ I said aloud, bouncing the phone back on to the seat.  I grinned joyously as the light turned to green and I drove away.


Addendum to Julian Crowfoot’s Wikipedia page:
In 2010 Crowfoot received undisclosed damages from the News of the World after they published allegations by 29-year-old receptionist-turned-glamour model Polly Dwyer that he smeared her in melted Cadbury’s Wispa and seduced her in the honeymoon suite of his hotel.

‘Those days are well and truly behind me,’ he commented.  ‘I’ve been celibate for years, and hardly touch chocolate these days either.’

Polly subsequently competed on Celebrity Coach Trip.  A scene in which she fell off a camel in Lanzarote subsequently became a popularly repeated clip on Harry Hill’s TV Burp.


From:  Adrian Raybould
Sent:  15 October 2010 12:12
To:   Naomi Ball and 154 others
Subject: Raybould Communications Autumn Newsletter


** Adrian and Sian get married!!!
** RC welcomes new celebrity client Polly Dwyer to our books!! ………………….

From:  Naomi Ball
Sent:  15 October 2010 12:16
To:   Adrian Raybould
Subject: RE: Raybould Communications Autumn Newsletter

Ade, I’ve asked you twice now, please remove me from the mailing list!


Notice in the Autumn/Winter 2012 BFF newsletter:

CONGRATULATIONS to two of our leaders, Lyndon Hyde and Naomi Ball, on their recent wedding!!

BFF played matchmaker in this case.  The couple met two years ago, when Naomi was a participant on our popular Four Matthews walk, led by Lyndon.  Formerly employed in Public Relations, Naomi subsequently switched careers to herself become a valued member of the BFF team!

Lyndon and Naomi married in a civil ceremony at one of our most popular hotels, Julian Crowfoot’s Rosterbury Manor, in Tunclough, Derbyshire, on 14th July.

Bridesmaids were the groom’s sister Caroline Hyde and the bride’s friend Kathryn Wood.  Lyndon’s best man was his friend Peter Rudge.

The couple honeymooned on an epic trek of a lifetime to Machu Picchu in Peru.

Here at BFF we wish the new Mr and Mrs Hyde all the very best for a long and happy future!